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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Migraine World

Julie Owsik Ackerman

My old friend, the migraine headache, came a-calling two weeks ago, and has yet to leave. After a six year remission, I thought this problem had gone for good. In September I had a bad headache episode, but I thought it was a stress-induced fluke. Two weeks ago, when I woke up dizzy I found it strange. Then I heard a friend talk about her migraines and I realized: they were back.

I had not wanted to accept they could really be back. Migraines caused me much misery in my earlier years. I'd hate to tally up the amount of time I spent in a dark room, under the blankets, waiting for the pain to subside. Suffice it to say: far too much.

My experience of migraines usually begins with light sensitivity. I'll find myself squinting in a normally lit room, wanting to put on sunglasses. If I take medicine at that point, I sometimes avoid the worst symptoms, which escalate to severe pain, fatigue, and mental fogginess. If I miss that early window, the migraine seems to stick around until it feels like leaving. Even after the pain eases, I'm left with the fatigue and fog, sort of like a terrible hangover, which sometimes ramps back up to a headache. It's as frustrating as it is mysterious.

Over the years I've tried many things to alleviate the symptoms. I've been on prophylactic medicine which, whoops, made my blood pressure dangerously low. I've done natural remedies, eliminated foods one by one, seen chiropractors, acupuncturists, acupressurists. I've thrown every thing I can at this problem, and still it persists.

By day 7 of this episode, I broke down in tears, so angry, frustrated, scared. They were back, and denying it was not helping. I made an appointment with a different neurologist. I saw my dentist to have a night guard made. I have slept more, done less, treated myself with extra gentleness. I have also admitted to friends and family that I am not well, and may not be quite myself. I hate this problem. I also know that I don't have to like it to accept that it is happening. At least with acceptance, I can take some action.

What helps you when are you unwell?


  1. Julie, So sorry about your pain. I recall having what might have been a migraine episode just once in my childhood, but ever since then, just regular headaches, easily resolved.

    As for being unwell: it happens so seldom to me that when I am off my game health wise, I surrender to bed to sleep it off. I am blessed when it comes to illness (knock wood). I just don't get sick other than an occasional cold. (I can just see the gods up there chuckling: "we'll show her."

    Feel better soon,


    1. Thanks, Chris. Lucky you! I hope the good streak continues on and on. Julie

  2. Julie, hope you get relief soon.
    Like Chris, I don't get migraines and rarely get sick. Unlike Chris, I'm not good at giving in when I do. I thin Chris's advice to surrender is the best, and really hard for me to do

    1. Thanks, Carol. Yes, surrendering is the best, and yes, oh so hard to do. A good reminder though.

  3. How awful. I get terrible headaches (not migraine) and nothing I take will help. I've had to rest in many a darkened room. My problem is that I have only slept more than three hours about a handful of times in over 10 years. I've tried everything and have now resorted to prescribed sleeping tablets. I take them once in a while when lack of sleep is too debilitating. It helps but I wish there was a simple solution to these problems, Julie.

    1. Oh Fran, that's terrible. I have occasional insomnia, and that just stinks. Thank you for your empathy. Be well, Julie

  4. Hi, Julie!

    I hope your migraine is ebbing. I feel for you. When I turned 40, I had the first of what I learned was a premenstrual migraine. I thought I was having a stroke! Luck for me the migraines left when my period did. What worked for me was somewhat unconventional: when I felt a migraine coming on (and I could sometimes predict them with my cycle), I took about 3 Motrin and 12 oz. of Coca-Cola. The caffeine and the ibuprofen seemed to keep the worst symptoms at bay.

    And I get sick about once a year. Just came off a flu-like bout, but not too awful. I have learned to rest and accept that I am not 100% is the best part...pamper myself with hot tea and juice and heat and aromatherapy until I am "all better." I hope you are "all better" soon.