Miss Migraine: My migraine support team

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on July 31, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

The necessity of asking for help with a simple, daily task because my head is throbbing and I feel weak and dizzy makes me angry. It makes me feel helpless. It makes me feel useless and worthless.

Unless I’m literally writhing in pain in bed, unable to get up or open my eyes or speak more than a few words at a time, I probably won’t ask for help. Luckily, I have a support team.

My husband

D.J. didn’t want me to take this picture.

D.J. takes care of me without making me feel like I’m putting him out. If I can’t vacuum or buy groceries or pick up our weekly fresh produce subscription, he does it without complaining. I make sure to thank him for doing these tasks, because I am truly grateful for his support.

He also nudges me to take care of myself. It was at his insistence that I finally got an appointment at our local headache clinic. While I haven’t gotten relief yet, I have gotten hope, and a knowledgeable doctor who listens to me and is available by phone during office hours. D.J. also wants me to explore therapy options, and get my eyes checked (which I’m doing tomorrow–I’m kind of nervous about it!).

But perhaps more amazing is that despite the fact that D.J. often winds up doing more of the housework than I do, he makes me feel like I still take care of him, like he still needs me — just not to pick up groceries! This makes it much easier for me to relax and let go of things. He makes me feel valued and useful, and that is his greatest gift to me as his partner.

Lexi

Cater-corgi!

Although I may be slightly biased, I think Lexi is the most beautiful dog in the entire universe. She is also probably the brattiest. Even in her puppy pictures you can see the attitude in her eyes. She doesn’t like to be held, and the only time she likes to cuddle is at night or early in the morning before I get up. But when D.J. or I get sick, she stays with us constantly.

Corgis may not have the power to cure migraines, but they do have the power to cure sadness. There’s nothing like coming home to Lexi’s wagging nubbin and happy barks. She runs around me in circles, and if I wait too long to pet her, she jumps up on my legs and makes a noise at me.

She can sense when I’m feeling depressed or anxious and usually answers by bringing me a rope and asking me to play tug with her. I can’t remember a time when this hasn’t cheered me up considerably. She makes me laugh every day. (Lexi is now 13 and suffering from degenerative myelopathy, but she still makes me laugh every day.)

Jaina

Jaina is waiting for me to get her bone from under the cabinet.

Jaina is an 18-month-old German shepherd dog. Unlike Lexi, she’s more or less oblivious to our moods. But since she’s just about the goofiest German shepherd I’ve ever met, that doesn’t matter much. Her favorite activities include licking D.J. for long periods of time (especially his feet and hands), chasing her bones underneath the furniture and staring pathetically at one of us until we fish them out for her so she can do it again, and chasing her squeaky ball at the dog park.

While Lexi does keep me active, with Jaina I have no choice but to go for long walks every day. GSDs need lots of exercise so they don’t become bored — and therefore destructive, especially when they’re puppies. Regular, low-key exercise keeps me healthy and staying healthy helps keep my migraines in check. Not to mention that Jaina is incredibly lovey and cuddly, and never says no to hugs or squishes.

Family and Friends
So many other people have supported and continue to support me in many ways. My mom is always willing to listen to me complain, and my dad and I often talk about our respective health woes. Friends have driven me to the emergency room, bought me groceries, made me tea, and so much more. Thank you.

Miss Migraine: Efficacy vs. side effects

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on July 30, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

I’m taking 150 mg of Effexor every day. Photo by Kelly Lynn Thomas.

When it became clear that zonisamide (brand name Zonegran), an anti-seizure medication sometimes prescribed for migraine, was doing little more than eliminating my aura, my doctor gave me a choice.

“Are you more worried about side effects or efficacy?” she asked me. “Because you can try Prozac, which is easier to handle but not as effective, or you can try Effexor, which is much harder to handle, but more effective.”

I didn’t want to take an anti-depressant, but my blood pressure is too low for the blood pressure medications that can be prescribed for migraine patients. So I weighed my options. The throbbing in my right temple spoke for me.

“Efficacy,” I said. “Things have been pretty bad.”

She explained the possible side effects: sexual dysfunction, risk of increased depression or anxiety, trouble sleeping. In the past, those would have been unacceptable side effects. But after four years of constant, unending, continuous pain, I was willing to make sacrifices.

I left feeling hopeful.

Three weeks later, all feelings of hope have evaporated. I wake up every hour or half hour during the night. In the morning I feel anxious for no reason. I am lightheaded and dizzy, and sometimes nauseous. The poor sleep is leading to more severe migraines.

I remember why I hate medications, why I hate doctors, that nothing has ever helped. Waves of despair wash over me and I feel like nothing ever will. Taking Effexor is harder than I imagined.

But then I take a deep breath and remember that my doctor told me tapering up is the hard part. I haven’t even been taking the full dose for a week yet. I have to be patient, but that’s not something I’m very good at. It should get better. My body should adjust. And if it doesn’t? We’ll try something different.

I just have to work on being patient.

 

Sketch of a Saturday baseball game

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on July 28, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

Some things at baseball games are awesome, and some make my head hurt even more. Sketch by Kelly Lynn Thomas, July 27, 2012. Click the image for full size.