Living with migraines and seeking help
A chronic migraine is defined as having more than 15 headache days in a month, with 8 days of headaches with features of migraines for over 3 months. A chronic headache begins as a less frequent headache that changes into a more frequent headache pattern. Chronic migraines are caused by a number of different factors and the headache episodes increase steadily over time.
Headaches in general can be quite gruesome. However, for people who deal with migraines, the pain can be debilitating and take a toll on their physical and mental health.
What is it like living with a chronic migraine? Here’s a personal migraine story:
A number of headaches associated with a chronic migraine steadily increase over time. In a similar case, CJ has been suffering from a dull headache that presses into the space above her left eye for quite a while now. She has been suffering from the same headache for more than a year, all day and everyday. Although now the headaches have become manageable for her, she writes that the headaches had previously taken over her life. What’s more, it was all that she thought about. The headache had become a part of her identity.
On good days, the headache is just a mild throbbing sensation. Other days, the pressure grows worse and worse until it feels like your head is going to explode. There would be days when CJ would be unable to get out of bed, feeling like a pounding hammer above her left eye. “The pain never went away, unless I was asleep. So I slept a lot, as much as my body would let me,” she writes.
Migraine sufferers often overuse medications in an attempt to keep the headaches under control.
Over-the-counter medications including acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other generic equivalents are known to cause medication overuse headaches.
CJ has always suffered from more headaches compared to an average person. The headaches would usually go away with over-the-counter painkillers. With time her headaches started to follow with sneezing and feeling run down for weeks, ruling out any viral infection. The headaches went from occasional episodes to every day of the week and more painful than usual.
“A few months later, on top of those daily headaches, I developed occipital neuralgia, a distinct type of headache that causes electric-shock-like pain in the upper neck and behind the ears. Eventually, I became extremely sensitive to light. At that point my doctor suspected my condition had transformed into a daily migraine (with a side order of occipital neuralgia),” CJ writes.
With her pain also came mood swings and days she couldn’t even get out of bed. As a consequence, she also lost her sense of self. CJ is currently on prescription medications, doing physical therapy and getting massages to help with the migraines.
Living with chronic headache: a personal migraine story https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/living-with-chronic-headache-a-personal-migraine-story-201103051601