Nothing is working

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Last I was here, a loooong time ago, I mentioned all the new things I’m trying, or would be trying. Well, nothing is working to get rid of this migraine. Some of the devices (Nerivio and Ceflay) help reduce it so I am somewhat able to do things on better days, but they never take it away.

I had my Vyepti infusion on the 26th, I should have seen progress within the first week, unfortunately there has been no change. I still have this migraine I’ve had for MONTHS now. Some days it’s a little better, many days I just want to rip my head off. The pain really gets to you, especially when it’s accompanied by other symptoms that aren’t so pleasant. The light sensitivity is especially hard for me, I feel like I’m living in the dark all the time, if I’m not in the dark I’m wishing I was. I live in the desert, it’s friggin’ bright here! And the heat! Last two months have been the hottest on record, thankfully it’s starting to cool down a bit, we’ve had some days that have been in the 80’s this week. Yay! I’m finding that bright light and heat are a trigger for me. Or maybe it’s just because I have a migraine that WILL NOT STOP!

So I wrote my neurologist (who is a headache specialist) and asked about two things. I wanted to know if I haven’t seen results from the Vyepti by now would it be worth trying the higher dose. I also asked about a new symptom (I’m having some weird headache pain when I turn over in bed at night my head will suddenly explode in severe pain. It feels a lot like when I was having Idiopatic Intracranial Hypertension, but I’m not getting symptoms when I’m horizontal or vertical. (normally when you have intracranial hypertension the pain is much worse when you are lying down and relieved when you sit up, if your cerebral spinal fluid is low then you have pain when you are up and not when you lie down). In closing I asked her if she had any recommendations.

I received an answer that was disturbing.

"1. so any new headache as you might imagine I cannot assess by email. I would need to see you in person to really thoroughly discuss and evaluate. We can set an appointment but I am taking off a week at the end of the month and have surgery so my schedule is a little bit messed up 2. We can certainly try the 300 mg however it is not covered by any insurance and statistically it was not that much better than 100 mg so unfortunately it would probably be a cash pay situation which I would not suggest. However overall I would have expected some benefit by now. 3. Next option would be to get another opinion unfortunately best next opinion in my opinion would be in San Diego"

My response to that, which I haven’t sent, is 1. I already have an appointment set up for October 7th, I doubt I can get in before then; even when she doesn’t have all these things it’s impossible to get in to see her in a timely manner. I sure hope this new headache isn’t anything serious. 2. Well no I don’t want to try the higher dose under those circumstances. and 3. Well it’s obvious I’m beyond her capabilities. I understand how frustrated she may be but, San Diego?!?! That is over 6 hours away from here! I do not understand why there isn’t anything at Mayo, it’s just a couple of hours from here. I am willing to go anywhere but not when my husband doesn’t have a job, and often insurance companies won’t pay for treatment out of state unless it’s an emergency. I tried to go to a doctor in San Diego before and my insurance would not approve it. Perhaps if my doctor here is sending me it would be different? Who knows, my insurance can take months to decide things anyway.

Stuart still doesn’t have employment. He did have a very encouraging interview, so we are hopeful, but who knows. It’s a big pay cut if he gets it, but it’s much better than nothing., and it’s easier to look for a job when you have one. We are doing okay financially, but going to San Diego right now isn’t possible, and when he gets a new job I can’t ask him to take time off to cart me to a different state for treatment. I’m hoping when he gets a new job that we have better insurance. The one we have now is a pain to deal with. It was much easier with Blue Cross. Not that any insurance company is great. I’m so grateful I have Medicare to supplement my private insurance.

I’m so discouraged. It seems like any treatment I’ve gotten for my pain hasn’t worked. My pain management doctor tried injections in my neck and it didn’t work. I can’t take most things they give people for pain. I can’t take opioids, they make me itch like crazy! I can’t take NSAIDS because they eat up my stomach. I started a new medication, Low Dose Naltrexon. With this medication I probably won’t see any effect for months. We’ll see, but after everything, I don’t have a lot of hope. (this is the same medication they use to help with opioid addiction, but at a much higher dose. You can read more about LDN on the LDN Research Trust site.

I realized the other day just how long I’ve been dealing with being sick. I’ve basically been sick most of my life, but things got much worse in 2001, that’s when the Meniere’s disease started getting worse and basically consumed my life. In 2008 I stated seeing new doctors at Duke and they told me I was disabled, from both the Meniere’s and my chronic migraines. It took me until 2015 to accept that and actually file for disability. I just realized though how many treatments I’ve tried to help me, and how long of a fight it has been. 19 years I’ve been dealing with being severely chronically ill. I’ve been ill for basically my whole life, but it wasn’t severe until 2001, it was at that time that I had to stop working full time, it wasn’t long after that that I had to quit working all together. I’m so extremely lucky that I was able to not work.

I’m still trying a few things, I’m seeing an allergist next week, maybe some of my migraines are coming from that. Stuart is going to call the doctor in San Diego and see if they have virtual visits, how the insurance works, how they treat intractable migraines, and if there is a patient portal or email so I can communicate with them directly. Then he is going to call Mayo with the same questions and see how different it is.

This is getting long and I feel like I’m just whining. I don’t mean to be. I realize that when you have a chronic illness you end up having to grieve over and over, every time there is a loss. Having my doctor tell me she can’t help is a huge thing I have to accept. I have to accept that no one may be able to help. Right now I’m just trying to survive with a status migraine (formerly called an intractable migraine) and increased Meniere’s attacks (a lot more vertigo, hearing changes, even with my cochlear implants, and the feeling of fullness in my ears.

One day at a time.

Update – New Treatment Plan – New Devices

I can’t believe it’s been a MONTH since I posted! The last time I posted I was having a very hard night, thank you all for supporting me and caring, it means the world, really.

I saw my neurologist/headache specialist a few weeks ago and we came up with a new treatment plan for my migraines. First I went in and had an occipital block on both sides, unfortunately it didn’t help. I was very hopeful it would since I had an occipital block on the right side in December and it seemed to help. That was disappointing.

I’ve tried one the new migraine medications for acute attacks, Ubrevly, and it helped as long as I took it early, if the pain is too far gone it didn’t help. So now I’m waiting on insurance approval to get a prescription for it.

Almost every rescue medication for the treatment of an acute migraine only works well if you take it within the first 30 minutes of an attack. When you have a status migraine, it doesn’t go away, so there is no way to catch it in the first 30 minutes. The only thing I can do is use it when the pain starts to increases when having a lower pain day, unfortunately that doesn’t always work.

After I get insurance approval I will be starting Vyepti, it is a CGRP blocker given by IV. Unlike the CGRP drugs that you take by shot every month (Aimovig, Anjovy, and Emgality) you may see a difference within the first week or so, instead of the months it takes with the aforementioned medications. I would get the IV treatment every 3 months, instead of giving myself a shot every month. I’m really hoping this will be a good preventative for me, but I’m afraid it won’t work since neither Emgality nor Aimovig worked.

I have been using the Nerivio device and it does help some, but it is another treatment that must be used in the first 30 minutes of an attack, so I’m only getting partial relief. From the Nerivio website: “Nerivio is a wireless non-invasive remote electrical stimulation wearable applied to the upper arm at the onset of migraine headache or aura. Nerivio induces an inherent pain inhibition brain mechanism, resulting in clinically significant pain relief. Nerivio is safe and well-tolerated.” (I plan to write a review of the Nerivio soon, I’ll give more information at that time. If you’d like to learn more about it check out their website here.

Just yesterday I received the Cefaly device. As described on their site, “Cefaly is an External Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation device (e-TNS) for migraine treatment. A self-adhesive electrode is placed on the forehead and the Cefaly device is magnetically connected to this electrode.” I’ve only used it twice so far and it helped. I’m actually feeling better today than I have in a long time. There are 3 different Cefaly devices, one is for the treatment of Acute Migraines, one is for prevention, and one is dual, it does both. I have the Dual Cefaly device. I’ve only used it in the Accute mode so far, hopefully I will be able to use it as a preventative once this status migraine is gone. I will also do a review on the Cefaly after I use it for a while so I can give more information. You can read more about the Cefaly device on their website.

I was so surprised and pleased when I wrote to my doctor and told her that the occipital blocks hadn’t worked and she wrote me back and said she was sorry she didn’t know how to help break this cycle. She is normally very abrasive to me when I contact her outside or an appointment. It’s like she has been two different people, one in the office, and one in the portal. She surprised me, in a good way. I do think she cares, I just think she has too many patients, and doesn’t know how to deal with patients when they are not responding to treatment. Stuart contacted another migraine specialist here, but she isn’t taking new patients for the next 6 months because a colleague is out and she is covering for both of them. I’ll make that decision as time goes on.

I’m so tried of being in pain and having severe light sensitivity. Which reminds me, I also got the Allay lamp. This light helps with light sensitivity. I’ll be reviewing this lamp soon, in the meantime you can read more about it here.

All of the devices mentioned here have some pros and cons, I’ll address those more in my follow-up posts reviewing them. I’m so lucky that I can try these devices, thanks to my wonderful father-in-law’s birthday gift. Since Stuart was laid off I wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting these devices if Dad hadn’t given me that money.

What’s the cost of these devices? The Nerivio is $99 per month for 12 uses, you get a new one each time you refill. The Ceflay is a one time cost for the device, it varies depending on which device you get, but the electrodes do need to be replaced regularly. The Allay lamp is a one time cost of $149 at the time of this blog post.

I purchased all of these devices with my own money, I am not an affiliate and have not been asked to review these items, nor have I received anything from the manufacturers.

My Normalcy During Pandemic 2020

A Roadrunner, Quail, and Hare have all come to visit me recently. Their world hasn’t changed at all.

I’m so incredibly lucky, my life really hasn’t changed all that much during this craziness, yet, it has.

We’re lucky, no one close to us have lost their jobs or anything like that. It really breaks my heart for all who have and continue to each day. I don’t have anyone close to me who is on the front-lines treating people, I’m so very thankful to these amazing people. I really don’t think I’ll know just how much this has really affected my life until it’s all over and we find out what businesses have survived and things like that. I’m desperately worried for these people. I’m helping all I can, ordering from local sites online, buying gift cards…, but will it be enough?

For me personally, I don’t normally go many places during the week, to doctor appointments, that’s about it. Well that was about it until recently. Recently I started getting more involved in my neighborhood; I was going to Women’s Coffee on Tuesdays and a Women’s Empowerment Journaling/Discussion Group on Thursdays. On the weekend we’d cram in everything else, grocery shopping, seeing dad, entertainment…ANYTHING else! Of course, all of this changes if I’m not feeling well, so things change a lot. I guess that’s why I don’t feel that things have changed all that much, because I’m used to things being canceled. I’m used to staying home, I’m used to not being able to do things I’d like to do, so that part of things isn’t really that stressful for me. But it’s different when you have to do these things and when you are forced to do them.

Truthfully, things really haven’t changed that much though.

I have still been going in for my SPRAVATO treatments twice a week, I start once a week this week. And it has been amazing! First let me assure everyone that we are extremely cautious. I’m the first patient seen, the room is completely sterilized, I only see one person, and they never touch me. Now for the results, as I’ve told you before, my depression is gone! I do feel sadness, but it’s not the same. Sadness is situational and it feels different, oh so different. I never knew just how different it felt. What I haven’t shared is how different my migraines are! I had TWELVE migraine free days last month!! And so far I’ve had 9 free this month! Did I say AMAZING?? Understatement huh? So, let’s cross our fingers it stays this way now that I’m going down to once a week.

I still see some of my neighborhood friends, just from a distance. We have “6 foot plus” patio visits. A couple of us will meet on our patios sitting 6 feet plus apart and just visit for an hour or two. It’s so nice to have a little bit of normalcy in this craziness. I admit I’m upset that as soon as I start feeling well enough to get involved and make new friends I’m sidelined by something that has nothing to do with me, but it is forcing me to take it slower, and that might be a good thing.

Stuart working from home seems weird. Even though he did it for seven years, I was really sick then, now that I’m not as sick, and I got used to him not being here, it’s harder having him around all the time. Well, not hard really, just weird, but it is kind of nice too. Now that he has finally gotten off the dining room table and has his office set up it’s much nicer! Plus, he doesn’t have to add in travel time to go to or from work!

I’m trying to spend more time in my studio, but I haven’t found that I’m actually creating more, I’m just hanging out in there. I’m enjoying that a lot though. I go in there and sort through emails and organize stuff and think of things I want to do and plan things…..But actually paint or anything, yeah, I haven’t done much of anything. I don’t know why. I’ll get there. It’s been a while.

Yes, our weekends are different. However, we are still seeing dad if we can. We take him his groceries on Sunday. (Stuart shops for groceries during the week, not on the weekend, that’s just crazy. He says there are still so many people there with no masks or anything just leisurely shopping. WTH?) We also take him lunch or dinner and spend some time with him. We are the only people he sees. We eat with him way on one end of the table and us on the other. It’s quite funny trying to maneuver the house and stay 6 feet apart, but we do a pretty good job. When we were there yesterday he finally talked a little about Margaret’s death and Stuart’s mom’s death, he doesn’t show his emotions normally and doesn’t talk about those kinds of things, I was very pleased to hear him talk about it. It has to be so hard on him. I’m so glad we are able to see him, at least a little, now. He wouldn’t allow us to come see him for a long time, he’d only allow Stuart to come drop off his groceries. It really takes a load off my mind to be able to see and talk to him.

We are trying to do some walking around the neighborhood. I’m trying to do a bit of yoga and more meditation. We put stuffed animals in our windows for the kids to see, and I put a painting in the window just to share prettiness. A lot of people in my neighborhood are doing the same. We are also doing sidewalk art. I haven’t gotten mine done yet, I just got some sidewalk chalk! When I do I’ll take a picture. I will admit I’m eating very poorly, that needs to change.

How many of you have gained weight during all of this?

What are you doing differently?

How are you dealing with how things have changed?

When I Can’t Take Abortive Migraine Medication

Image by Seksak Kerdkanno from Pixabay

I have chronic migraines. You are defined as having chronic migraines when you have more than 14 migraines a month, I have more than 20. In the last month I’ve had 2 migraine free days. Due to the risk of Medication Overuse Headaches (you can read more about MOH here), and the possibility of some nasty side effects, you are only allowed to take abortive medications twice a week or a maximum of 10 per month. Abortive (also referred to as acute or rescue) medications are medications you take at the time of the migraine to stop it, they are best used at the first signs of a migraine. Abortive medications are analgesics (such as NSAIDS, Excedrin Migraine…), triptans, ergotamines, and on rare occasions opioids.

This week has been a rough one, I’ve had some intense migraines and I’d already used my abortive medications for the week. What’s a girl to do?

Suffer? Yeah, maybe, but I have found a few things that do help a little and sometimes they even get me back to my smiling self. 🙂 Like most migraine treatments these work best if you use them early, when the pain gets really bad, it takes much more to get it under control. (so it’s really hard when you wake up with a whopper) Here’s a little list of things I’ve been using that seem to help me, just keep in mind that everyone is different these might not work for you, or, who knows, they might work better for you than they do for me.

  • caffeine – one of the first things I reach for now is caffeine. I don’t use a lot, but I am using more than I used to. I always keep my consumption under 200mg a day (going over can cause rebound headaches so you have to be careful about this treatment), but when I have a migraine a little jolt of caffeine can help. I normally take it in conjunction with other things. (my usual dosage is about 41 mg in a 16oz drink)
  • ginger – Ginger has been shown to help stop a migraine. There have been a few studies showing how ginger helps with migraines, the one that impressed me the most was one that was held in an ER, the patients that came in with migraines were either given an NSAID with ginger or the NSAID alone and the group that were given ginger were more likely to find relief across the board. There is also a study that showed that ginger was as effective as sumatriptan (Imatrex) for some people. I’m not one of those people, but I do think it helps. So I take 500 mg of ginger now at the first sign of a migraine. Here are some links to studies about ginger Ginger and migraine treatment, Ginger efficacy compared to sumatriptan, Feverfew and ginger for migraine.
  • I decided to try a homeopathic remedy, I honestly didn’t think it would do anything, but it didn’t cost much so I thought I’d give it a go. Much to my surprise, it helps. It’s not a miracle, it rarely takes it all away, but it often lessens it enough that I can function. (I think it’s worth noting that I’ve never taken this without either caffeine or ginger) It’s called Hyland’s Migraine Headache Relief. It contains Glonoinum, Belladonna, Gelsemium, Nux Vomica, Iris Versiolor, and Sanguinaria Canadensis. I found it at Sprouts, but when I did an online search it looks like you can find it all over. The dosage is 1 or 2 tablets every 4 hours. You let them dissolve on your tongue, I like this a lot. If I happen to not have water I can still take this, and it doesn’t taste nasty. I always start with 2, and in 4 hours if I need more I then decide if I need 1 or 2 at that dose. I have noticed no side effects from this so far. I bought this product with my own money, I am not receiving anything from the company, they know nothing of me, this is not an official review or anything like that.) undefined
  • medical marijuana – I’m going to write a post about this soon, probably the next post I put out, but I thought I’d put a little blurb here that I do use medical marijuana to help with my migraines. It is not a miracle, but it does help. However, it is a lot of trial and error to find what works for you.
  • ice or heat – my head is variable, it sometimes feels relief from an ice pack, sometimes from heat, so I try both. Sometimes I’m afraid to try either for fear of making it worse. But normally I’ll try ice if my pain is mainly on the top of my head, if my neck is the main culprit I’ll use heat, if my forehead is where the pain originates I kind of leave it. I have an IceKap, I have found it works well when my head wants ice, but it’s heavy and my neck doesn’t like that so I don’t use it much. However, if you are someone who needs ice for your migraine, this cap is great for getting your head cold and it stays in place. It presses on my glasses though, I don’t like that, I don’t like to take my glasses off when I have a migraine because of the vertigo. (again, I bought the IceKap, no one knows I’m saying anything about it. I’m not getting anything.)
  • Epsom Salt Bath – I can’t do this all the time because of vertigo and other times when I’m hurting too much I just can’t get in the tub, but when I have a moderate headache a nice soak in a tub with Epsom Salts can really help. Add the scent of lavender or mint and it can really be relaxing, and I normally hate scents, but I really liked the lavender Epsom salts I tried recently. It wasn’t a fake smell, or too over powering. It was very relaxing. That’s a good thing.
  • That’s about it from me, other people really like essential oils, but for the most part scents trigger migraines for me, none have relieved them. I do find peppermint a little helpful sometimes, but other times it makes me nauseous, so I don’t like to risk it. Lemon is about the only smell that never makes me sick. Oh…Sometimes if I eat something spicy it will lessen the pain in my head for little while, but it doesn’t last. If you can trigger an ice cream headache, it’s supposed to stop a migraine, but dang! That’s something I don’t really want to try. Oh who am I kidding, I have tried, you know it’s hard to trigger one of those when you are trying to do it. I still can’t tell you if it works, and when I think about it I really don’t want to cause myself that much pain.
  • Note that I didn’t include things like massage, acupuncture…. because I consider those more preventative and today I’m focusing on abortive treatments. Also I’m focusing on things I can do for myself without help.

How do you treat your migraines when you can’t take your meds,?

Did I share anything that you found interesting?

How has your week been? I’m thrilled to say today I don’t have a migraine! The exact opposite of every other day this week. Yay.

May we all have a pleasant weekend. We are finally getting the rest of our furniture this weekend. Woot, Woot!

Ready for 2020?!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m baaaack! Whew, I didn’t mean to be gone so long. I actually did write a post during my absence, but, silly me, I forgot to hit “Publish” and it’s out of date now.

Let’s see what was going on when last I left you?

We were getting ready to move into our house. Check, that happened; there are still plenty of boxes and there is actually more to move from Stuart’s dad’s house, but we are in OUR house and it feels good, even if I’m extremely exhausted and flaring.

I had hopes that the nerve block injection I had in my neck was working, but it didn’t. I had a couple of good days, but I think that may have just been good days because it sure didn’t last. I saw the pain doctor again and I had an occipital nerve block on the right side on December 30th to hopefully help with my migraines. I actually do think this one is working. I have had migraines since the injection, but they did not start in that area. That’s great, because a LOT of my migraines do start in that area. It hasn’t been long, but so far I’m hopeful. I also had an x-ray of the thoracic region of my back and it showed no damage; I have to say I was surprised. I have so much pain in that area, and it feels like it comes from the bone. I’m happy I don’t have problems there, but I do wish I knew what the heck is wrong. It’s really hard when you can’t have an MRI. She also wants me to have a nerve conduction study to see what may be causing my arms to go to sleep since the nerve block in my neck didn’t help. I’m not looking forward to that test, it’s not very comfortable (to say the least), but hopefully it will provide some answers.

Right after my last post I had a severe gastritis attack accompanied by severe diarrhea (literally crapping my pants over and over. yes, I know, TMI). I had my yearly physical right after that and my doctor thinks I may also have diverticulitis. I’ve been referred to a gastroenterologist, but haven’t heard from them yet. The day of our move I woke to the all too familiar feeling of gnawing pain in my stomach, luckily it didn’t escalate to a severe gastritis attack, but it was a very uncomfortable day.

I can’t say much about the holidays because it is just a blur. I know they happened because of all the decorations in stores and specials on TV, but boy oh boy we sure didn’t have time to celebrate anything.

So now I am ready to say goodbye to 2019, and face 2020 with renewed hope and wonder. I plan to take each day as it comes, have more fun, and take things less seriously. I’m not going to make up a bunch of resolutions I probably won’t be able to keep, but I do want to face this year feeling a bit renewed. After all, I just moved into a new house, my life is drastically changing. I’m going to be changing places I normally do my shopping and even some doctors…because we now live on the other side of town. So much is changing, there is no need for me to make resolutions, things are just going to change naturally. However, I do plan to make some short term changes throughout the year. There are some things I want to try so I plan on doing some 30 day challenges for myself, perhaps some of them will last longer, I’m sure some won’t last the whole 30 days. For example, for 30 days I want to eat vegetarian, to meditate daily, to journal daily, to draw daily, to not eat out, to not buy anything new except food… Well that’s 6 months right there! I’m not going to be hard on myself if I can’t keep to these things, but I feel like if I put a short time frame on it then I can just try it out and see if it’s for me, who knows it may be something I just love and will keep doing forever, or it may be something I hate and quit in a week, no pressure.

I think that’s enough to get things updated and to get me writing again. It has been one crazy busy month! Not only have we been moving, during the holidays, I had 1-3 doctor’s appointments each week. It’s time to slow down and get this year started.

Happy New Year everyone! May this year be filled with love and happiness for you all.

Ending a Horrible Year the Best Way

Image from pexels

I’m still pinching myself, I just can’t believe how much has changed recently, and all for the better. Wow…just Wow.

Our new home

I’ll start with the best news first, we close on our house on the 19th and we move in on the 20th! Yes, we will be in our new home before Christmas! I’m so excited I could squeal! and I probably have! hahaha We found the cutest house in the nicest neighborhood, I just adore it. It’s not exactly what we were looking for, but I just fell in love as soon as we walked inside. The neighborhood is focused on sustainability. The houses are all energy efficient, the neighborhood has a lot of walking and bike trails, it has it’s own coffee shop, and a few other little shops. It has the greenest school in the country that also ranks very high academically. It’s beautiful. The house has enough room for us and Dad, without being too big, and it has a little casita (a detached guest suite) in the back that’s going to be my studio. And I’m going to plant a lemon tree right outside my kitchen window. Perfect.

I’m able to enjoy all of that because my antidepressant is working better. I still haven’t gotten the approval for the ketamine, but we increased the dose of the Fetzima and it is helping more, I still feel like I have this black cloud over me, but it isn’t dropping buckets of rain and hail on me all the time. I can see the sun, maybe even a rainbow.

I’ve also had a few migraine free days. Yes! I really said that! The days aren’t consecutive, but I have had one here and there. I normally do not wake up with a migraine now, I get them in the afternoon usually. I’m not having as many severe migraines. They are normally moderate in intensity, when they are severe the severe stage doesn’t last as long. For example, I might have a migraine that last 9 hours, 2 of them will be severe. I did have a severe day one day this week, so it still happens, just not like it was. It looks like the Aimovig is doing something. Yay!!

The nerve block I got in my neck started helping, not completely, but I have been waking up most days without my arm being asleep or aching terribly. Every once in a while it will happen, but most of the time nope, it’s good. My follow up appointment was rescheduled because my doctor was sick, so I don’t know what the next plan is, I’ll find that out soon.

I had planned to post much more often but I’ve been so busy with all of the house stuff, doctor appointments, holiday stuff….I am so busy! I will try to post more soon, but I can’t promise anything, the next few weeks are going to be crazy busy! I have a lot of post written in my head, I just need to type them up.

Not everything in my life is perfect, but I’m feeling so much better I can’t think of a better way to close out a really crappy year and start 2020.

I feel shame (Shame and Chronic Illness)

I’ve been trying to write a post for weeks now, but I just haven’t been able to get the words to come out. I had a CTA scan of my head and neck on July 26th, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries. I had planned to post about it, to show you the awful bruise the contrast caused, and tell you how I freaked out when the contrast hit me, but I was actually ashamed that I felt that way. They had a hard time finding my veins, as usual, and I, once again, felt ashamed that I’m difficult. I had a bit of a reaction to the contrast and had a very debilitating migraine and nausea for days. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t do anything. Lorraine was nice enough to do a Mindfulness Monday. I’m ashamed I haven’t written since then.

I feel that I have needed to write and tell you how I’m still struggling with the migraines, how the medication isn’t working, and how I can’t accomplish anything really. But I’m ashamed that I’m not better. I’m ashamed that I keep trying different medications and they don’t work on me. I feel like I’m failing. In our culture we are expected to take a drug when we get sick and get better, if we don’t get better then we aren’t trying hard enough. We should change our diet, exercise more…. You see the stories all the time, how someone beat this or that disease by doing these things. We are expected to fight our illnesses and get better, when we don’t we often feel shame. Or at least, I know I do.

With my migraines everyone has a solution. So many people have or know someone with migraine, it isn’t rare, but chances are it’s episodic migraine not chronic migraine. I’m asked so often, “Do you take medication?” and it’s followed by, “I take (or so and so takes)______ and it works!” I want to scream, “Of course I take medication! I take preventatives, and abortives, and supplements, and I use alternative treatments! Nothing is working but I’m afraid to stop any of them for fear it will get worse!” But instead I feel ashamed that I’m defective. Not only do I have migraines, I have migraines that won’t respond to treatment.

Weekend before last we went out for breakfast with Stuart’s father at our usual place. I ordered a gluten free pancake, when it came I suspected it was wrong, but they have never gotten my order wrong before, so I took a bite. I knew immediately it was wrong. I was poisoned. I called the waitress over and asked and sure enough, it wasn’t gluten free. She apologized and I smiled and just ordered a new one. I looked at Stuart with huge eyes and he just said, there was nothing that could be done now. His father said, “it was only one bite” Stuart explained that it only takes a crumb. I should have told the waitress that I didn’t want anything else and told Stuart and his dad we needed to go home, but instead I was too ashamed. I ate that new pancake knowing that I would be sick within an hour or two. I sat there listening to them talk, while my head pounded, my stomach started to ache and get tight and my bowels started to rumble. I ended up having to rush to the bathroom there and it was obvious my stomach was distended by the time we left. I felt even more shame that I could not hide it.

I’ve never been one who is ashamed of my cochlear implants, I know a lot of people like to hide them, but I like for people to understand that I have hearing loss, because I do get ashamed when I have trouble understanding people. I sit and “listen” to conversations, but I often don’t “hear” them, and I’m too ashamed to keep asking for people to repeat what they say. After you are told over and over that it’s not important, you start to believe it, so I don’t worry about it. Then I get more ashamed when I miss things that I needed to hear.

Yesterday I had a very bad day. I woke in so much pain, but more than that when I’d stand I would see stars and I’d start to black out. I asked Stuart if he could work from home, but before he could answer I told him no, I’d be okay, because I was way too ashamed that I needed him. I was not safe, but I was too ashamed to admit that. Last night was the first time I told him how I felt. Now he is afraid he has done something to make me feel ashamed, and I feel shame that I’ve made him feel this way. I’ve explained to him that it’s complicated.

I’m just coming to terms with these feelings. I’ve tried to put a label on this before and called it guilt, but that wasn’t right, it’s shame. Guilt is feeling that you’ve done something bad. Shame is feeling that you are something bad. So, yes I feel guilty about asking him to work from home because I don’t want to take him away from work (doing something bad), but I also feel shame about it because I am ill and have to ask in the first place (am something bad).

Do you have these feelings? This will be a major discussion coming up with my therapist. Shame is not a healthy emotion, this is something we need to battle sooner rather than later.

The Fight Continues

After a 76 day migraine it finally broke on July 6th, I then went 9 days with 2 migraines that were able to be treated with rescue medications. On Monday I posted about how I believed I was back to my baseline, but I mentioned that I had a migraine at the time and was excited I was able to take rescue meds and believed they would work, they didn’t.

can you see how the right side of my face is affected by my migraine?

On Monday I took Maxalt twice, and Toradol, it eased the pain some, but did not take it away.

On Tuesday I did not use my rescue meds, I used Ginger, my IceKap, and medical marijuana throughout the day, and this kept things to a tolerable level.

I woke Wednesday in excruciating pain, with severe light sensitivity and vertigo. I could not lift my head, or focus enough even read medicine bottles, but I could find the Maxalt in my night stand by feel, so I took that. I texted Stuart by talk to text and asked him to come home to help, because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. He came home, got me more meds (Toradol, and another Maxalt) and worked from home for the rest of the day. I also used my alternative therapies throughout the day. Wednesday was a very challenging day, but by the end of the day my symptoms had improved dramatically and I was able to sleep.

Yesterday I woke feeling pretty good, the migraine was still there, but I thought it was on the way out. I decided to greet the day with joy and immerse myself in the pool. I had a nice swim, the water always makes me feel better, but I don’t get out there enough. When I came in, the pain started to increase. Then a little while later I stood up, walked across the room, and the pain hit like a hammer, I felt a whoosh, and the room went black. I slowly collapsed to the floor and spent the rest of the day in my chair fighting vertigo. I decided to break the rules and use a rescue medication a third day this week. My doctor had given me a sample of Migranal to try, it’s dihydroergotamine mesylate (DHE) in a nasal spray. I haven’t tried it yet because my insurance doesn’t cover it, but thought I should try it since I’ll be seeing her on the 26th and today would be a good trial. I don’t know if it’s just the sample that’s like this, or if it’s always like this, but this stuff is a pain to get started. You have to break a metal seal on the bottle, pull the plastic stopper out, take the plastic cover off of the sprayer, insert the sprayer in the bottle, prime the sprayer 4 times, THEN you are finally ready to use it. Then you spray it once in each nostril, and do not sniff or tilt your head back (that is oh so difficult) and repeat in 15 minutes. That’s a lot when you are in severe pain with light sensitivity, nausea, and vertigo. It did reduce the pain significantly, however it did not completely break the migraine.

That brings us to today. It’s still there. I’m getting a massage tomorrow from an amazing woman, the last time I saw her I left in the least amount of pain I can remember. It didn’t last long, but wow, amazing. I look forward to feeling her magic.

On the 26th I’m getting a CTA or my head, that’s a CT scan where they use a contrast to look at your arteries. I also see my migraine doc on that day. I don’t think the scan will show anything, but just to be sure. I’m a little wary of it, I’ve had a lot of scans over the last 10 years, that’s a LOT of radiation. How much it too much? Since I can’t have MRIs they use CT scans for everything, that has really been a lot of CT scans.

I am so very grateful for the days I had without a migraine, it is encouraging to know it is possible. I’m also encouraged that the rescue medications are doing something, even if they aren’t taking it all away this week. Living with chronic migraine is a challenge every day, I never know what to expect. I found myself leaving the moment, fearing the future, longing for the past, I am being gentler with myself now, and being here in the now. Today is all I have, I will be here in this moment and accept it as it is. I know I can handle this moment, it is all it is, a moment, and I will deal with the next moment as it comes, not before. There is so much more to my life than my symptoms, it is time to remember that and take notice, each and every day.

Relief. The Importance of Keeping a Medication Diary

Tucson night sky

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been battling a severe migraine flare since April 20th, I’m so happy to share that I’m finally back to my baseline for my migraines and my rescue medications are once again working so I’m having sweet, sweet relief!! How did this come about? Well let me tell you, this was an ordeal! And it could probably have been sorted sooner if I had noticed something earlier, in the end, I’m glad I wrote about when I started new medications here.

One of the first things I did when all of this started was try to figure out if I anything had changed, had I started a new medication, was I eating differently, sleeping differently….anything? Well I had started Emgality, a migraine preventative, but I started it a month before this started and I was insured that it would not cause migraines. I had also started Viibryd, an antidepressant, but I (thought) I started it in March. Finally after my hospital stay in June, I went through my blog posts and found this post on April 27th that said I started an antidepressant the week before. https://picnicwithants.com/2019/04/27/little-update-from-travels-to-depression/ That was the week the intractable migraine started. The post also talks about how much better my migraines were in March after I started Emgality on February 28th. Ding! Ding! Ding! Could it be that this drug was contributing to this migraine flare? I was going to find out! I looked up the side effects for Viibryd and sure enough, one of the common side effects is “headache” (15%) and one of the lesser side effects is “migraine”. I put a call in to my psychiatrist and a message in to my migraine doctor. Wouldn’t you know it, my psychiatrist was out of the country! Ha! Glad to know my doctors had a good time traveling this summer! So, everyone knows what I did with my migraine doctor, if you missed it, you can check out my post on SPG Blocks here, but keep in mind that I was still on the Viibryd at the time. I got a message from my psychiatrist PA and they said that migraine wasn’t a side effect of Viibryd (Can you see me rolling my eyes?? I read the prescribing information handout that comes from the manufacturer, where did she get her information?) In the call I’d also asked about a couple of other antidepressants that are used at migraine preventatives to see what they thought, I was told that they didn’t go with Viibryd. Umm, I’m not going to stay on Viibryd! But she couldn’t seem to understand that. I can’t say it is all her fault, the front office there is awful! I love my psychiatrist, but it is horrible to try to get messages through, so I decided to slowly taper off of it by myself, and just wait for my appointment which is next week to discuss the rest. And guess what?! After being totally off Viibryd for about a week my migraines dropped to about my baseline, or below.

Since my birthday, I’ve taken a rescue medication once! Don’t get me wrong, I have had more than one migraine, but they haven’t been severe and I haven’t felt the need to take medication for them. At the first sign of a migraine I’ve been taking 500mg of Ginger and it has been helping (this is a great article about the efficacy of ginger in helping migraines). As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t take rescue meds more than 2 days a week, so unless a migraine is bad I normally don’t take it since I often have migraines an average of 5 – 6 days a week. I save those 2 days for days I have something planned, or days when it is very severe.

I just noticed that today is the 15th and I haven’t taken migraine meds since the 5th! Wow! Perhaps the Emgality is doing something too? I’m really thinking that the Viibryd was messing me up big time. And so far I haven’t noticed my moods dropping since I’ve been off of it. You know, I’ve been fighting a migraine today, but I think I’m going to take something for it. This is great! Maybe I won’t have to save my medication for worse days? Do I dare hope?

To close I’d just like to say that this has taught me to always mark on my calendar when I start and stop medications, and pay close attention to how my body changes. I really thought I was on top of these things, but obviously it can slip by you, especially during busy times and times of high stress. If I had been able to put together that this had been a side effect earlier I might not have suffered for so long.

My Story – A trip to the Hospital – Migraine Awareness Month

We all have our story, this weekend I added to mine.

I’d like to give you a little bit of background on my headache story. Two months before I turned eleven I had my first period, and my first migraine. It was labled a “menstrual headache” and I was told most girls got them. On my 11th birthday we were going to the lake to go swimming and I was hit with a nagging headache, this headache never went away. I was labeled with allergies and sinus headaches. These labels stuck for many, many years. Now my migraines have progressed to the chronic level, I have a migraine over 20 days a month, and it seems they are becoming intractable. The medications I used to use are not longer working, and I’ve tried many alternative treatments. My daily headache is never below a 3. I also have cluster headaches that normally show themselves in the Spring and Fall, but sometimes more often. I haven’t found any treatments for the daily or cluster headaches. Most days I haven’t given up hope, but I must admit that some days I feel like I can’t go on. That is my history in a nutshell, now for the story of the weekend.

Today is the 54th day of a running migraine. There has been no relief. The pain has been variable anywhere from a 6 to a 10+ (there have been times the pain has been greater than I could imagine).. No medication has helped to relive my symptoms which include much more than pain. When most people think of a migraine they only think of the pain, but it is so much more than that, I experience numbness on the right side of my face, sometimes traveling down my arm, my face sometimes droops, my vision blurs and will double and dim to the point I can’t see, I have extreme light sensitivity, and sensitivity to smells and sounds,, I experience dizziness and vertigo that varies in intensity, and extreme nausea….these are just a sample of the added symptoms that I can experience during at migraine, others can experience different symptoms. Migraines are so much more than a headache they can even occur without any pain at all.

At present my neurologist is out the the country. I messaged her office last week and told them my situation and they suggested I go the the Emergency Department to get a “Migraine Cocktail” and some hydration. I voiced my concern about the torture that an emergency department can put me through, the bright lights, the smells, the noise, the wait….but I was assured if I called and reserved a time to come in I wouldn’t have to wait long. We did call and set up a time of 4:30pm on Thursday, I arrived 10 minutes early and was triaged right away, then I waited SIX hours before I was seen. I realize I was low on the triage list, and they had a number of emergencies but sitting there in extreme pain was absolute torture. I almost went home. I had a seizure in the waiting room and no one paid any attention. I do have to put in there that we were in a quiet waiting room with dim lights because of my light sensitivity, but after they were informed, a tech came and took my vitals, but no one else came. I decided it was time to leave. Stuart went to tell them we were leaving and at that time they realized how long we had been waiting, and they got me to the top of the list.

After I was taken to a room I was surrounded by extremely nice nurses and doctors immediately. They made a plan and had medication going within just less than an hour. The doctor told me they had to start on the first cocktail, but he didn’t think it would work on me, because he had a feeling I was a tough case. He said after that they would do a second cocktail and if that didn’t work they would admit me and there were all kinds of things they could do then. Neither of the first two cocktails worked, although the second one did help me sleep. I was admitted, after many hours of waiting for a room

I was started on a new cocktail that was very much like one that I had in the ED, but they wanted to add Imitrex (sumatriptan), I refused this medication because it causes me to have tachycardia. I soon saw the neurologist and he put me on a cocktail of DHE, Toradol, Depakote, and Magnesium every 8 hours for 24 hours. He then told me that if it did not work he could do no more and I would be sent home to suffer there instead of suffering in the hospital.

The cocktail knocked it down to a moderate level, until they stopped it. After they stopped it a new nurse came on duty who had a scent that triggered me. My migraine shot up and I was terribly sick. It did not come down, and I was sent home “to suffer”.

Today I woke up in intense pain that continued to build, within an hour it was so excruciating it was beyond what I could imagine a migraine could be. I was not sure if the pain would diminish. If it hadn’t I would not have been able to carry on. I had to admit my thoughts have gone there, but migraine can kill. All I can hear in my head is, “You can SUFFER at home”

My doctor is the only headache specialist in this area. According to the American Headache Society currently only 416 specialist are certified by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS) to treat an estimated 36 million migraine sufferers over age 12 in the United States. I’m lucky to be able to see one, but when she is unavailable it is very difficult. She will be back in the office on the 12th, however she has jury duty the first week of July, I don’t have an appointment until July 26th. The doctor I saw in the hospital said he was going to talk to her office to see if he could get me an appointment earlier. I doubt that will happen.

There is a headache clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. If my doctor can’t help me I’m considering going to the clinic for an evaluation It is 110 miles away. Does anyone have thoughts on this? I’ve heard some conflicting results from friends about their experiences with Mayo, I’d like to know if anyone has any thoughts.

This is Migraine Awareness month therefore, I’ll leave you with a few more facts about migraine.

  • Migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world
  • Migraine often runs in families.
  • Migraine is often misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches.
  • Migraine also affects children.
  • Pain does not have to be present during a migraine.
  • More than 4 million adults experience chronic migraine with over 15 migraines per month.

If you know someone with migraine, be gentle, try to understand, Sometimes it can change you. It can steal your life. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time with you, often it means they can’t. They still love you. Love them.