Why the song and dance? Well, helping people with migraine is my job, right? Maybe you expect that I should be hunky-dory, migraine-free. The truth is I’m not. But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.
First, we need to head back in time
For over 30 years I thought I got migraines because, well, I just did. As a teenager, my GP sent me to see a specialist. He put me on beta blockers. For me, they made no difference. I told my specialist. He said, well they don’t work for everyone. And that was that.
Oh, apart from being told I should just RELAX!!! And yes, that did feel like big, shouty letters.
Not at all helpful. Now I could add self-blame to my migraines. They were all my fault. But other than the suggestion to RELAX!!! I was given no advice. None.
There I was. Left to struggle on my own with my self-inflicted migraines. Thirty years of pain. Thirty years of worry. Thirty years of guilt. All in all, pretty crappy.
How did my migraines feel?
The pain was always around my left eye. It was intense. Bright sunlight and electric lights made it worse. I had bouts of nausea followed by throwing up. Lots of throwing up. Yeuch. I hated that almost more than the pain.
Events I found stressful – exams, travelling, job interviews, driving test – were a dead cert to set it off. I’d do the counting thing; if I just get through this, in six hours I can crawl into my darkened room…..
Then in my mid-twenties something changed. I started to get a new kind of the pain. I’d wake up with excruciating pain in my left eye. It felt like a metal spike was skewering my eyeball. I checked with my optician who, thankfully, said my eye was healthy. But with this new migraine I was unable to function. Even getting up to stumble to the loo was agony.
My biggest worry now was I can’t keep taking time off work. What about that deadline? What about that client meeting? I cannot tell you how much I dreaded having to say to people, “I have migraine”.
Fast forward through time
The breakthrough for me came when I retrained as a myofascial therapist. I learnt, for the first time, about myofascial trigger points. How trigger points in my shoulder, neck and jaw muscles create the pain and symptoms of migraine. It’s known as referred pain. It was a revelation. I checked through my muscles. Sure enough I had trigger points. At last I knew the real reason why stressful events triggered my migraines. Not because I was too highly strung. Or, heaven forbid, too weak. No. I got stressed and my muscles tightened in response – ready for fight or flight. My trigger points, laying quiet and hidden like a snake in the grass, were compressed and activated. Lo and behold, my godawful migraine symptoms kicked off. I didn’t need to RELAX!!!
Here’s what I needed:
For someone to tell me about myofascial trigger points,
For my trigger points to be identified and treated,
To be taught self-care techniques and
To learn how emotional feelings have a physical response.
If only one of my doctors had told me this. What a difference it’d have made to my life. But they didn’t. And from what my clients tell me, they’re still not. Now, the causes of migraine are complex. It isn’t the case that everyone’s migraine is due to myofascial trigger points. But, if you’ve had the scary but rare causes of migraine ruled out I’d recommend finding a therapist in your town who understands myofascial trigger points to check out this potential cause.
So, where am I now with migraine?
As I said at the start, I’m not migraine free. But after treatment, the intensity and frequency of my migraine attacks has reduced significantly. Teaching myself how to turn down my pain volume has reduced that even further. (More about that and the role Mr Spock played in a future post…)
Migraine is my kryptonite. And that’s OK.
Because now I’m free from the worry of not knowing why I get migraines. Now I know why they happen. Now I know how to look after myself. And, importantly that includes learning too not to beat myself up if I do get a migraine.
In the comments below please tell me what are your struggles with migraine? What answers are you looking for? Rather not share publicly? Then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org