Saturday, June 1, 2013

June is National Headache Awareness Month

I have nothing to disclose.

(image source:

Let me begin this by clarifying, my headaches are absolutely abnormal. 

June is national headache & migraine awareness month. If there is one thing I know more than anything else, it is definitely this one. I've shared some of my story in the past when speaking about my epilepsy but I will most definitely have much more to say this month. You can read more about that subject here.

I suppose before I spit off a ton of facts or tips, let me just try to briefly break down my story once again.

At the age of 4 I was diagnosed with migraines. By the age of 10 I noticed my head was hurting daily and eventually I realized it always hurt. At 14 I was diagnosed with seizures and it was about that time I was officially diagnosed as having chronic daily tension headaches. I am now 33 years old so you can see, I've spent the majority of my life in permanent pain. Ironically, as I write this I have a migraine due to weird weather behavior and not getting enough sleep. I've spent the majority of my years researching headaches and headache treatments, trying to find anything that may help.

I'm not certain where to begin talking about this subject, but since I've been suffering from a few weather related migraines this past week, I guess I'll start with migraines.

Here's the definition of a migraine, from WebMD and I have to say, it's a pretty crappy one: "Migraines are painful headaches often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light."

One of the problems with migraines is that they are so very misunderstood, in part because there are different types, the symptoms are similar to different types of headaches, the experience is different for each individual and the pain can vary. I think for now, I will just discuss some of my experiences.

Migraines (general) as described by WebMD:
"The symptoms of migraine headaches can occur in various combinations and include:
  • A pounding or throbbing headache that often begins as a dull ache and develops into throbbing pain. The pain is usually aggravated by physical activity. The pain can shift from one side of the head to the other, or it can affect the front of the head or feel like it's affecting the whole head.
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, and odors
  • Nausea and vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (rare)
Most migraines last about four hours although severe ones can last up to a week. The frequency of migraines varies widely among individuals. It is common for a migraine sufferer to get two to four headaches per month. Some people, however, may get headaches every few days, while others only get a migraine once or twice a year."

I personally have had all of those symptoms at one time or another with my migraines. Here's more specific info about the kinds I get:

Weather related migraines - I tend to get these more than anything else. The weather shifts, my head hurts. It rains, my head hurts. It doesn't always turn into a full blown migraine but quite often it does. The past few days, I've had a sharp pain in my left eye, pressure in my forehead and some pain on the left side of my head. Additionally, I've been getting random electrical shocks throughout the right side of my face. I don't normally get those, and the pain isn't terrible, just bothersome. All of the pain is pretty much constant; the electrical shocks only last a second or two. The increase in pain is enough to make it difficult to think, and I have been slurring my words, pausing more while talking, etc.

Hormonal migraines - in about a week or so I'll be dealing with the migraines I now get only about once a month. These vary in intensity in pain and symptoms. Quite often they're bad enough to keep me from really doing anything at all throughout the day.

Caffeine migraines - Some people think caffeine is good for treating headaches, but I found out the hard way this is not true if you're caffeine sensitive like I am. For many years, I was having migraines almost every single day. I finally figured out that I was giving myself awful, awful pain every day simply by taking too much Excedrin and consuming caffeine. The last time I took Excedrin, I threw the bottle out the very next day because I woke up in so much pain from the caffeine.

Ocular migraines - I started getting these perhaps a year ago. It starts with small zigzag line hallucinations which eventually get larger and larger. Mine are accompanied with some of the worse pain I've ever experienced. I literally have to lie down, in the dark and not do a thing.  It doesn't last long, maybe an hour or two. The last time I had one of these, however, all I could think of was that I wanted to die just to be rid of the pain. At the time, I thought for certain I was having cluster headaches, which have been described as some of the worse headaches - but nope, "just" a migraine. Ocular migraines are strange. The first one I ever had, the hallucination was very pretty and I couldn't stop staring at it but I was really scared because I didn't know what was going on. Until I remembered my grandmother. She started having ocular migraines several years ago, but she never had the pain, just the hallucinations. I've only had these a handful of times now, thank goodness.
This is a painting I did many years while in the middle of a migraine.

In Summary...

There are many other types and causes of migraines, so these are just the very few I've dealt with. My friend Gina, for example, at one time was diagnosed with Transformed Migraine, a type of throbbing migraine which occurs daily.

Migraines are very misunderstood by a lot of people, even those who have them and yes, even neurologists who deal with matter of the brain and head. I remember one time in particular, I was being treated for migraines and I hadn't had any for a few months. My doctor mistakenly commented that I had not had a headache for several months. I think I nearly screamed and shouted. I'm in pain 24/7 from my chronic headaches so not having a migraine for several months is no way the same thing as not having a headache for several months.

For more information and migraine support, I suggest you head over to "Migraine, It's Not Just a Headache" over on Facebook.


All of that being said, here are a few things which have helped ease my pain, and produce fewer migraines over the years:

TOTAL elimination of caffeine
Magnesium supplements
T-tapp (no, it's not just another exercise program! Exercise in general should help, but T-tapp specifically helps heal the body inside and out.)

 I am not a medical professional. All information contained here is based upon my own personal experiences.

PS: I'll have a manicure supporting this up sometime this month for certain.. at the moment I just have too much else going on :)


  1. Thank you for sharing Melanie, it's very brave of you to tell your story. And whow... I knew about the constant headache and the different forms of migraines you have, but some of the things I'm reading here are new to me and scare me, while I'm not even the one experiencing it. I don't think anyone can really understand what it's like to be you. Do you ever feel like your perception of pain is warped because of the constant pain? Or does, for instance, banging your foot still send the same pain signals to your brain? That's just me thinking out loud, I'm curious about a lot of stuff.

    I'm planning on doing a mani to support this too!

    1. Thanks Narmai! Glad I did my job then, to help inform people. Agreed, no one understands what it's like to be me but that's true for anyone and it has nothing to do with the headaches.

      I'm a big sissy when it comes to pain but I think that's just because I am in pain all the time and it makes me over sensitive to everything. At the same time, I do think it also makes me tougher if that contradiction makes any sense. I broke my toe a couple of years ago and I was actually surprised by how little it hurt. I couldn't walk on my foot for about 2 months because it hurt too much, but the initial pain really wasn't as bad as I imagined. I guess it depends on how I'm feeling on any particular day. I'm definitely more sensitive some days compared to others. I know I've cut myself for instance and didn't notice I had done so until long after the fact.

      Thanks for your support, I look forward to seeing your mani :)

  2. I hear and feel your pain. Like you, I've been suffering from severe headaches since childhood and I am so thankful my parents were rational enough to have taken my pain seriously and brought me to a specialist who diagnosed my problem correctly.

    1. You're fortunate, it can be very difficult to diagnose these things properly! Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thank you for the blog. I too have nearly daily headaches that frequently turn to blinding pain. I've been diagnosed with migraines, tension headaches, and sinus headaches. Sometimes the migraine starts while I'm sleeping so I wake up feeling like I want to remove my head. Good luck in the future and keep up the good work.

    1. so sorry to hear that, Julie. thanks for your comment. I've been diagnosed with sinus headaches also, among other things! Yes, I definitely know what that is like to wake up feeling like you want to remove your head! My headache used to be the very first thing I noticed when I woke up. Not so much these days.