Hey, you. Thanks for reading. My name is elizabeth and I have a family, which contains my partner, two young daughters, and a dog. I also have a chronic illness. Several years ago, my migraines began escalating to a frequency and severity which required me to leave my job. I never had much of a serious career, but I miss working, and my victory in obtaining disability benefits on my first try has done little to relieve our financial struggle.
I was diagnosed with migraines when I was nine years old, though I experienced my first bad headache as a toddler. My pediatrician gave me a prescription for Fiorinal (a combination of aspirin, a barbiturate, and caffeine), and there began my confusing relationship with pain and relief, medicine and migraine, before “rebound headache” was even discussed.
Approaching puberty, I experienced the trauma of my parents nearly dying in a catastrophic car accident. I developed ovarian cysts and endometriosis. I had to take birth control pills and stronger hormonal medicines to control the reckless growth of endometrial lining throughout my abdominal cavity, and my migraines steadily got worse. I was treated (with varying degrees of short term success) by one preventative or another, seeing a neurologist, a chiropractor, and a psychologist. Amazingly, I was able to go away for college, and I still treasure that time as one of the best of my life. My headaches continued to increase but I still managed to transfer into the Honors College for my sophomore year as an English / Creative Writing major. Sumatriptan became available in Canada and, somewhat close by, we traveled there to get it. The miraculous introduction of the medication class that would be known as “the triptans” was the first step of my headaches’ transformation to Chronic, due to the incredible ease of being able to swallow a pill which gave me such complete relief every time.
I did have to leave school my junior year, changing my major and finishing college at the university in my home town. I did graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, cobbled together out of literature, early childhood education, and business classes after nearly 6 years. I worked clothing retail and lived at home with my parents and brother. I took a lot of Imitrex, a lot of Fioricet 3 (similar to Fiorinal but with codeine, and acetaminophen), saw a new neurologist, and had regular ER and inpatient hospitalizations. With increasing desperation, my parents and I visited hypnotists and counselors, biofeedback practitioners and acupuncturists. Massage and physical therapists. I tried every available medication and received Botox while it was still in clinical trials, with varying degrees of temporary success. I accepted a position as first a barista, then a manager at the very cool coffee shop / used bookstore downtown, where I fully came into my own and subsequently met my gorgeous younger artist rock star husband. After six fun, free-wheeling and pain-filled years we carefully, deliberately got pregnant, despite my health struggles.
My pregnancy, at age 31, was hell. I went from a few headaches per week to severe ones every day with constant nausea and vomiting. I was frequently hospitalized. My first baby girl, X, was fortunately born healthy and lovely. I had needed to begin maternity leave early, and upon my part time return, the coffee shop’s owners apparently decided they could no longer handle my frequent absenteeism. I was forced out of a job I absolutely adored, which was a huge blow to my self worth and identity; another sacrifice to my stigmatized, misunderstood and costly disease.
My husband finished college and became a kindergarten teacher; he is now a psychiatric treatment support specialist for families at a local mental health agency. I found another great job with a friend at Waldenbooks, and as a former English major I was very happy there too, but it was closed by corporate headquarters within six months. I collected unemployment and fought long and hard to get a position with the City Parks & Recreation Department, almost not getting hired because I forgot to take out my tongue piercing for the interview. I became the department’s “artsy one,” working with highly combustible personalities in a rather stressful environment.
When I accidentally became pregnant again at 35, my body and brain crossed the final threshold to chronic daily migraine. After the traumatic premature birth of my feisty, stubborn second daughter, Zo, I became debilitated by early menopause and near constant headaches. Eventually, I had a total hysterectomy, after which my migraine severity decreased but unfortunately the frequency did not. I left my job in January 2013, and still have headaches nearly every day, with my life becoming more and more affected by the mind-numbing, skull-crushing, all-encompassing pain.
Always a writer at heart, it was natural to begin blogging about my lifelong headache experience as LadyMigraine. Hello again, reader, still with me?