Apr 17, 2007

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

I apologize in advance for boring anyone with this post about migraines. I can't help but write about it, as I sit here with another one. I woke up very early for a meeting and didn't feel so hot. I chalked it up to my change in sleep patterns and went on with my day. A little bit after 12 PM, I noticed that what I thought was a sleep-deprivation headache was actually the start of a migraine, so I took some meds. No help. I came home a bit early from work, took some painkillers and sat on the couch. They only made me groggy - the pain was driving through my left eye. More meds about an hour ago. Enough relief, but I am now left with this anger and sadness about this situation. Why won't these headaches stop?

The truth is that I brought them on myself. In 1998, at the urging of my physician, I started on birth control pills for medical purposes. They helped immensely and I was finally "back to normal" with my health. Looking back to the morning after I took that first pill, I can recall very clearly that I experienced a headache different from any other I had ever experienced at that point in my life. I had never been plagued by headaches as a child or teenager. I would have the occasional tension headache, or the headache if I waited too long to eat, but nothing that an Advil wouldn't take away rather quickly. I wasn't really alarmed by this new headache, and it wasn't all that bad. Besides, my doctor said that I could experience some symptoms similar to the early stages of pregnancy - I had a hint of nausea and well, let's just say I could give Pamela Anderson a run for her money. So, this headache was just another one of those symptoms. I had this headache for the next three days. Can you feel the foreshadowing?

The headaches increased over the next couple of years, but never once did I think "migraine". I didn't even really know what they were. I remember one particular day at work when I felt like I couldn't take it any more - I wanted to cry, I wanted to crawl under my desk and pray for a quick death. That is when I went to my doctor. I tried Imitrex and then Maxalt. After that she finally told me that I needed to see a specialist.

In comes Dr. Homer - so popular and so amazing that I had to wait three months to get an appointment. I even made the trek to Northwestern University to see him (and I still do!). We talked for a long time and he determined that I suffered from menstrual migraines brought on by my use of birth control pills. So I had done this to myself. He asked if I was willing to stop taking the pill, but at that point in my life, I said no. He said it was OK and that there were new ways to treat these migraines, which are the most difficult migraines to treat. Being a neurologist on the cutting edge of new medicine, he put me on a treatment plan that had yet to be approved by the FDA.

It worked, but only for a while. At my next visit he told me that sometimes this happens. I cried and tried another treatment. I have been seeing Dr. Homer for 6 years and each time I see him, he offers another treatment option. Well, last summer I had enough and made the decision to stop taking the pill. Well, I stopped taking the combination pill - I moved to the "mini pill". The chances of getting pregnant are somewhat higher, but that chance was worth the possibility of stopping my headaches.

However, they haven't stopped. I thought this would be the magic "cure" and I would be all better. My doctor was right - sometimes our bodies learn patterns, and obviously after so many years, mine did. I sit here angry - angry at myself even though I never knew this was a possibility of taking the pill. I feel like my body is rebelling against itself and I hate it.

My doctor tells me that menopause might bring some relief, but I am only 34 years old. I don't know if I ever will have children because the chances of getting a migraine while pregnant might just be too much for me to handle. Dr. Homer has told me that it is a gamble - they could get better, stay the same, and in some cases get worse. I feel like I have significantly decreased my chances of ever having biological children. I feel like it is my fault if that is the outcome.

I have asked what I could take if I ever was to become pregnant and suffer from a migraine. No migraine meds are allowed, so my choices are Tylenol and Demerol. No in between.

I am very sad when I think about the choice I made so many years ago and the place it has led me today. What did I do to myself?

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