As someone who lives with migraine, do YOU realize how IMPORTANT it is to be aware of your silent disease?? I’m not speaking of just your attacks but also your overall migraine days. Do you know the difference? Is there a difference? Do your days blur into one long week or month? And, did you know that there are signs to be aware of that show you need to consider preventive treatment, or reconsider the preventive treatment you are on. Yes, that can be scary, but the consequence of not being proactive with this disease can have a disabling and long-term impact on your life.
Each of Us is Unique
If you are like me and have had migraine for a really long time, I suppose advice and information might be easy to dispense, just like an OTC pill. However, unfortunately not only are we NOT the same when it comes to migraine, but each migraine patient also often has an assorted spectrum of ailments. This makes it thoroughly non-conducive to helping us find answers at times. In short, we are all unique! Most of us experience HEAD PAIN to some degree, as well as a variety of other symptoms such as facial pain, dizziness, neck pain, stomach issues, visual disturbances, cognitive and mood changes, and more.
In order to best help yourself you need to know how to manage your migraine disease in a timely and effective manner. Sadly, many of us are not. Many of us continue to try and keep “pushing through” this disabling and often progressive disease. And “pushing through” is generally not good for you at all, since it increases the risk of chronification among other things, something we talked about in a previous blog!
My Migraine Story
Until a few years ago, I only had my immediate family as a support group but really I think they only put up with me because I was “MOM.” I was seeing a plethora of migraine neurologists but I really wasn’t getting the best from them or the best for me. Honestly, I didn’t know much better. I was so worried about keeping up with my job, my family commitments, and my routines that I lost “me” in the pain and the struggle to keep up with day to day activities! WHAT did I lose, you might ask? A HUGE PART of my LIFE (probably more than 20 years worth). Memories, days, weeks, months, years are all a blur. Now I suffer with daily chronic migraine and this is no way to live.
Signs It’s Time for Prevention
Sadly, many people with migraine who should be on preventive treatment either are not aware of the need, are afraid to go that route, or don’t have access to a healthcare professional who understands migraine disease. The problem with this is that migraine is not just a headache – it is a complex, neurological disorder that can chronify without appropriate, timely and effective treatment.
According to the American Headache Society, if any of the following are applicable to you then it is time to consider preventive treatment for migraine, or to revisit the preventive treatment(s) you are on:
- 4 or more migraine days per month (note: it’s important to count migraine DAYS not migraine ATTACKS as mentioned above)
- Attacks are becoming more frequent
- Symptoms are worsening or changing
- Work, education, family and/or social life is affected
- Other health conditions are affected
- Taking too many OTC or prescription abortive medications (more than 2 times per week)
Steps You Can Take to Explore Preventive Options
- MOST IMPORTANT: know the signs that it is time for you to consider preventive treatment options for migraine
- Find a migraine specialist who you can communicate with and trust
- Get a second opinion if you have any concerns or are not sure about a recommended treatment. Sometimes two heads are better to spin ideas off of.
- Know what your triggers are: weather, stress, foods, exercise, light, smells, etc.
- Build a preventive treatment toolbox that is unique to you (see our blog on Building a Preventive Toolbox)
- Connect with others who live with migraine for support, tips and ideas
Once you have started your preventive treatment(s), you’re on the next step of your journey, but this is a lifelong process and it takes courage, perseverance and partnership with your doctor. Remember to take any preventive medications on time and steadily as prescribed. Don’t skip a day or two unless approved, and give the treatment(s) the recommended time to work, which could be up to several months. Above all, communicate with your doctor about side effects, efficacy, and any other concerns you may have, and partner with them to explore how different preventive options may be best combined for you (read more in our Preventive Action Plan blog).
Being Honest About Migraine Disease
I love to share my story and encourage people to be honest about how they really handle this debilitating disease. My message? Don’t let it beat you like it did to me for years. LOOK at it, wrap your head around it, and get the right kind of help. Be courageous when looking at treatment options and be honest when looking at the “signs it’s time for preventive treatment.”
Get a reality check on the urgency of knowing more about this disease and how it is, and can, impact your life. Remember, this is a disease that can easily get worse, and for most people it is a lifelong journey. Know the signs, fight for your right to get treatment, overcome fear, and hold on to hope. You are worth it, so let’s forge forward as MIGRAINE SURVIVORS!