Alicia’s story

For me it’s the other symptoms that are debilitating

Alicia Brewis

I inherited migraine from my paternal line but it is only us female members of the family who are unfortunate enough to get them.

Migraine have slowly crept up on me ever since I crossed the bridge from childhood to womanhood after my first period at the young age of 11. When I was about 14 I started getting tension headaches very occasionally but they were so mild they hardly bothered me at all and never lasted more than an hour or so. When I reached 18 they became a little more intense but they were still very infrequent and short in their duration. At age 19 it started to become bothersome and by the age of 20/21 they had developed into fully fledged tension-type migraine.

I was only getting them during ovulation or around my period but they were severe – there was an intense feeling of pressure all over my head and neck and it was giving me insomnia, nausea and sensitivity to loud noise. I was missing some of my university lectures and struggling to do my work. Thank God I went to the doctor and they put me on Amitriptyline. It worked like a treat and I resumed life as a functioning human being for about four years.

Return of migraine

At the turn of the New Year (I had just turned 25) I was suddenly hit with a bout of vertigo just after my period ended which lasted a few hours and it was followed by my first typical migraine with the pain behind my eye. This lasted for about two days and was very painful. Ever since then I have suffered with vestibular-type migraine. I don’t always get vertigo – most of the time it’s just a wave of dizziness which can last up to a week.

Sometimes I get nausea which can last a whole day but not always. If it’s really bad and making me stressed I’ll get heart palpitations which prevent me from sleeping but they only usually occur at night time. Unusually I rarely ever get the actual headache associated with a migraine and if I do it’s very mild most of the time and subsides after taking paracetamol.

For me it’s the other symptoms that are debilitating – particularly the brain fog I’ve experienced quite a lot which makes me very anxious. As always they usually only occur during ovulation or around the time of my period. Before lockdown 2020 I would say they were beginning to affect my quality of life. I missed a lot of days off work and it’s only fortunate that I have an understanding boss. I have had a blood test and an eye test which revealed no underlying conditions. I have also been to see a specialist about the dizziness and there is nothing wrong with my ears. I have simply been told that migraine sufferers are sensitive to motion as it is and to stay active.

I thought about going on the pill since my only trigger is hormonal fluctuations but I did some research on the ones prescribed to me and everybody was talking about how it had given them very irregular periods and weight gain. I have always had very regular periods so I made the decision not to take them in the end. I feel that women shouldn’t have to resort to going on the pill to feel better.

Different medication

I have also tried sumatriptan and that did absolutely nothing and I have also tried other types of medication just for the dizziness which also had no effect on me.

I’ve now begun taking starflower oil which is a herbal remedy for hormonal imbalances. I have yet to see if it will make a difference as I have only been taking it for a week or two. Now and again I get tension headaches so I’m not sure whether I’m immune to Amitriptyline now since I’ve been taking it for years or whether my condition has simply worsened.

At the moment I feel as though I am simply stuck with my condition and I will just have to put up with it for however long it lasts. I feel like medication simply doesn’t work and I cannot track my triggers and attempt to avoid them because hormones naturally occur in my body. If it ever gets any worse I think I would succumb to going on the pill and see if it helps but right now I’m trying to tough it out, but it’s very hard.

Hope they will improve

My aunt is an elderly woman now but she suffered with migraine throughout her childbearing years and never got treatment for it. She put up with it for decades until she finally reached menopause and they disappeared entirely. She has been migraine free for about 30+ years now and is in her 80s. I look to her for encouragement because she is mentally and physically healthier than most people her age despite having migraine for most of her life. My grandmother also lived into her 80s and was healthy as far as I’m aware. This is my biggest comfort and I’m also praying that having children may improve my condition. It’s important to maintain hope and seek comfort from those who love you. Without my mum, aunt and boyfriend I would be in a much darker place.

The views and opinions expressed in this ‘Migraine story’ are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Migraine Trust.