Linda's story


I’m the bog standard classic without aura.

My migraines started around 1995/96, when I started work at the Cabinet Office, on a two-year secondment as a Personal Secretary. I was one of three secretaries, who worked a shift pattern of early, middle and late shifts.

The headaches would always be on a Thursday when I’d stayed late to type the Cabinet minutes and make sure they were in the reprographics unit for distribution, so I could be there from lunchtime until 9, 10 or 11pm. I’d grabbing a chocolate bar on the way home and having a late supper would result in the headache kicking in around 2am or later. I had no idea what the problem was at the time, so would have to “ride out the storm”, throwing up for hours.

There was/is a lot of sleeping sitting up. I can’t seem to manage laying down with a migraine. That equilibrium/sickness thing seems to make the headache worse. I always managed to go to work the next day though, because of the shift pattern.

The headaches would be sporadic, three months or so over the two-year secondment, so it was difficult to work out what exactly was going on. When the headaches became more regular, I sought some advice.

There was a delay in diagnosis, due to a back operation in June 1999. I blame Olga Korbut. She made the four inch beam exercise look so easy. Not so for an enthusiastic but stupid 14 year old, all those years ago.

Still more delays in a diagnosis, due to another operation in October 1999 for a cyst on an ovary. I am hugely grateful to the NHS for helping me with several health problems, but you can’t go to the doctor with more than one problem at a time.

It took a few years to get a migraine diagnosis. You will try anything in the hope it may help. I even went to an alternative clinic for acupuncture. It didn’t work, and actually brought on a humdinger of a migraine right where she put the needles, over my right eye close to the nose, which is where all future migraines occur. As you can imagine, this was disappointing.

I’ve tried several drugs. The beta blockers left me walking around in a fog for a year. I’ve tried other preventive drugs but they didn’t seem to work for me. I drew the line at taking an anti-epileptic drug, having seen the list of side effects.

I take a triptan and 2/3 paracetamol when the headaches come on, which works well for me. I’ve even managed to do without an anti-sickness tablet for years, and find eating something helps.

Causes of migraine for me are lack of sleep, which is a problem during the menopause but I’ve found an over the counter supplement that helps with this. Going too long between meals is the main trigger, as well as stress and eating junk food. Then there’s the no reason why you get a migraine. It just happens. Smells and light usually cause disturbance. Dior poison perfume is like a punch to the stomach and the one perfume that will give me a migraine.

I’ve worked full-time all my working life and at 56 am proud to say that the migraines don’t define me. They are just part of my life that I manage with the help of drugs.

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.