Journal of Migraine Sufferers

Like many of you, I have been a migraine sufferer for many years, in my case I am just about to 'celebrate' the fortieth year of chronic attacks at the grand old age of 47.

Over the years I've tried everything I think is possible: Acupuncture, homoeothapy, Feverfew, Sanomigram, Deseril, Imigran (Imitrex US) great for most attacks..use both tablets and injection, Migril, pain management (one big bloody joke!), propanolol, Codeine, Aspirin, banging my head on the wall, cursing my wife and children, experiencing all sorts of side effects ranging from highs to lows, wheezing and being generally obnoxious. The latest drug is Amitriptyline which after two months low-dosage is not preventing daily headaches. Yes, I have one now.

I seem to have commence one major attack every 7-10 days. Imigran is stopping the attack developing. Twice this year Imigran has failed and I have gone into several days of severe attacks with a violent headache and nausea. The Doctor used Pethidine on the first attack, during the second attack I was in the Ukraine, unable to geta narcotic from the Doctor, and after several days of agony got them to 'knock me out' with a good injection (never found out what was in it!).

To hear that other users on the Net are also struggling is a great relief. My Migraine is driving me to the edge of suicide as I now seem to be losing the battle of who is going to be master. When I entered the Imigran trials with Glaxo a few years ago I thought that life was really beginning at last...but, sad to say, the frequency of attacks has increased more and more. Is it possible that Imigran is making us too confident and we are now stretching ourselves before our limits?

I am interested in the comments on the prolonged use of narcotics. At the same time I'm concerned on the possibility of addiction. Migraine is a big enough problem on its own. If anyone could offer any advice I would be most grateful.

Thanks for reading this...all the best, Stephen Stiofain@MSN.COM

I am 49 years old and have had a headache since 1989. Several family members get occasional migraines and I had occasional ones too, when I was much younger. I recently found out that my grandmother's sister used to carry around a syringe of Demerol for her headaches, so I guess the genetic component of this did not start with me.

I had common migraine until 2 years ago when I began getting classic migraine, usually with the fortification effect (looks like a cut-glass donut). In September 1994, while on Depakote and Propranolol, I had such a massive migraine that I lost two weeks of work. During this time, I had auras that went on for hours, which was mostly very annoying since it's very hard to see through them and I am acutely aware during auras that something has gone wrong in my brain chemistry: thought processes slowed, etc. I also experienced extreme weakness on my left side and later, in the whole lower half of my body; I could only walk by carefully thinking about lifting each leg and by holding onto the walls.

I recently had an aura of flashing lights for the first time and I must say it's preferable to the fortification effect, mainly because it was easier to see through.

The problem seems to be intensifying. That is, the auras began two years ago and were rare, but earlier this spring I was getting them on average twice a week. By the way, the auras do not usually herald a massive headache on the way; I have a headache before the aura starts and the degree of pain is exactly the same two hours after the aura ends.

My neurologist and I have run out of options. We tried Elavil, boosted with Propranolol first and it worked pretty well, except that the weight gain was unacceptable. We recently started that same combination again, but I have not improved a bit and am currently taking about 6 Vicodin per day. My doctor won't let me have any more Stadol because he thinks my headaches are now being caused by having been on narcotics since December. I don't think that's what's going on, but I have agreed that we must at least rule it out, so next week I am going into the hospital for three days for "the DHE protocol." I have also been on Depakote, but I had that massive attack while on it and I got real tired of having a dead libido and impaired thinking. We also tried Sansert, which provided almost adequate pain relief, but my doctor is terrified of the possible consequences and I found having to go off it every four months to be a serious drawback. Most recently we tried Nardil, but that actually made me worse; it was while on Nardil that I was having auras twice a week.

The onset of the chronic quality of my migraines coincided with an increase in my general energy level and my general enthusiasm for learning new things. I am a member of Mensa and, in fact, scored much higher than needed to qualify for membership. Because the migraines began at the same time that my personality changed, friends of mine have teased me that the migraines are caused by thinking too much. Well, very funny. However, I do believe that whatever chemical changes took place in my brain when the migraines became chronic also made changes in mental functioning, making me more mentally energetic. For instance, I used to relax mostly by reading; I now spend much of my free time writing. Perhaps that's a minor difference, but it seems significant to me.

Although I have read that one of the best and most reliable non-medical "cures" for migraine is menopause, I think the chronic quality of my migraines began when my hormone levels began dropping. Unfortunately, I have now completed menopause and still have the migraines, only much worse. I haven't had any really massive headaches (intractible, even to Demorol) since getting hormone replacement therapy.

The only medication which seems to really work for me is narcotics, vicodin and stadol (together). I'm not crazy about this situatin and worse, my doctor spends a lot of time worrying about addiction and has told me that I am his worst patient (hardest to treat).

So, next week I will go into the hospital and be treated with DHE but no actual pain killers. At the end of the three days, we'll find out if my migraines are now being caused by being on narcotics too long or if the migraines are there regardless of what medications I take. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that if the DHE treatment doesn't work, he will calm down about prescribing the heavier narcotics. I have made it plain to him that if my choice is addiction but I can still work and lead my life or no addiction but I can't lead my life, I'll take addiction. Wish me luck. If anyone wants to comment on my story, please feel free to write to me:


PS: Here's a poem I wrote that features an auditory aura.

Migraine: A Thousand Marching Men

Here come the thousand marching men
beating on their drums
in perfect time to my heart beat.
A thousand men are marching
in my left ear
while a bright and grinding migraine
occupies my right brain.

I first saw them in the distance -
a thousand flashing lights
in the aurora borealis.
Then came the marching thousand
beating on their drums
to tell me there's a migraine
on the right tonight.
As if I didn't know!

It's hard to sleep through
flashing lights and marching men and grinding pain. It's 2 am and
I have to work tomorrow.
---Nancy Flack, March 3, 1996, 2 am