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Migraine Awareness Week 2019

September 3, 2019 13 comments

Those of you who weren’t reading or following my blog in the early days will probably be unaware that I used to do a series of ‘Dates To Note’ posts – if you’re interested they can be found in the menu above. These ran through 2013 into 2014 but I decided that they had run their course and, apart from a few reblogs – and a spoof –  there haven’t been many more since then. I have, however, decided to do a new one-off to recognise that this week (1st to the 7th September) is Migraine Awareness Week. I first posted about this in 2013 and have followed up on that a couple of times, but felt it was about time to do something new.

I’m sure many of you have experience of migraine, either yourself or with someone close to you. I was first diagnosed when I was 15 – to save you the maths, that was around 50 years ago. Since then I’ve had several migraines a year apart from one blissful period in my 20s when I went three years without one, and foolishly hoped I was somehow ‘cured.’ Not so. And the older I got, the more migraines I had and the longer they seemed to last! Five or six a year wasn’t uncommon, and they lingered for up to three days instead of just the one when they first started.

I hope you follow the link above, which takes you to the Awareness Week page on the Migraine Trust’s website. The Migraine Trust organises this week as a means of educating people about migraine, and their website has a lot of helpful information and links. Their headline statistics are frightening: every day in the UK there are 190,000 migraine attacks. The condition affects one in seven people, and is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. In other words, it is a big issue! They have undertaken much research into the underlying causes of migraine, but their aim is ultimately to find a cure for this debilitating illness. This is especially important as only about half of those who suffer are actually diagnosed with the condition: if a cure could be found, that might encourage more people to seek help.

One of the things the Migraine Trust encourage you to do is to keep a diary of your migraines and share it with your doctor. I did this when I was first diagnosed with depression, as I seemed to be getting headaches and migraines all the time, and it was very helpful to see what pattern – if any – there was. In particular, the site might help those who say they have a migraine when it is actually a bad headache: believe me, there is a difference and you’ll know it if you’re a fellow sufferer! When I was running the Dates To Note series I always gave a link to the NHS website as this is a very good source of information, and their coverage of migraine is as good as everything else they do.

My diary showed that there was absolutely no pattern to my migraines, which often seemed to occur with no prior warning. Most of mine started the moment I woke up: there was no build up to them throughout the day, as some people experience. That made it difficult to assess, but we managed to find a tenuous link to late night tea and coffee, or eating, before some of my migraines. I cut these out on doctor’s advice, but was never convinced that this made any difference. Like most migraine sufferers I just shut myself away in a darkened room until it felt safe to open the curtains again. Medical science has yet to agree on a set of defined causes for the illness: whilst one of the causes is believed to be emotional factors, such as stress, mine have always been noticeably different from regular headaches, which tend to fall into the category of ‘tension headaches.’ Migraines are believed to be a result of chemical changes in the body affecting the genes, and the genetic effect can mean that they are passed through the generations within a family. My Mum used to suffer badly with migraine and it has always been believed in our family – and by doctors – that I inherited this from her.

So how can you explain the fact that I have had far fewer migraines since I retired? I now live a life which, as far as I can possibly make it, is free from stress and tension. And the frequency of migraines has dropped noticeably – go figure! Does this mean that what I have believed for around 50 years was wrong? Even if that is the case, I can’t really see how I could have changed my working life to remove stress factors, which were part and parcel of any job I had. But I do find it interesting that a reduction in the number and length of migraines since I retired may somehow be related to that major lifestyle change. It is nearly six years since I retired, and I can only recall seven or eight migraines in that time – when I would probably have endured something like 40 in a similar period whilst working. I can recommend retirement for a number of reasons – apart from having to be old to do it – but for me a dramatic reduction in migraine frequency is one of the biggest benefits!

If you’re a fellow sufferer you have my sympathy. If so, or you’d just like to know more, do take a few moments to look at the Migraine Trust’s website – here – as I’m sure it will be of interest and help to you.

 

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Migraine

September 8, 2016 44 comments

When I reblogged my post You Go To School And You Learn to Read And Write last week I noticed that it mentioned my having a migraine, and it seems appropriate to follow that up with this. Those of you who weren’t reading or following my blog in the early days will probably be unaware that I used to do a series of posts that I called Dates To Note – if you’re interested they can be found in the menu above. These ran through 2013 into 2014 but I decided that they had run their course and, apart from one or maybe two reblogs – and a spoof –  there haven’t been any more since then. I have, however, decided to do a new one-off to recognise that this week (4th to the 10th September) is Migraine Awareness Week. I first posted about this in 2013 and recycled that post a year later, but felt it was about time to do something new.

Unfortunately, I know how she feels

Unfortunately, I know how she feels

I’m sure many of you have experience of migraine, either yourself or in someone close to you. I was first diagnosed when I was 15 – to save you the maths, that was around 48 years ago. Since then I’ve had several migraines a year apart from one blissful period in my 20s when I went three years without one, and foolishly hoped I was somehow ‘cured.’ Not so. And the older I got, the more migraines I had and the longer they seemed to last! Five or six a year wasn’t uncommon, and they lingered for up to three days instead of just the one when they first started.

I hope you follow the link above, which takes you to the Migraine Trust’s website. The Migraine Trust organises this week as a means of educating people about migraine, and their website has a lot of helpful information and links. One of the things they encourage you to do is to keep a diary of your migraines and share it with your doctor. I did this when I was first diagnosed with depression, as I seemed to be getting headaches and migraines all the time, and it was very helpful to see what pattern – if any – there was. In particular, the site might help those who say they have a migraine when it is actually a bad headache: believe me, there is a difference and you’ll know it if you’re a fellow sufferer! When I was running the Dates To Note series I always gave a link to the NHS website as this is a very good source of information, and their coverage of migraine is as good as ever.

My diary showed that there was absolutely no pattern to my migraines, which often seemed to occur with no prior warning. Most of mine started the moment I woke up: there was no build up to them throughout the day, as some people experience. That made it difficult to assess, but we managed to find a tenuous link to late night tea and coffee, or eating, before some of my migraines. I cut these out on doctor’s advice, but was never convinced that this made any difference. Like most migraine sufferers I just shut myself away in a darkened room until it felt safe to open the curtains again. Medical science has yet to agree on a set of defined causes for the illness: whilst one of the causes is believed to be emotional factors, such as stress, mine have always been noticeably different from regular headaches, which tend to fall into the category of ‘tension headaches.’ Migraines are believed to be a result of chemical changes in the body affecting the genes, and the genetic effect can mean that they are passed through the generations within a family. My Mum used to suffer badly with migraine and it has always been believed that I inherited this from her.

So how can you explain the fact that I have had far fewer migraines since I retired? I now live a life which, as far as I can possibly make it, is free from stress and tension. And the frequency of migraines has dropped noticeably – go figure! Does this mean that what I have believed for nearly 50 years was wrong? Even if that is the case, I can’t really see how I could have changed my working life to remove stress factors, which were part and parcel of any job I had. But I do find it interesting that a reduction in the number and length of migraines since I retired may somehow be related to that major lifestyle change. Next week, it will be three years since I retired, and I can only recall three or four migraines in that time – when I would probably have endured something like 20 in a similar period whilst working. I’m intending to mark my anniversary with a post or two, but wanted to kick off the celebration of my third post-work birthday a little early to tie in with Migraine Awareness Week. It just seemed a good fit, somehow.

See you soon.

 

Lost Weekend

December 9, 2014 Leave a comment

ButlinsI was supposed to have spent this past weekend at Butlins in Skegness – a typically bracing English seaside resort. Strange choice for December, I can hear you say. Normally I’d agree with you, as a holiday camp wouldn’t be my first choice for a holiday, and certainly not at this time of year. But I had booked to go to the Great British Folk Weekend which, as you can see from the poster, boasted an array of folk artists that would do any of the more traditional folk festivals proud. I was really looking forward to this, even, rather sadly, to the train journey to get there – there’s a small child in us all! But I didn’t go.

Why not? The simple answer is that my body let me down. I have suffered from migraines since I was 15 and it was just my luck that one launched itself at me on Friday, when I was due to travel. I don’t have experience of an Exocet attack (!) but when I get a migraine it feels like I imagine that would be: something hits me completely out of the blue and I feel instantly debilitated. When I get the full works I endure not just the incredible pain of the headache, but also sickness, the aura affecting my vision to the point where it would be unsafe to be outdoors, and the heightened sensitivity to light and sound. And this all lasts for two to three days. So instead of a convivial weekend in good company, listening to some great live music, I spent the time at home, largely in darkness on Friday and Saturday.

Why am I telling you this? To be honest I’m not entirely sure! I’m not looking for sympathy – anyone who is also susceptible to migraines will recognise this as an unfortunate part of our lives that we just have to go through. In any event, you only have to open the paper or switch on the TV to see many people who deserve your sympathy much more than I do. I don’t treat this blog as a diary, as I don’t have the discipline to write every day, but there is an element of that in this post. I felt the need to record my disappointment, for that is all it is: disappointment at the loss of something I knew I would have enjoyed, that would have enabled me to make some new friends and widen my horizons. But there will be other opportunities to do that. My real disappointment is the sense of not being able to trust my health. For many people, this is something they face everyday and I have the utmost admiration for them. But this is something that doesn’t happen to me.

But now it does, and I’m finding that this small event is causing me to think a lot about my life. It has made me more wary of booking ahead for things, in case I have to miss them. That looks really pathetic and stupid now that I can see it on my screen, but I can’t rid myself of the thought. I suppose this is one of the less good parts of retirement and the aging process: I’m only 61 but I’ve never been older than I am today and I need to rethink my approach. Amazing that what counts for me as a deep thought process can result from one migraine, isn’t it? But this one is symbolic for me. It is a kind of sign – that I should re-evaluate my lifestyle and what I need to do. It’s not as though I can prevent migraines occurring, but maybe if I was thinner and fitter I’d be better able to withstand them? I know this is sound advice for myself and really intend to take it seriously.

Oh, but Christmas is only 16 days away, with all the culinary temptations that it brings. Perhaps I should start cutting back and forego those temptations. But New Year closely follows, so I can make this a New Year Resolution, can’t I? No need to cause myself additional suffering, is there? So it’s sorted then. My new approach is:

When in doubt, procrastinate!

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