It should not be possible to feel pain so disabling over and over again.
Give yourself a fighting chance against Migraines.
I had often told myself over the past 25 years that it should not be possible for a human being to feel such a devastating amount of pain and live to tell about it. The harsh reality is that millions suffer the same intense level of pain all over the world. They are all too often forgotten by society or brushed aside as a simple headache. I can assure you there is a vast difference between a headache and a migraine.
With the huge advances in technology we can send a man to the moon and back. We can program computers to adapt and educate themselves. Humans have even successfully copied the genetics of a sheep to grow and exact living replica. However doctors and scientists know very little about the complexities of the human brain and how it reacts to a migraine. Most of the information that I have compiled on the medical issue was completely self discovered.
Sufferers of the disability receive very little empathy or understanding from the medical community. I’ve read every article or study that I could dig up for the deep recesses of the internet, libraries and medical journals. In search of my own cure or at least a skill set that can pry me from the grips of such a disabling existence. I’ve been a guinea pig for dozens of doctors and specialists across Canada, only to be told by most of them to avoid wine, cheese, chocolates and cigarette smoke. Isn’t that the same advice they gave my father 50 years ago? That advice didn’t seem to do him or his mother much good over their lifetime. Generations of my family have most likely funded a number of doctors salaries with the cost of medications and treatments that never worked. Not to mention holistic treatments such as physiotherapy, massage and chiropractic sessions. Now there was an expensive way to find out your still at square one in your search for relief. Some desperate patients have gone so far as to have medical procedures. My father being one of them. He sang it’s praises probably in an attempt to convince himself that the treatment had worked. I’ve since seen him return to his couch with his ice pack and a darkened room to wait out the storm of many more migraines.
It is estimated that 25% of women, 16% of men and even 5% of children live with the disabling effects of the condition. I use the words “live” with it, because that’s exactly what happens. The world doesn’t stop turning because someone has a migraine. The medical or social service agencies, often times even family and friends do not support the condition or believe it to be disabling. I can assure you, that when someone spends every second day unable, not unwilling, but unable to walk from one room to the next, it’s a disability. I was forced to find jobs that are flexible or ended up not working at all. I am now fortunate enough to be married now. The second income is not needed then making the migraines more manageable. When i was single are single, and on social assistance then I was truly in trouble. They will not cut you a disability check because you have migraines. The social services medical plan does not cover the vital medication. I was fortunate enough to harness the opportunities small home based businesses that made enough for me to support my children as a single parent for many years. This allowed me to work harder on my recovery days, and make up for the days lost due to pain or immobility.
Migraines are considered to be genetically influenced. My children started to feel migraines long before they knew what they were. I have 4 children ages ranging from 20 yrs of 6 yrs old. The oldest 3 have had to endure life with them. I’m also convinced my youngest suffered at least 3 migraines last year, however he’s too young to be able to tell me his symptoms properly. That far off glossy look in his eyes and sudden fever with rosy red cheeks and an upset stomach are signs that ring true for me. Especially when all those symptoms disappear the following morning. My oldest boy, also inherited the gene from his father therefore he unfortunately gets cluster migraines that will last anywhere from 5 days to several weeks.
Daily migraines were already such common occurrence that my teachers were desensitized to seeing me passed out at my desk. I was quite familiar with the cold plastic mattress of the nurses cot. Most times, I was forced to make due with the cold laminated desk top. Treating children with pain medication is not an option so the severity is often overlooked by family physicians, teachers and parents.
I remember in vivid detail of a particular attack I had in grade 2. That particular day the teacher simply ignored me while I passed out sitting in my chair with my head against the surface of my desk waiting for relief or death, which ever came first. It really didn’t matter to me at the time. During the parent/teacher interview later that year my parents were advised to have my eyes tested. The school said many children get stress headaches from the strain of reading the board. I was placed at the front of the class, in full view of all my classmates to witness my slow humiliation. My father was in denial. He’s dealt with them all his life, and yet he went along with the schools suggestions. Instead he should have considered that perhaps I had inherited the same curse he had gotten from his mother. The testing began and continued for many years to come without positive results to manage or dull my symptoms.
The topic was mostly ignored when no answers surfaced from the medical community. My parents never really talked about it. Children are incredibly adaptable. Since regular children’s Tylenol or Aspirin had no effect, there was very little they could do for me. I can imagine this left my parents feeling pretty helpless much of the time. I managed to live a pretty full life despite the pain and nausea. I played just about every sport possible. I had excellent grades thanks to a photographic memory. I was self taught mostly because I lost every other day of lessons. I made up for life on the good days. Little did my parents know that my food intake was responsible for 90% of my migraines. If they had known, my quality of life would certainly had been different.
All the chemicals, added preservatives, colors and fillers which are usually unnecessarily added to foods are for the most part responsible. Manufactures are more interested in the sale ability of their products. One example of this is the difference between yellow and white cheese. The only difference being the color. Many are convinced the taste is different however in blind taste testes the consumer was unable to differentiate them. Margarine is another prime example.
I entered college in my late 20’s since working was not a long term option for me, my only other recourse was to continue educating myself. I could miss many classes and still pass with high marks. The teachers tend to forget your there because you don’t need their help. Mandatory attendance was often overlooked. It was during these years that I discovered the importance of tannins and how it affects the human body. This was in 2000 and there was very little work done on the subject but there was enough evidence that suggested that a human could be so sensitive to tannins that they can suffer migraines from it. Tannins is an organic chemical that is found naturally occurring in a wide variety of fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, malted barley and many spices. The list is quite extensive. I must also be vigilant about reading food labels. Many companies will add tannins to their food for appearance. Some foods have much higher content levels then others.
I learned which foods are instant triggers, and which ones I can have in moderation. Once my diet was pure, I could introduce them one at a time. My general rule of thumb with labels is if I can’t pronounce the list of ingredients, leave it stays on the store shelf. I also learned what foods I could eat at the restaurants and which to avoid. I eliminated all foods containing tannins, chemical preservatives, food dyes, and mono sodium glutamate (msg). At first the chef would come out and speak with me. I would normally ask if he could prepare a chicken breast, seared in a pan with no spices. Almost all restaurants were able to accomodate my requests. This doesn’t leave much that isn’t fresh. Basically if it comes in a box or can, I probably can’t eat it. Once I started reading labels, I shocked at what companies are putting in their product for me to ingest. There are some brands I learned are safe, yet they are almost always much more expensive. For me it was worth the trade. I can not prevent all migraines. There are some triggered by menstrual cycles, temperature and pressure changes in the air. These can be treated with migraine specific medications that I take as needed.
I can now sometimes go 3 months without a migraine. The migraines I still get are drastically reduced in intensity. There is hope through education, awareness and symptom management. There needs to be more support from the medical community and the public in general. I learned years ago no one was going to solve my problems for me. Research and being proactive in my own search for a cure, I was able to give myself a sustainable recovery.
by: Shannah Nicks.