How I Discovered the Power to Control My Migraines and Take My Life Back
In high school, I used to get terrible headaches, but not the kind you think of when someone normally complains of one. These headaches were debilitating, crippling pain that left me in misery for days. It wasn't until years later I realized those "headaches" were the beginning of my long migraine journey, which has forced me to split my life into two parts: pre- and post-migraines. Here is a glimpse into my life post-migraines.
I became that friend or family member that always cancels on you. While my friends and family are aware of my migraines, some don't totally understand that a migraine can leave me out of commission for days. Some don't understand that a migraine can cause so much pain, I can't move. And even those that do understand probably get tired of me canceling on them. Trust me, I get tired of it, too.
I became that coworker who has had to leave work early or not come in at all. Even though I am covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which protects an employee for absences for a particular disorder, I still see the eye rolls and hear the groans when I'm not able to complete some of the tasks assigned to me. Trust me, it frustrates me, too.
I became that woman who can't take care of another person—or even an animal. I’ve always wanted to get a dog, but how could I explain to my four-legged friend I have a migraine and can't take him for a walk, or even leave the house for a few days? I don't think that conversation would go over too well. Fast forward—what if I want kids someday? How can I even think of that? How would I even begin to start that kind of conversation with a future partner?
I know what you're thinking: try to get to the root of what's causing your migraines. Trust me, despite many attempts, including alternative treatments such as aromatherapy and even more drastic measures like elimination diets, there is no one silver bullet for my migraines. Stress is definitely a contributing factor in terms of triggers, and as anyone in the 21st century knows, there is no way to completely eliminate stress. If you have zero stress in your life, I'd love to chat!
This all probably leads you to think: so, take something for your migraines. Oh, I have. I've tried it all. At least I thought I tried it all, and I thought there was no hope.
A glimmer of hope.
Enter an FDA cleared, non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator (nVNS) therapy to treat acute pain associated with migraine. For me, this was life-changing. This therapy is hand-held, not an injection or a pill, and gently stimulates the vagus nerve through the skin. I learned that the vagus nerve is an important highway of communication between your brain and many parts of the body, and plays an important role in regulating pain. So, it works with my body to help regulate pain in partnership with the vagus nerve and allows me to avoid common unwanted side effects that come with pharmaceutical, migraine-pain management options.
When I first tried this therapy, my pain level went from a 10 to a 4. I can function on a 4. While I was so excited, I thought perhaps it was a fluke. But, sure enough, when I tried it again the same thing happened! For the first time in years I was able to stick to my after-work commitments, run errands when I penciled them in and simply enjoy the little things in life without fear of debilitating migraine pain controlling my day. This treatment is also great for me as my nVNS therapy may be used with other medications, and since I suffer from Crohn’s disease, I need to be selective about the treatments I choose for my migraines.
While I still get migraines, I feel confident that at their first sign, I can manage them so I don't need to cancel my weekend plans or miss work. And ultimately, I'd love to get a dog and someday I'm hopeful I could even have a family. I'll keep you posted on how it all works out!
In the meantime, if you're like me and get migraines, ask your neurologist or health care provider about non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator therapy used to treat migraine. I hope it helps you like it has helped me.