*Please note: This is one reader’s personal experience and is featured for informational purposes only in the hope that it may resonate with others suffering from the same problem. This website and I do not directly name or in any way endorse any specific pharmaceutical drug.
“I first began having migraines at the age of 42, when I became perimenopausal. But it felt like the they’d been building for 10 years before that. I’ve suffered from headaches as far back as I can remember, even as a child. They progressed over time and the pain intensity and whole experience of having a headache just got worse and worse. In my 20s OTC painkillers helped and I just suffered through them while they were manageable. But as I got older and my menstrual cycle became less consistent, my headaches became more intense and wouldn’t respond to pain meds, even heavier doses.
Then in my early forties the headaches shifted to migraines. I didn’t know what was wrong. I would be bedridden but I just thought I had a really bad headache so I’d go through the whole symptomology cycle on my own. A few years later I started to notice the migraines would occur with my cycle and I knew it had to be hormonal – part and parcel of the whole menopause deal.
I always had them leading up to my period – right before it started – but never at the same time as the actual bleeding. As my cycle got more sporadic and spotty the migraines got more debilitating and I started experiencing auras. They would often start around 2am, when I was fast asleep. It would wake me up and I’d feel a tingling sensation in my feet, hands and fingertips, and I knew I it was coming. I was terrified of the pain that I knew was going to happen to my head.
The pain would begin almost immediately after the tingling started. After that I would want to purge everything from my body. I learned that it’s very common that people who suffer with migraines want to do this – to get the migraine out, as crazy as that sounds.
I would become nauseous and make myself throw up. I’d poop. I just wanted everything out of my body. I wanted the migraine gone from my whole being. The aura and tingling always went away after the migraine started. The purging helped a little bit but mostly you’re just hoping something, anything, will work.
I became hypersensitive to a migraine coming on. I got to know the feeling and I got to fear the pain. I knew my head was going to hurt, my mouth was going to hurt, my teeth were going to hurt, my eye was going to hurt and then water – all on one side of my head. I was going to throw up and poop and be lying on the floor because it was cool to the touch. I was going to be passed out, and miss work. I knew I was going to be incapacitated. I was anxious. What was I going to tell my clients? A migraine again? Every month? Are they going to understand? It was awful. It was like, this isn’t worth it. I didn’t even have kids but it still happened.
I even asked my gynecologist for a hysterectomy. I was desperate. I told her I wasn’t going to have kids and she was like, ‘No sorry, we don’t do that here for that reason’. I was mad. Menstruation wasn’t close to being this bad.
When I was in my 30s, I’d had a seizure out of the blue and I’ve been on medicine for epilepsy since. The trouble was I couldn’t take my epilepsy meds during a migraine because I would throw them up. It was tough and it went on for almost 15 years.
I see my neurologist every six months because of my seizure but he said the migraines were unrelated. First, he gave me a stronger dose of an OTC painkiller and said to take it at the very first onset. But it didn’t make sense to me, or work. There was nothing that could touch my migraine. It was like a freight train was coming, and I was just supposed to stop a freight train?! Come on! This was happening every month, with my cycle and with the moon. It was like clockwork.
Next my neuro gave me a higher dose pain killer. I thought, okay, this is hopeful. But it didn’t help and it just got worse and worse, every month. It was leading to serious depression.
Finally I went back to him and I sat there and mimed putting a gun in my mouth, and said, ‘My migraines are so bad I want to put a gun in my mouth’. I said, ‘I don’t want to fuck around, I don’t want to take any pills, I’m done taking pills’. And he said ‘I don’t blame you, this is what you’re going to take now’. He handed me something categorized as ‘migraine abortive medication’ in a nasal spray form, and told me, ‘You sniff this into your head and it will go right to your brain where it will help you’. He even said he took it himself because he suffered from migraines also.
Within an hour of first trying it, I had relief. It was all I needed. From then on, when a migraine was coming on the fingers and toes sensation stopped and the signal would be a pressure around my eye – a nagging headache that didn’t go away. That’s when I knew to use the spray.
I was 47 when I started taking it and it changed my life. I never went anywhere without it, I kept it on me all the time, just in case. I had 2 vials for it, one for each nostril because you take it once each side for every migraine. Having that medicine made the migraines not as intense, just knowing I had it there. And best of all, when I took it I could carry on with my day.
After just the first time I felt like my neuro was a life saver. The whole pain situation was gone and my whole life became predictable again, whereas it had been unmanageable for so long before. It was crazy to be tortured like that every month. He never diagnosed the migraines as hormonal though, and never said they would go when I reached menopause.
I knew though, because the day I stopped having periods completely, the migraines stopped. I was 53 and I’ve never had a single migraine since I hit menopause. That was the last time I blew medicine up my nose. I’ve lived in this shell, my body, for a long time, and I trust myself. I just know, and I figured out why I had the migraines. It was no coincidence, they had to be hormonal. I had night sweats and knew I was perimenopausal. It just made sense.
My advice? Menopause isn’t the big deal. Being perimenopausal is the big deal – all the hormonal changes your body goes through, that’s the hard part. It’s like old womens puberty! It’s crazy!”
Penny B, Los Angeles.