Gillian’s migraine journey

Posted 28 June 2022

Getting access to effective treatment for migraine can be a journey – but there is hope

Image of Gillian


When you tell people that you suffer from migraines, there is normally one of two reactions. Fellow sufferers will empathise and understand; non-sufferers are normally kind and well-meaning but have no understanding of the severity of the impact that this condition can have on daily life.

My migraines started soon after I suffered a severe virus 25 years ago. At the time I had two young children and sadly they can’t remember a time when their mum wasn’t afflicted with this debilitating condition.

As the years went by, the frequency and severity of the migraines increased to the point where a typical month consisted of at least 15 migraine days. But when I include the headache days following, and what each attack took out of me, it sometimes felt like almost every day was affected.

Because of this, I wasn’t able to hold down a full-time job, which has impacted on my earnings, my career and my self-esteem.

I’m sure other sufferers will understand when I say that if I had a special occasion coming up, I would actively wish for a migraine in the preceding days so that I would be pain free on the day.

Over the years, I tried every conventional and alternative treatment on offer, from the usual prophylactics offered by my GP (beta blockers, anti-seizure medication and tricyclic antidepressants) to acupuncture, homeopathy, mineral and vitamin supplements, Hopi ear candles…you name it, I tried it!

Unfortunately, none of these made any significant difference. In fact, some of the prescribed drugs made me feel so bad that the treatment was almost as bad as the problem.

Well-meaning but misguided friends suggested that I should watch what I eat or try to relax more (as if I hadn’t tried this!).

Normal painkillers didn’t touch my migraines, but I was fortunate that triptans helped me through my attacks and meant that I could put on a brave face and carry on with life (albeit still feeling much less than 100 per cent). But I knew that I was using these far too much and there was a risk of rebound headaches.

I approached the National Migraine Centre and had a video consultation. The doctor laid out the various treatment plans and I decided to work through these, starting with the least invasive.

Having tried high-dose vitamins, which seemed to make things worse, I wasn’t hopeful that the next option, a blood pressure drug, would be of any help as I’d tried blood pressure medication before – but I had nothing to lose so gave it a go.

To my utter amazement, I have now been migraine free for three months. I appreciate that this is unlikely to be a cure, and that at some point I will have an attack, but I have not been migraine free for more than three weeks at any time in the last 25 years, so it does feel incredible. Side effects are minimal, and I really feel like I have got my life back.

The National Migraine Centre suggested this drug, which initially my GP wasn’t aware could be used in the treatment of migraine. So, without the National Migraine Centre I would still be suffering.

I’m reluctant to say it’s miraculous, but it is brilliant, amazing and incredible to be pain free.

I would urge anyone who thinks they’ve exhausted all treatment possibilities to speak to the doctors at the National Migraine Centre – they are experts in their field. They may just be able to suggest something that will really help.

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