Propranolol for #Migraine and #Anxiety: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

About nine months ago, my psychiatrist put me on the drug Propranolol for anxiety. Propranolol is a beta-blocker drug primarily used to treat high blood pressure, chest pain, and other circulatory disorders. It’s also often used off label for the treatment of anxiety and for migraine prevention. So I figured, why not? If it could treat both my conditions at once, I’d give it a definite try.

But I did have questions:

  1. Would it work for my migraine disease when the other beta-blockers I’d been given for migraine prevention did absolutely nothing?
  2. Would it be safe to take when my normal blood pressure is already so low?

The answers, it turned out, were yes and yes, but not really.

The Good News: 10 mg of Propranolol three times a day did more to manage my general anxiety than any other drug I’ve ever tried except Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium, which are truly more effective for my panic attacks than my overall anxiety anyway. It also had a positive impact, albeit it a slight one, on the frequency and severity of the head pain that accompanies my migraine attacks.

The Bad News: If I skipped a dose, I felt it. Almost immediately. And it was not pleasant. Shaky hands, racing heart, queasiness, and a general feeling of something being not right that quickly transformed into a panic attack if I didn’t get that dose quickly.

The Ugly: While it did seem to reduce the symptom of head pain associated with my migraine attacks, after about three months, it increased my migraine-associated vertigo to such a degree I eventually had to stop taking it. (You can read about my level of disability from vertigo in one of my posts for “Waiting for My Sea Legs: A Story of Vestibular Migraine.”) I tried to hang on to see if that symptom would eventually disappear, but after months of barely being able to walk, I had to say enough was enough. I did try experimenting, with my doctor’s approval, with decreasing my dose and then the dosing frequency, but that only gave me more of the withdrawal symptoms described above.

I imagine that someone with comorbid anxiety and migraine disease who either doesn’t have low blood pressure or doesn’t live with severe vertigo may have a much better experience with this drug than I did. My migraine disease is so complicated, with its crazy auras and brainstem symptoms, that it’s been impossible so far to find a medication that treats one aspect of the disease without worsening another. That may not be the case for others.

I’m curious: Have any of you readers tried Propranolol for migraine or anxiety? What was your experience?

Irritability, Migraine, and Practicing Patience while Parenting

I always wanted to be one of those mothers who never yells at her kids. The sweet-faced mother who speaks in low whispers to get attention and never loses her patience. The one who gets results by leaning in close and repeating herself once. Just the once.

Unfortunately, I’m not.

Patience is not my strong suit. It never was. And, though my children have definitely granted me more than I ever had before they came along, it never seems to be enough. Especially when I’m experiencing a migraine attack.

In the first stages of my migraine attacks, I am irritable beyond measure. Everything annoys me. Everything is too loud, too bright, too intense, too much. And that feeling extends, no matter how hard I try to keep it in its own box, to my kids.

To my delightful, gorgeous children whom I love with my entire self. My imaginative, creative kids who create stories and games that impress me even when they’re driving me bonkers. Even when they won’t listen no matter what I say until someone, usually me, starts to yell.

I hate yelling, but it works. Sometimes, it’s the only things that works, and when I’m in the midst of a migraine attack from hell I simply do not have the resources to try something new. Something that likely requires more patience than I am blessed with at even my best moments. So I’ve done the next best thing I know––worked to rein in the irritability that comes with my attacks.

Because, usually, I’m a pretty easy-going mom. I have rules, but there aren’t many of them and they make sense to both of my kids. Following them isn’t difficult. Most of the time, we have a fairly harmonious household, even with a teenager, a preschooler, a step-dad with a 50+ hour work week, and a work-at-home mom with three jobs. Usually, that is, unless migraine irritability rears its ugly head and wreaks havoc on the peaceful environment I’ve worked so hard to create and maintain.

I recognize this now. So I breathe when I realize I’ve been annoyed by two different things in three minutes or by both my children in the span of five. I count to five, and I tune into my body, feeling for other symptoms of migraine. Almost always, I find them.

And when I do, if I do, I take a break.

I explain to my kids that I’m getting a migraine, and I walk away. I take a bath or go to my room. Breathe some more. Do a few gentle stretches. Let my adrenaline and anxiety taper down.

Then I return to my family. A little less stressed, a little less irritable. Still with a migraine attack, but with a few more resources to deal with it, including, usually, a little more patience.

Migraine and Headache Awareness Month 2017 #MHAMSMC #MHAM

Yesterday marked the first day of this year’s Migraine and Headache Awareness month. Ironically, I was too ill to write about it. Migraine does that to us–plays dictator on days we have other things to do than treat our disease, places we’d rather go than bed. Some days, we beat it. Many others we don’t. Always, we yield just a little.

Still, I am hopeful.13394090_10156996833235597_964398631644511496_n

I have participated in Migraine and Headache Awareness month for many years now, but this year feels different. I feel we’re on the verge of something real. A place larger than we’ve been before.

There’s more research for migraine these days (though still not enough), and more people are talking about it. It’s gaining ground as more than “a headache,” which is important because headache is only one symptom of migraine disease; it does not define it. Awareness is growing, but there is still more to do.

If you’d like to get involved this year, one big way is to join Move Against Migraine‘s day of action. On June 8, 2017, the campaign is mobilizing people across the country to come together to show their support by participating in the Move Against Migraine Thunderclap. Thunderclap is a crowdspeaking platform that mass-shares a single message on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) at the same date and time. The result is a unified rallying cry that amplifies the voice of the migraine community.

If you would like to join the movement and include your voice in the Thunderclap, visit before June 8 and pledge your support with Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Other things to consider:

Together, we can make a difference. ❤




What’s so important – and stressful – about family dinner?

Stress is something we migraineurs try to manage as much as possible. Those of us with families, however, often experience the day-to-day obligations of family life as one of our most potent stressors. If that’s you, and you (like me) struggle with stress over family dinners, check out this great post over at Science of Mom.

The Science of Mom

A recent study about the stress of getting family meals on the table has been getting lots of attention from both the media and moms. A Slate piece, “Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner,” posted Wednesday, has already garnered 3.5K comments on the article itself and more than 26K Facebook shares. This has obviously struck a nerve. While feeding a family is a big and often stressful job, some perspective about why we do it and what matters most about family meals might be helpful to families feeling the mealtime crunch.

The study itself, titled “The Joy of Cooking?”, was published in Contexts, a publication of the American Sociological Association geared to be accessible to the general public. The paper itself is a really interesting read and freely available online.

Researchers in the sociology and anthropology departments at North Carolina State University conducted the…

View original post 1,283 more words

30 Things You May Not Know About Me, #Migraine, and #ChronicIllness

In honor of the upcoming Invisible Illness Awareness Week and as part of this month’s Headache Disorders & Migraine Blog Carnival, I’m participating in the 30 Things meme. (Additional entries can be read at Read on for my answers, and if you’ve written a similar post, please link to it in the comments. I’d love to get to know you all better!

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: chronic migraine
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2008
3. But I had symptoms since: high school
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: setting time/energy boundaries and limiting the number of things I try to do in one day, even when I feel well
5. Most people assume: that migraine is nothing more than a severe headache. In reality, the pain is often one of the easier symptoms for me to deal with. The nausea, dizziness, and Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome effects are often more disabling for me personally.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: waking up with a migraine. Mine generally get worse as the day goes on, so if I wake up with one, I know it will be a hard day.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House, followed closely by Grey’s Anatomy
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my laptop computer
9. The hardest part about nights are: getting to sleep when/if the pain is bad.
10. Each day I take 6 pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have tried most of them, and find a lot of relief from preventative yoga and meditation.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I can’t make that choice, really. There are pros and cons to invisibility, much as I assume there are with visible illnesses. Having never had a visible illness, I can’t make a decision on which would be “better.”
13. Regarding working and career: I’ve had to accept that there are some things I simply can’t do (anything that involves working under fluorescent lights for example) because of my illness, but living with it also gave me the courage and the motivation to commit to my dream of writing full-time.
14. People would be surprised to know: I consider some aspects of this illness a gift. (For more on that, take a look at my book: Finding Happiness with Migraines.)
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: the amount of down time I require to function at my best.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: launch a successful company.
17. The commercials about my illness: are all about the drugs.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: staying up all night reading and/or talking.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: corn
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: meditation
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go see a loud concert.
22. My illness has taught me: perspective is everything.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: have you tried … ?
24. But I love it when people: express that they care.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: Everything is temporary.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Your life will be different from here on out, but it isn’t over.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how much our society is built upon the assumption that we are all well and able-bodied.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: take care of my family and my house while I slept it off.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: spreading awareness is one way we can support each other.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: supported and grateful.

Great Post on Topamax Alternative

As many of you know, I tried Topamax for a while back in 2008 with high hopes. Instead, of offering me relief, however, it turned me into a confused, emotionally unstable, skeleton. Now, there may be a new drug that offers an alternative to people for whom Topamax should work but doesn’t, and for whom the side effects make it unpleasant to take.

According to James at Headache and Migraine News, the drug study targeted people who had mild reactions to Topamax and didn’t see the improvements they and their doctors expected to see. This means that it probably wouldn’t be much help for me, seeing as my reactions to the drug were anything but mild. However, this may be of interest to some of you.

Read James’ full post here.