#Weaning and #Migraine – Treatment Update

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My little man will be 19 months old on the 12th, and with his increasing independence comes a number of changes, both for him and for me.

I’ve been practicing baby-led feeding and baby-led weaning, which means we’ve had fewer struggles than we might otherwise have had along our journey but it also means the weaning process is taking significantly longer than it otherwise might. That being said, my son took the lead on night weaning about four months ago, and I am happy to report that we are now officially done with the 2 a.m. (and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.) feedings. In fact, we’re down to just two nursing sessions a day: one before nap and one before bed. Neither lasts longer than 15 minutes, and I’m hoping to drop both soon. While this is really good news for me (I can’t wait to have my body to myself again), it is also not so good news.

Hormones change and fluctuate a lot during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They also change when we begin to wean, and again when we finally drop that final nursing session. For some women, this isn’t a super big deal. I’m not one of those women.

As I shared on this blog, my migraines were terrible during the first half or more of my pregnancy. They eased up a little during the third trimester and were largely absent during those first few postpartum months. Then, they kicked in again, and as we’ve progressed through the postpartum period and into the toddler years, they’ve gotten worse. This is due in part to the hot and ever-changing Texas weather and in part to weaning.

Weaning related migraines are nothing new. If you search the internet, you’ll find a large number of women discussing how much worse their migraines got when they stopped breastfeeding. Somehow, though, it was something I wasn’t entirely prepared to experience.

Unfortunately my expectations had little to no effect on reality.

The last eight weeks have brought a migraine more days than not. While I have a lot of non-prescription tools for coping with migraine and a supportive family, it’s become necessary to go back on medication. Thankfully, Kellymom.com, a wonderful resource for nursing mothers and their doctors (my neurologist even references this site), offers a pretty in-depth look at almost all of the common migraine and pain medications. Taking both the website’s information into account and the age of my son (babies older than 3 months usually aren’t as affected by medication in mothers’ milk as much as younger babies), my neurologist and I have crafted a new plan. For those who wonder:

  • I’ve started amitriptyline as a preventative. As of now, I’m only on 10 mg once a day, but I’m working myself up to 30 mg. We’ll reevaluate my progress when I go back for a follow-up at the end of the month. I’m still taking 400mg of Magnesium as a preventative as well.
  • I have prescriptions for a tablet version of Prodin for use as an abortive. I also have a few samples of a Zomig nasal spray, though I haven’t used it yet. (Triptans generally don’t work for me, and I figured I would wait to try this until I’m completely done weaning, just because it makes me more comfortable. Despite the fact that I’d heard somewhere that triptans were no-nos when breastfeeding, Kellymom.com actually says Zomig is “moderately safe.”)
  • I also have Fioricet and Promethazine tablets and a nasal spray version of Toradol for use as rescues.

I haven’t used most of these medications yet, as I try to avoid medications as much as possible. I have taken two of the Fioricet tablets, but so far I’ve experienced little relief. I’m hoping the amitriptyline will bring help. If it doesn’t, I believe we’re going to try a calcium channel blocker, which is one of the only preventatives I haven’t tried yet. If that doesn’t work, we’ll wait until my son has decided to completely give up nursing and then try a few other things. I trust that eventually either time or a medication will help.

An Open Letter to My Pre-Migraine Self #migraine #chronicillness

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You are about to go through hell. In more ways than one.

You are going to spend your days in bed, squeezing your eyes together in pain because even the covers hurt. You are going to be too dizzy to stand, too nauseated to eat.

You are going to take pills that prevent you from eating. You are going to take pills that cause you to eat. You are going to lose too much weight. You are going to gain weight. You are going to drink too much. You are not going to be able to drink at all.

You are going to see pink dots circle around each other on your ceiling, pulsing in time to your heartbeat. You are going to experience moments when you feel larger than the houses you are driving past.

You are going to doubt your sanity.

You are going to get shots in the nerves of your neck, and feel more agony than you could have ever imagined.

You are going to lose your confidence in yourself.

You are going to lose yourself.

You are going to get depressed and anxious. You are going to wonder if you can take it, if living like this is worth it.

Let me tell you this: It is.

Yes, you are going to suffer. Yes, you are going to run up against the edges of what you can take, emotionally, physically, mentally. But, guess what? You are going to arise stronger, more authentically you.

Don’t get me wrong; this is going to take time. But, it will happen. Trust me. So, don’t worry about the future. Instead, do me a favor:

Go dancing, all night. To loud, thumping music that makes you throw back your head in laughter and delight.

Stay up until 3 a.m. talking and making love. Do it again the next day. And, the next.

Find out when all your favorite bands will be in town, and go see them. Stand near the front, where the smokers and dancers are, with a large pint of beer in your hand and a smile on your face.

Run, as fast and as far as you want to. Take hours-long walks in the summer sun. Spend all day hiking by the creek, and swimming at Barton Springs.

Take overnight trips to exotic destinations. Carry nothing but a small purse with you.

Eat bowl after bowl of queso, and slice after slice of four-cheese pizza. Eat as much of your favorite foods as you like.

Read all night long, even if you have to get up early to work.

Do these things.

Trust me. Do these things now, while you can, so you can enjoy the memories you make when you can do them no longer.

Talking about #Migraine: Why (and When) It’s Hard

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I’ve found it difficult to write this month. Each new idea arrives too unformed to share immediately, too vague to understand.

Some days, it is easy to write and talk about migraine. Days like the afternoon a week ago when my father-in-law asked me over a beer to discuss the Alice-in-Wonderland-syndrome hallucinations that accompany my auras. On days like that, I have no trouble recounting my experiences, no matter how incredible they might seem to someone who doesn’t have migraine disease.

Other days, though, like last Saturday when my husband wanted to chat about the potential causes of migraine, it’s not so easy. On those days, the hard days, I feel too raw to write and talk, too emotionally spent to walk someone without the illness through the experience of having it. This can hurt the people, like my husband, who just want to understand what I’m going through and help if and where they can. Intellectually, I know this, but that doesn’t make the hard days any easier.

Over the past few days, I’ve tried to figure out why some days (and months) are harder than others. Why on some days the words – either oral or written – pour forth and why on others they don’t. What I’ve learned is there isn’t one reason or even a handful of reasons. There are a multitude that may or may not apply at any given time, including:

  • whether we’re having a migraine; (I find it exceptionally difficult to form complete, well formed sentences in the midst of a migraine attack. Migraine also makes me irritable and emotionally sensitive, which can mean certain conversations are more difficult to have in the midst of an attack.)
  • whether we’re recovering from a migraine; (The migraine hangover is notorious for stealing my ability to put effort into a conversation.)
  • whether we’re feeling emotionally secure; (It’s hard to open up about things that we feel might make us look bad/lazy/stupid/”crazy” if we’re feeling insecure about ourselves.)
  • whether we’re tired; (Sleep deprivation turns even notable geniuses into blathering idiots.)
  • whether we’re stressed; (Stress does a number on our mental capabilities. It also saps our energy.)
  • whether we’re feeling understood; (If we’re feeling misunderstood, we’re already operating from a place of defensiveness and insecurity, which makes effective communication nearly impossible.)

The truth is, creativity and self-expression are, like migraine itself, often cyclical. Our ability to express ourselves is tied, like our physical health, to any number of things. The best we can do is accept this reality and ask those around us to hold off on the questions until we feel like talking.

How about you? What makes it easy or difficult for you to talk about migraine?

Why I Write About Migraines

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Migraine disease is largely invisible. Yes, my husband can (usually) tell if I’m getting one by the pained expression on my face and the irritable tone in my voice, but by and large it is an invisible illness. This means that most of the time I suffer from it – and through it – alone. Writing this blog helps.

Before getting involved with the online chronic illness, invisible illness, and migraine communities, I often felt desperately and terrifyingly alone. No one I knew understood the intense and long-lasting agony I was experiencing every day, all day. Sure, I had a few friends who experienced occasional migraines, but even they were unsure how to relate to what was happening to me. By writing about my migraines, I gained access to the people who could (and did) understand.

I get a lot out of writing this blog. I get to vent, and I get to be heard. But, most importantly I get to share with people who “get” me and what I’m going through. I gain comfort from my readers. And, I think (I hope) I offer comfort in return.

It isn’t easy to handle being chronically ill. (In fact, I still find it difficult to even consider myself as a chronically ill person.) You all help me with that. Knowing we are not alone is perhaps the biggest gift we can give each other, and I thank you for giving that gift to me.

Those of you out there who also are suffering with health issues, do you write about them? If so, why?

Feeling Less Than Able

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about my life and the impact I want to have on the world. And, as I consider the list of things I’d like to accomplish, I’ve realized a disturbing fact – there are some things that I now doubt my ability to do.

These include the ability to:

  • Commit to any high-stress job that requires long days in a typical office environment. This means many things I would love to do – such as going to law school and working as a PD,  going to grad school and finishing up my neuropsychology degree,  or opening my own financial management consulting firm for small businesses – are potentially out of the question forever. Fluorescent lighting, varied sleep schedules, and long, long hours all mean increased migraine.
  • Make promises to my daughter about future events. Some days the migraine comes on full force, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It doesn’t matter if she’s in a play, or has an award ceremony, or wants me to attend a field trip. I can’t do it. And, knowing this can happen, that I can be completely disabled at a moment’s notice, I don’t promise it. But, I wish I could.
  • Pack my calendar. I can get a lot of stuff done in one day. I can write five articles, edit three chapters of a book, read two newspapers and two trade journals, research a big project, enter two poetry contests, help my daughter with homework, go to dance class, make dinner, balance our budget, pay bills, and spend quality time with my husband, all in one day. IF, it’s a good day. But, if it’s a bad day, if the migraine kicks in by 7 a.m. and ramps up to a level 7 or 8 by noon, I’m lucky if I get even one of those things done – let alone all of them. So, while I can crowd a lot of stuff into one day, I have to leave room for the bad days. And, this means planning for less than I feel I can accomplish, just in case some (or all) of tomorrow’s scheduled work has to be pushed off until the next day. And, I hate that.

There are, of course, more things that could be added to this list, but these are the big things. The things that make me feel less than able even when I don’t feel dis-abled. These are the things that remind me, on a near constant basis, that I am, in fact, chronically ill. And, on some days, I really, really resent that.

What about you? I know I’m not alone. What has migraine disease left you feeling less than able to do or accomplish?

Migraine and Grief

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My mother died last week, and I am discovering that grief serves as a type of anesthesia to chronic pain. It is there somewhere, just behind my temple – lurking. I can feel it there, and yet, I can’t. It is ephemeral, outlasted by the intense pain of loss, overwhelmed by the grief of one left behind.

In moments of clarity, when my hands no longer shake and my legs  stand firm, I worry that I am not taking care of myself as I should, that I will pay for this later. I know that next week or the week after when I am finally home, and the truth of my loss has sunk in but there is nothing left to do except move on – no boxes left to pack, no phone calls left to make, no papers to file – my migraine will come rushing to the foreground with all the intensity of a coal-laden locomotive.

But, what can I do? It is not feasible to do anything but survive at this time.

New Additions to the Blog Roll

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As some of my longer-term readers may have noted, I took a lengthy break from blogging a couple of years ago. Dealing with chronic pain can be exceptionally disheartening, especially when you’re talking about it, writing about it, and keeping a journal cataloging it on a regular basis. So, I quit.

I stopped talking, stopped blogging, and definitely stopped keeping my migraine journal. Trouble was my can’t-I-just-pretend-this-excruciating-daily-pain-doesn’t-exist mindset was a dressed up version of denial. Once I came to terms with this fact, I started blogging again.

Naturally, many of my fellow migraineurs also stopped blogging during that time. And, since then, new (and wonderful) blogs have popped up. So, today’s post is a shout-out to the new (and old) blogs I managed to find this week after joining the ChronicBabe Forum.

Newly added to the blogroll:

Redefining “Good:” Learning to live with chronic pain and illness gracefully

Somebody Heal Me

Graceful Agony: Living your best life in spite of having chronic pain

Migrainista

Overflowing Brain

That’s all for now, but I’m always on the lookout for insightful, informative, and inspirational blogs. Does anyone have a favorite blog that isn’t listed? Please share!