Putting the Pieces Together

I’m going to try to inject some humor into this post about this topic, even though I’ve been seriously suffering this past week. So the pieces of the mystery ailment have come into place this past week. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been feeling nauseous during my long runs the past month and then I had an “episode” last week where I felt like I was going to faint. Well, there’s something I haven’t mentioned on the blog that I have dealt with since I was very young and even I didn’t think to connect the dots on this one since it’s been 6 years (yep SIX) since I last had to deal with this.

I am prone to chronic migraine headaches. I started having what are considered “classic” migraines (I had a visual aura warning me one was coming about 30 minute ahead of time) that were excruciatingly painful when I was 12 years old. My parents both get them and I inherited them (lucky me!). They would come, I would have a debilitating headache (10 out of 10 on a pain scale) and become extremely nauseous. Well back then, I could take medicine (Imitrex for anyone else out there who gets migraines) and lie down and within 4-5 hours I’d be better. I can’t even describe how painful those “classic” migraines were.

As I’ve gotten older, my migraines have evolved. They’ve changed into something different, although they are still migraines. They are what are now considered “common migraines” because I don’t get the visual aura ahead of time, but I do get a variety of “prodrome symptoms” in the days leading up to a migraine. In the past, these have included fatigue, nausea, sensitivity to sound, and irritability.

The reason why it is so difficult to recognize that these are symptoms of an impending migraine is that they are so seemingly unrelated. Maybe I was just tired or ate something weird. It’s almost impossible to tell ahead of time that a migraine is coming although in hindsight it is pretty clear.

I have been migraine free for 6 years. Although I claim on my “Active Life” page that I started running because I had gained weight and felt unhealthy when I was teaching high school, the main reason was because 6 summers ago I had chronic migraines (every day) for 3 months. All. Summer. Long. After suffering and becoming depressed (chronic pain will definitely make you depressed!) I started going out on short jogs. I was so nauseous every day, but would force myself to get out there just for 30 minutes because my nausea would stop while I was running. I saw every doctor in Boston, including a top neurologist who gave me a CT scan and put me on some nasty meds that never worked. Since my migraines have evolved to become common or “atypical” migraines, most of the meds to treat migraines have stopped working.

So jump to last week. In hindsight it’s clear that my long runs outside in the hot and humid weather were going to trigger a migraine because I had become nauseous on almost every long run. I didn’t think about it at the time, but when I took off my earphones and ran without music, I felt much better. That right there should have signaled an impending migraine to me (I get SOOOOO sensitive to sound). But like I’ve said, it had been 6 years without incident so I didn’t even recognize the signs. It was just a matter of time before one of my runs in the ridiculously humid weather was going to trigger a migraine. And that, my friends, is what happened to me last week when I felt like I was going to faint.

Migraines are funny because they effect the blood vessels in your brain. So all sounds, light, smells, feelings can become amplified (and incredibly annoying). They can also make you feel dizzy, light-headed, and nauseous. Some people have all of those symptoms but no head pain and it is still considered a migraine. In fact, the pain I can live with. The light-headedness and nausea have been too much to bear. My mind also feels cloudy when I have a migraine (or am coming off having one), like I am dazed and can’t think straight.

I realize now that I am prone to migraines in the summer and the fact that I hate hot weather is not just a personal preference. I hate it because it aggravates me. It causes physiological changes that make me feel sick. For people who get migraines there can be a wide range of triggers: weather/barometric pressure/heat/humidity (like me), allergies, food, sleep disturbances, hormones…the list goes on and on.

And once I get a migraine they stick around, like in a crazy cycle (sometimes this is called a “cluster migraine”). I’ll get one or two a day. There are periods where I get brief reprieves but then another one typically comes in the early evening. I sleep just fine and when I wake up the next day I HOPE SO BADLY that I will feel normal again. But when I get up from bed I still feel nauseous 😦 I just want to feel back to normal again!!!!!

I’ve already seen a few doctors and surprise, surprise I will probably just have to wait this one out. I’ve been able to do some short (3-5 mile) runs but haven’t attempted a long run yet. It is supposed to be 63 degrees tomorrow morning so I might get out there and try just to see. I’m on day 8 of my migraine and I’m hoping that this will only last a few days more, not months like it did 6 years ago.

So that’s my weird story. If you’ve suffered from migraines then you know how debilitating they can be. For my friends who have never had any, I’m sure it’s easy to write off my “headaches” as an excuse rather than a real ailment. So to any of them out there: believe me, this fucking sucks.

Are you prone to migraines? If yes, what works for you?

Have you ever dealt with any type of chronic pain? 

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16 Responses to Putting the Pieces Together

  1. katiemoves says:

    Aw I feel so bad! I hope you’re able
    To start feeling better soon! Totally sucks! 😦 The only type of pain I get is sinus headaches from allergies and weather changes and I can only imagine how bad yours are. Rest up, and take care of yourself!

  2. Oh Claire, I feel so bad for you…that’s got to be horrible! My dad and sister have gotten them and they have always just secluded themselves in a dark room, with a washcloth on their forehead, and tried to sleep. I hope it goes away soon for you and hopefully the docs can come up with something for you. Be smart about your run tomorrow! Thinking of you girl!

  3. that is so interesting, I would have never thought that’s what it was. Hope you’re feeling better soon and that you have another 6+ years of no migranes! Good luck on your run tomorrow!

  4. I really hope you feel better soon! I’ve never had a migraine so I don’t know what it feels like but it sounds miserable :(. Considering the situation, you seem to be keeping somewhat upbeat about everything though!

    Good luck on your run tomorrow!

  5. Sam says:

    Ugh, MIGRAINES. They’re so horrible, and so hard to explain to people who don’t get them. I started getting them several years ago (while I was at CSHPE ;), and it took only one or two to have me running to specialists. Nausea, extreme light and sound sensitivity, foggy-headedness, and the general feeling that my entire brain stem was aching. Migraine meds also just made me jittery, since the over the counter ones are basically just caffeine. Luckily I now only get them about once a year, and it’s usually due to some combination of sunlight exposure (driving into the sun during my morning commute without sunglasses most definitely will result in one later that night) and drinking/eating something I shouldn’t have. I’m now uber-vigilant with sunglasses and hate to be outside at any time without them, regardless of whether it’s June or January. But I’m also pretty good at recognizing the signs now (sometimes), and know to cancel plans, close the blinds, and bury myself deep in the covers for 12+ hours when they’re on. I do try to have coffee as soon as I notice one’s coming on as well, since that’s supposed to help (also, avoid citrus, since that’s supposed to aggravate). I seriously canNOT imagine having one for days or months straight. I hope your meds work soon!

    • That’s so funny….sunlight/heat is my trigger too and I find myself getting agitated if it’s too bright. I’d rather run when it’s cloudy or raining anytime. Hopefully this one won’t last much longer, but we’ll just have to see! I miss those Michigan seasons…perfect for running, even in the winter!!

  6. Carina says:

    Sorry to hear it, but on the other hand, so glad you have answers and it’s nothing worse. Take care of yourself!

  7. jumpeatrun says:

    I’m so sorry- that sounds awful! I’ve never had a problem with migraines, but I am really sensitive to heat and humidity 😦
    On the bright side- I’ve nominated you for another award! http://jumpeatrun.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/liebster-award-and-more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-me/

  8. So glad you were able to figure this out! It is so frustrating to deal with bodily issues out of our control! I still have “episodes” from when I had guillain-barre (an auto-immune disease) in 2011. Once a month or so, I get headaches and feel extremely light headed. Nothing like what you’re dealing with but still, anything that throws a kink in training is annoying! I hope you feel better soon!

  9. So sorry about this, but glad you were able to finally figure out what was going on! I can’t imagine what it was like almost fainting on your run.. so scary! I have headaches very often but only sometimes are they as severe as a migraine. They are awful. Hoping your feel better soon!

  10. Pingback: Summer 2012 Highlights and Fall Goals | Let's Go on a Living Spree

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