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?