I’ve been a chronic migraine sufferer since I turned 15. Thanks a lot, hormones. Until 2008, however, I always assumed they were sinus headaches because the pain was focused above my eyes. My migraines don’t have auras, and every commercial for migraine medicine you see announces that as a requirement for migraines. I saw a doctor in college for my headaches and she gave me an antibiotic for what she said was untreated sinus infection. I hadn’t been sick, but I thought, “Okay, let’s try it.” Then I was given allergy medication. That didn’t help. But mostly, the headaches weren’t too terrible.
By 2008, I was getting several severe migraines every week. I was under a lot of stress at work between library budget cuts and shitty coworkers and I didn’t feel like I was getting a lot of support at home. I would just sleep. A lot. More than 10 hours every night. Looking back, I realize that I was probably suffering from depression, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that… My primary care physician finally diagnosed me with migraines after I went in for a CT scan and there was nothing abnormal about my sinuses. It felt like a death sentence. Sinus headaches/sinusitis can be treated. Migraines? Not so much.
I saw a neurologist shortly after my diagnosis and he put me on preventative medication, Topamax. And things were good. My migraines were controlled. But then the dose stopped working. That happens. Your body gets used to the dose. Or something. And Topamax made my hands and feet tingle, like they were always asleep for the first several months I was on it. So I upped the dose and was fine. For awhile. In 2009, my life exploded. I was dealing with a boss from hell, a bad work situation in general, and, again, home life was not awesome. The stress trifecta. I had to start taking more Topamax to combat the stress-related migraines I was getting.
Currently, I’m taking 100mg of Topamax every day. When I first starting taking this dose some time in 2010, I was a complete and total space cadet. I would tell library patrons I would call them back and then just forget. I would put things down and have no idea where they were. It got to the point where I felt I needed to print out a list of the side effects and give them to my boss and the HR coordinator because my work performance was affected that badly. Eventually, things evened out a little bit. I still forget everything. My side of the reference desk is covered in notes, most of which I’m not even sure why I wrote in the first place.
Another side effect of Topamax is weight loss. When I started taking it, I was at my highest weight ever. I dropped almost 15 pounds shortly after starting it. I’m sure that’s a great bonus side effect for most people, but for me? Yeah. And I feel like it’s preventing me from gaining weight. I had to give up running because I lost too much weight. That was in December. I’m just now at my pre-running weight. It took me SIX MONTHS to gain it back.
Mostly, I feel like I can stop taking preventative migraine medication because I’m at a completely different place in my life. My work situation is completely different. I’m much happier here now. My home life is obviously completely different. I’d like to think I handle stress better (or at least differently) now. I used to be SO negative and I think I would hold on to the stress. I’m not that person any more. I’m happier.
Part of me is worried about what will happen if I go off the medication. Will I go back to suffering on an almost daily basis? I just don’t think I will. What do I have to be stressed and unhappy about? I’ve always gotten migraines when the weather changes and I still get those now. That will never change. But what I can personally change is how I deal with the stress in my life. I’ve been on this medication for four years. It’s time to try it on my own now. I don’t remember what it’s like to be not in this stupid fog, where even the simplest of words escape me and I forget my lunch on the counter.