Medical Marijuana

There are many different types of treatments out there for Migraines, and many different pain killers available. In my experience, the best pain relief comes from Medical Marijuana (which I will call MMJ). 

Marijuana consists of over 100 different chemicals, called cannabinoids; the most prevalent and well known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is the part of marijuana that causes a “high” feeling, while CBD helps pain and nausea. Over the counter CBD products are not a good substitute for MMJ though; because there are no regulations or testing done on “herbal” CBD products, they are not always effective. 

Although marijuana is a Schedule I drug – the same as LSD and heroin – many states are now legalizing it for medical use, and some are legalizing it for recreational use too. Because it is still a highly controlled substance, getting MMJ can be both difficult and expensive. 

Most doctors cannot provide MMJ certification, requiring patients to find specific clinics that specialize in it. The initial appointment can cost over $200, and then there is a fee to register yourself and get your MMJ card. Once you have your card, it can be difficult to find a dispensary nearby with products that you like (just last week I drove 2 hours to get my MMJ). The medicine itself is expensive – my average is $100 a month – and insurance does not cover it.

So if MMJ is such a hassle, why do I consider it the best option? Because it works.

I have tried Triptans (an abortive Migraine treatment), narcotics, and over the counter pain medicines. MMJ works better than any of them – it works faster, and it is kinder on the body. Because MMJ works to stimulate chemicals that the body naturally produces, it is effective at removing pain and nausea associated with Migraines. Unlike most medications, I do not experience rebound headaches with MMJ, and it is not physically addictive like narcotics are. 

MMJ is not for everyone though. Some people have bad reactions to edibles, MMJ in food form. Because it can be difficult to portion control edibles, many first timers experience too strong a “trip”. Others may have negative reactions to certain types of MMJ – Sativa (an “upper”) gives me awful headaches once it wears off, almost like a bad hangover. Vaping MMJ is the fastest way to get it into the system, but can cause throat and lung problems, especially in people with asthma. 

Despite all the complications and difficulties, I still recommend everyone try MMJ. It is important to listen to the recommendations of your doctor and your dispensary – ask as many questions as you can to find the right product for you. 

Source: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq

Guilt

My biggest problem with Migraines comes in the form of guilt – I always feel guilty. As a wife, I am constantly relying on my husband to work and pay the bills as well as do the necessary chores. I worry about having a child because I dread the days I will let them down. 

Turns out, I’m not alone. 

According to Clinical Science News, 1 in 10 Migraine sufferers delay having children because of their guilt. 78% of Migraineurs reported feeling as if they would be a better partner if they did not have Migraines, and 44% reported that Migraines prevented them from having a relationship. These numbers are both depressing and validating. 

Part of the problem – the root of the guilt – comes from the public stigma of Migraines. Despite advances in the understanding of Migraines, many people still think of them as “just a headache.” Not everyone understands why I can’t just push through a headache and do what needs to be done. They don’t know that I spent all of my energy just calling them to cancel; they don’t know that I’ll spend all day in bed, aside from the occasional trip to the bathroom to throw up. 

Migraine Buddy – the leading Migraine tracking app – suggest four things to combat the guilt.

  1. Take Control

Migraines often feel like an attack on our bodies, and can leave us feeling out of control. It is important to take control where we can – our treatments. If your doctor doesn’t seem to take your Migraines seriously, find a new doctor. Try treatments – pharmaceutical or homeopathic – and see what works. Remember: this is your body; you DO have some control. 

  1. Join a Community

Especially with the stigma of Migraines, it is easy to feel alone. No one truly understands Migraines unless they get them too. Find blogs (like mine) to follow, join Facebook support groups, or Migraine based chat forums. Isolation adds to guilt, making it feel like this is just your problem. That’s not true – You are not alone. 

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

It is really easy to blame yourself for your Migraines, especially when it feels like others blame you. Even if others don’t seem to understand, you need to do what is right for you. While it is important to push yourself when you can, learn when you need to take it easy. Do what you need to do to get past a Migraine, and love yourself for your strength. 

  1. Advocate

Talk about your Migraines. Explain to others what’s really going on – both the science of a Migraine and what it feels like to you. When people make snide comments or seem dismissive, educate them about the reality of living with Migraines. You will always be your best advocate. 

It is really easy to know what to do, and much harder to actually do it. While I’ve done some of these steps, I’m still struggling with others. Being kind to myself – and not blaming myself – is the hardest for me; I think it is the hardest for most. But guilt can cause stress, which can trigger a Migraine, so it is important to try to let go. We are all doing the best we can, and we need to accept that ourselves before convincing others. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/172921/pain/migraine-takes-toll-intimate-relationships
  2. https://migrainebuddy.com/migraine/2019/7/12/migraine-guilt-understanding-amp-letting-go

Still Learning

I’ve had Migraines all my life – I was diagnosed at age seven. 

I’ve often wondered if my Migraines started earlier than that, but simply went undiagnosed. I was often sick as a young child. I was sick for every holiday, vomiting and unable to attend any big social event. Other days, I would wake up sick, stay home from school because I was throwing up, and then wake up after a nap completely fine. I never complained about my head, but these attacks sound like Migraines to me. 

While I never complained about my head, I did complain about my hair. I would cry when my mother brushed or washed my hair, saying my hair hurt. I never had any proof that this was connected to my Migraines – nor any reason to suspect so – but I was convinced. 

And then, the other day, I heard about Allodynia. 

Allodynia is a condition where small simple touches can cause extreme pain. With Allodynia, the nerves that carry pain receptors misfire, sending pain signals in response to touch or movement.  According to the American Migraine Foundation, “40% to 70% of people experience Allodynia when having a migraine attack.” 

There are three types of Allodynia: static, dynamic, and thermal. Thermal Allodynia is pain as a response to mild changes in temperature, and Static Allodynia is a result from light touch on the skin. Dynamic Allodynia, though, is pain with movement across the skin, and many describe it by saying “my hair hurts.”

My discoveries about Allodynia, and possibly having it as a child, fascinate me. This condition is similar to Fibromyalgia, which I was diagnosed with at 24. As sad as it is to think that I may have had pain since infancy, it is refreshing to have answers. I finally have a valid theory about my childhood pain, and now I can tell my parents that I was more than just an over-dramatic child. 

Sources:

  1. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/allodynia-when-touch-hurts-but-shouldnt/
  2. https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/what-to-know-about-allodynia/