Under Pressure

6:27 PM chronicmigraineellie 0 Comments

As a human barometer, I feel every single pressure change that goes on. This phenomenon, or curse, allows me to feel whenever the weather changes from sunny skies to dull greys, and when it is going to rain. Now, many people are afflicted with this problem, not just migraine sufferers. Some people get terrible sinus headaches, or just a bad headache. Yet for me, the smallest pressure change can set off the plethora of symptoms that accompany a migraine attack. I get nauseous, I can’t focus and often times I’m so fatigued that the best way to describe it would be to say that I had been hit by a bus. So how do I deal with these symptoms, and stop them from progressing into a full attack? Well read on, because I am about to divulge some of my most helpful secrets.

1) Caffeine.
What? Caffeine? Can’t that trigger migraines? The answer to that is yes, it can. But it can also alleviate migraines and migraine symptoms.,I drink decaf coffee, which has only 5% of the original caffeine in the beans. In order to be classified decaf in the US, 95% of the caffeine must be stripped. In the EU, that percentage is 99.9%. By drinking decaf, I can safely have a small amount of caffeine without having the jitters and jumpiness that I feel when I drink regular coffee. This also helps on those days where there's pressure changes and you don't have a migraine but you still feel the brain fog and fatigue. You can also drink tea as well. Peppermint, while herbal, has a calming and re-energizing effect that helps me stay focused when I'm feeling tired.

2) Ginger Ale
Oh ginger ale, my best friend. If you ask any of my friends in college, I practically live off of ginger ale. It is my go-to for nausea when I don’t want to take Zofran,. I usually keep at least 10 in my room at all times for when I need it, which is fairly often. As much as I love East Coast weather, the pressure changes have not been kind to me, and I deal with nausea all the time. Luckily, a bit of ginger ale and relaxing can often help. When I’m nauseous I like curling up into a ball because it alleviates the pain in my stomach. Every person is different, but try and find a position in which you are the comfiest. Curl up with some fuzzy blankets, ginger ale and Netflix and rest until you feel a bit better.
**A word of caution, many diet drinks contain aspartame which is linked to causing migraines. Personally, I stay away from it because it can trigger me, but again, every person has their own triggers so just be aware of your sensitivity to it!

3) Snow is fun, but be prepared to be rest and recuperate
I had my first snow day ever in January! I had so much fun with my friends, but I also became very fatigued due to the pressure change. Sometimes I remind myself that I need to slow down and take a breather, and push some of my work onto other days. Rest and relaxation days are key to being fully recharged mentally and physically. If you're having trouble rationalizing rest over doing work, remind yourself about spoon theory. If you use up all your spoons, you are possibly hurting your chances of having enough productive spoons for tomorrow. Spacing out your activities is necessary, but make sure that you can schedule some time to do something that makes you happy. There is no shame in staying in with blankets and Netflix instead of going out when you feel like your energy is low.

4) I love the rain, but my body hates it
Since I'm from California, I absolutely love the rain. I love walking in it, splashing in puddles and falling asleep to the sound of rain. However, I am a human barometer, I actually feel physically affected for a couple hours, nausea and fatigue, before it starts raining and I usually feel fine after it starts! (It's like I have ESPN or something!! okay enough with the Mean Girls references) I usually follow the same protocol as I do when it snows or is any pressure change. For example, today it rained a lot, so I had a large iced chai tea which even though I felt exhausted was a treat for me!

Dealing with pressure changes is something that I've gotten better at as I've gotten better at managing my migraines. Instead of flipping out when I feel a pressure change, I just take a deep breath and look at what I need to get done that day. If I can move something so I can spend some time relaxing, I do. If I have somewhere I need to go, I grab coffee/tea/ginger ale and try my best to be a functioning human. Just remember that sometimes you need to balance your health with what you need to get done. I always struggle with this, but I know that if I spent an hour recuperating and relaxing, there's a better chance that I will finish what I need to get done than there is if I just try to push through it.

Pressure changes are difficult because they are unpredictable, much like migraines. Take it day by day, and just remember that if you don't finish that one reading assignment, the world will not crumble. If you take care of yourself, you'll feel better and in the long run be happier too. I struggle with this too, which is why I write about it. I hope my guide helps all of you when you're dealing with pressure changes!

As always, have a lovely migraine-free week! 


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3:37 PM chronicmigraineellie 0 Comments

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Hoping you all have an amazing migraine-free weekend


It Happened to Me: Blood Clots and Birth Control

10:53 PM chronicmigraineellie 4 Comments

When I started oral contraceptives three years ago to manage my menstrual migraines, I knew that there was a small chance that because I had migraines with aura I could possibly get a blood clot. I figured that the benefit was worth the risk, as one in 3,000 women per year who take birth control pills will develop a blood clot (stoptheclot.org). Little did I know, however, that I would be the one woman out of 3,000 who developed a clot.
Last Thursday, February 4th, I was sitting in class when I noticed that I was having localized pain in my upper right arm. I looked down, and my hand was starting to swell and the veins in my hand were very blue and I could see them very clearly. I immediately called my parents, and after a while I decided to go to the emergency room. I am going to put in a disclaimer here that I am in no way going after the hospital that treated me, but instead am telling you all my experience in order for you or your friends and family to get the best care that you need.
Thursday was my first ER visit for my suspected blood clot. I waited for two hours before I was seen by the doctor, and by then the pain had moved from my arm to my hand and started swelling around my thumb. The pain was nothing like I had ever felt before. It felt like someone had put icy hot inside of my hard, with a throbbing, sharp pain mixed with numbness. I explained to the doctor that I was at risk for blood clots, the medications that I was on, and my chronic condition. He proceeded to dismiss me, telling me that I had slept on my arm wrong but he would do an ultrasound to "make me feel better." An hour and a half later when the ultrasound tech came, the swelling in my hand had gone down. I asked to see the doctor, and another forty-five minutes later he came in and told me that I had peripheral neuropathy (damage to my peripheral nerves which is quite rare is otherwise healthy 19 year old girls) and to go home. No blood tests or other tests were done.
Fast forward through the weekend, where my hand was still swollen and blue, I started feeling the pain again this time in my hand on Sunday night at about 12:30 am. I called an ambulance and was quickly taken to the ER. Due to the visit on Thursday, the ER doctor initially told me that I would have to wait 5 hours for the ultrasound tech to come in and that I was free to go. This is where the important part of my story comes in. I knew that something was wrong, my hand shouldn't be swelling and turning blue, and I wanted them to do something about it instead of dismissing me as a hysterical young girl. I was actually quite calm during the pain, and it helped that one of my good friends was in the ER with me. I was not leaving until they figured out what was wrong with me.
After getting an x-ray, I consulted another doctor who then convinced the ER doctor to do a CT Angiogram with dye, which would actually show more of the vasculature than the ultrasound would. After the scan, they started taking labs. About an hour and a half later, the ER doctor came into my room to give me my results. She turned to me and said, "I'm really impressed at how you advocated for yourself. You were right, you have a blood clot in your brachial vein on your upper right extremity." I had deep vein thrombosis in my arm, a small clot which showed up on the CT scan.
At this point, I started crying. I was so relieved to hear that my pain was validated, that I was going to be okay, and that someone had actually listened to me and found out what was wrong.
They admitted me, gave me a shot of Lovenox, a blood thinner (which made an awesome purple bruise on my stomach) and moved me to observation. I spent the night and most of the day in observation. I had two amazing family practice doctors and a hematologist who saw me, and we discussed treatment and what this means for my future.
Basically, I can never be on estrogen hormones ever again for the rest of my life. I was a little worried because I have both menstrual and non-menstrual migraines, and the birth control was controlling my menstrual migraines. In about a week and a half, I will start a progesterone pill, but I am worried that the drop in hormones will cause a spike in migraines. I'll let you all know how that works out.
In terms of the clot, I was started on Xarelta, which I will be on for 3-6 months.I have to avoid contact sports and I have a higher chance of bruising and bleeding, but I can live with that. I got extremely lucky; the clot was not in an artery so there wasn't a chance of it moving to my lungs, heart or brain. However, I got extremely lucky. I am so thankful because my clot could have been so much worse, and the complications that could have arisen could have been fatal. If I had not known that I was at risk, I may have been sent home again from the ER because I did not have the physical symptoms that were "typical" with blood clots.
After experiencing this, I have two main important points. The first, know your risk factors. Know what the side effects of your medications are, even if it only affects 1% of the people who take that medicine. I was that 1 in 3,000. I never thought I would be, but I was. I knew what I was at risk of, and because of that I was able to get treatment. Being knowledgable about your condition is key to helping yourself become a better advocate.
Secondly, this whole event made me realize that I want to help people with invisible and chronic illnesses and disabilities. Too often we are dismissed, our valid pain discarded because we don't have obvious physical symptoms. I want to create a national campaign raising awareness about invisible illnesses because we do not deserve to be silenced. How will we get the care that we need if no one will believe what we are going through? I experienced this first hand, almost at the expense of my health and life. I want to change how ER doctors and the general public view people with invisible illnesses, so that we will be able to live our lives without fear of being dismissed.
If you would like to help me as I conceive my ideas for this campaign, or if you are interested in being interviewed about your experiences, please email me at e.donnerklein@icloud.com. I am personally very excited to pursue this, and I hope that you will help me as I will try to make my ideas and goals a reality.
As always, I hope you all have a healthy and migraine-free week!