Inspiring Migraineurs: Courtney Kilian

11:14 AM chronicmigraineellie 6 Comments

This week, I interviewed Courtney Kilian, founder of Om & Ink! I am excited to share her story with you all, because she is such a wonderful, positive soul. Her story and her work is also inspiring- and you will see why in her interview! 
1. Tell me a bit about yourself!
I’m Courtney, the founder of Om & Ink: Live, Breathe, Write, a community that merges my two passions: writing & yoga. I live in Southern California where I teach gentle yoga and creative writing. I love to garden, create collage art, hike, travel, float in the Pacific, and drink lots of tea. Migraines became chronic for me after a car accident, and I created Ease & Prevent Migraines: A Yogic Toolkit (digital or DVD) with practices specifically for decreasing migraines.
2. When were you first get diagnosed with migraines? Do you have any other chronic illnesses? What medications and tests have you been on and tried?
My road to diagnosis: I had a brain injury in a car accident in 2012, and it took until 2014 to get a migraine diagnosis. After learning so much about migraines, I know now that I had them prior to the accident—they would get bad with stress particularly around finals time when I was in college and when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was a period of time in 2007 that they were so bad/didn’t go away that I actually had a brain scan to check if I had a tumor. When no tumor showed up, there was no diagnosis and what I was going through was a complete mystery. At the time, lowering stress, eating plenty of protein, and getting back into regular exercise made a big difference in the problem, and systems only reappeared occasionally.
After my car accident, the migraines became debilitating, and I had one every day for a couple of years. I now know I’ve had a few hemiplegic migraines (where part of the body goes numb) and was sent to the ER several times—the diagnosis then: either I’d had a mini stroke or I had MS, in which case I would just get worse! Finally getting a diagnosis and learning more about migraines helped me a great deal because I had place to start for addressing what felt like very bizarre and unrelated symptoms.
Other chronic illnesses: I have fatigue, severe allergies, and ongoing symptoms from a brain injury that I work with on a daily basis.
Medications, tests, and things I’ve tried: I’ve taken all sorts of tests from MRIs to CAT scans to EEGs. I’ve tried prescription medications and had the best luck with Sumatriptan, although I’ve found now that natural alternatives work just as well. I’ve also done Botox, which made a big difference in the beginning, but didn’t feel like a long-term solution. Botox injections are given every three months and during that span I would have one great month in the middle and the two months bookending the treatments filled with migraines where the Botox was either setting in or wearing off. It was incredible to have some relief when I’d had them daily, and I was thankful for the breaks, but it was also frustrating to feel so good and then be hit hard again. I began planning my life around that one month out of every three where I could actually do things and get work done. This is when I really started researching migraines and reading everything I could about what they are, how they are caused, what their triggers are, and beginning to try more natural methods to heal myself. I was eventually able to stop Botox treatments and manage my migraines myself.
3. What have you found that works for you?
Self-care, listening to my body, natural remedies like ginger instead of migraine medications and essential oils like lavender, frankincense, and wintergreen, yoga and mindfulness practices, and acupuncture!
4. How do you cope with your migraines?
Patience and self-love. I hope that doesn’t sound cliché or annoying, but it’s incredible how far they go. It can be one of the most challenging things to say ‘No’ to things you really want to do and to constantly miss out because of chronic illness, but I’ve learned to listen to my body. I now know that if I need to rest or feel a slight migraine symptom coming on, it’s better that I give my body what it needs right then, rather than pushing it. When I push (and I’ve learned the hard way many times!), I can be in bed for days or even weeks instead of a few hours.
5. What motivated you to share your story?
Chronic migraines can take over your life. When I began making breakthroughs and being able to help my migraines with natural things I could do myself, my life changed, and I couldn’t wait to share that. I think anytime we can take healing into our own hands, it’s such an amazing thing. I also think migraines are way underdiagnosed—I know people who think they just get ‘bad headaches’ or sinus headaches, but when they start treating them like a migraine instead of just a headache, they get better. I want to share what I’ve learned to help others.
6. What is one thing that you always have with you in case of a migraine?
I keep what I call my ‘migraine toolkit’ with me at all times. It has ginger in it (chews and the actual spice which I can add to a little water) and some essential oil blends that I can easily take/apply when I start to feel one coming on and I’m away from home.
7. What's a stigma (or stigmas) about migraines that you wish people knew the truth about?
A lot of people think that migraines are just bad headaches, and they aren’t often seen as a chronic illness. Extreme sensitivity also goes hand in hand with migraine sufferers, and for those that aren’t hypersensitive to stimulus, it can be hard to understand why I might need to wear sunglasses even in someone’s home, need the volume turned way down, or have a difficult time being around people or places with lots of smells.
8. Lastly, do you have any words of advice for other migraine patients?
Don’t get discouraged. Migraines can be so debilitating and affect every area of your life, but there is hope. The more you learn and arm yourself with information, the more you can manage them so you have control and not vice versa. And, you don’t have to be tied to medications your entire life—our bodies have the amazing power to heal and support us, if we give them what we need. It can be tough to find exactly what that is, and to change habits, but it’s possible and life-changing.

Follow Courtney on Instagram, find her on Facebook, and visit her website here.


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