*This post is sponsored, but this journey and all opinions are 100% my own.*
No one ever thinks a debilitating pain will take over their life or that they may have to go on disability for migraines or leave their dream job. Yet, here I am, and this story is mine.
Why I Went on Disability for Migraines and Left My NYC Dream Job
If you had told me when I was a kid that I would spend most of my life suffering from debilitating migraines, I would NOT have believed you. But then at just 27 years old, I woke up and thought, “My head is throbbing!” It was actually my first migraine.
At the time and in that moment, I pushed it aside as a really bad headache.
Maybe I had a little too much to drink the night before.
What I thought would go away after a day, turned into a week of agony. Every time I woke up, I prayed that the throbbing headache would disappear. But every morning I woke to no relief.
Experiencing Common Migraine Triggers
After a few weeks of suffering because it was “just a headache,” I became unable to work. I was physically unable to sit at my computer and do my job.
Almost anything would cause me to spiral into a darker place and a more painful environment. Even the stress of worrying about letting down my boss and my coworkers was actually causing my symptoms to worsen.
I was living in a cycle of pain and stress and worry, and I needed to find a way out ASAP.
The Search for Answers
Of course, like any healthy 27-year-old with zero prior history of any heath problems, I immediately Googled my symptoms and self-diagnosed everything under the sun.
Yep, it must be a brain tumor.
For sure, I am experiencing an aneurysm.
It really frightened me. After weeks of painfully calling in sick to my boss, I decided to go on disability, leave NYC, and try to find treatment in South Florida where most of my family lived. I focused on finding a diagnosis and a treatment.
My Path to a Diagnosis
The first thing I did was rule out anything major. I had an MRI scan of my brain. Once I was clear of anything more dangerous, my doctor officially diagnosed me with migraines. I felt relieved but also confused.
How could this pain just pop up after 27 years?
What had I done to set off these migraines?
I learned a lot in the early months. I learned that my migraines are a genetic neurologic disease – I inherited the mutated gene. While environmental and lifestyle factors may have contributed, ultimately, there was NOTHING I DID (or didn’t do) to cause this pain to suddenly appear.
By definition, a migraine is moderate to severe head pain, often worse on one side, with light and/or sound sensitivity and stomach issues, like nausea.
When you have a headache, if you have two of the three symptoms listed below, you more than likely have a migraine:
- Light sensitivity
- Inability to function (you want to lie down)
- Nausea (not wanting to eat)
I also learned that migraine affects 1 out of 7 Americans annually and is a leading cause of outpatient and emergency department visits, particularly among women during their reproductive years. Migraines occur most often among women aged 18 to 44 years.
I was definitely experiencing migraines. I had my diagnosis, but what now?
At that moment, I began my path to finding relief.
Going from Disability for Migraines to Leaving My Job
I tried acupuncture, shock therapy, and even BOTOX®.
I tried many different over-the-counter medications and some prescriptions. It hurt so much some nights that I checked myself into the ER hoping to feel better even if just for a few short hours. I even tried to fly back to NYC hoping to work again, but the computer monitors in my office caused me to have auras.
I knew I wasn’t able to continue working there. My team needed help, and I could no longer hold them back. I had to quit my job, which was incredibly difficult for me.
The Best Advice for Migraine Management and Relief
In the early days, I spent 8 weeks in Florida fighting the worst pain of my life. I found a neurologist who encouraged me to keep a daily journal. She said, “RECORD every single thing you do!”
And that advice was ultimately the ticket to discovering my triggers and my way to pain management.
The SEEDS acronym is a great place to start if you’re on your own migraine relief journey.
S = Sleep hygiene – Are you getting enough sleep?
E = Eat regular meals – Don’t allow your blood sugar to drop too low.
E = Exercise regularly.
D = Keep a headache diary.
S = Prioritize stress management – Consider massage, acupuncture, and mindfulness or meditation.
Figure out what your triggers are because everyone’s are different.
Personally, I found a way to narrow down foods, drinks, and stress that were causing the onset of my attacks. Eliminating those things from my life was the key to managing my attacks and preventing them from occurring.
Dealing With After Migraine Effects
But managing the pain and making it to the other side of a migraine isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.
One thing I’ve noticed about migraines is the stigma that surrounds them. Many people I know still don’t understand what I go through when one hits. And they have a really hard time thinking of a migraine as more than just a headache.
Trying to explain to family and friends that I went on disability for migraines and then had to quit the job I loved for something they thought was “just a headache” was incredibly difficult.
But the bottom line is that my migraines are NOT “just a headache.” I now understand that I suffer from a neurologic genetic disease that often requires prescription medications. It is not a one-size-fits-all disease, and the treatment options vary for each person.
But for me, learning to track my symptoms and triggers has helped make living with a migraine disorder more bearable.
Final Thoughts on My Life with Migraines
Eight years after that first painful wakeup call, I still deal with up to three migraines every month.
But unlike during my single carefree days in NYC, I can’t just put the world on pause. As a mother of two, I don’t have the luxury of sitting in a dark room and waiting for the attack to pass. I can’t go on disability for migraines at this time in my life. I now have two little humans to take care of.
So I have a migraine action plan in place. I know how to tackle my migraines when I feel the first inkling of an attack coming on. And I rely on friends and family to help me when I need it most.
My family and loved ones are incredibly supportive!
In the end, you can’t just deal with a single migraine and move on. You have to find a way to live with this disorder while treating the pain appropriately.
And that is exactly what I have done. Going on disability for migraines and leaving my dream job was devastating. But I don’t let my migraine disorder take over my life and discourage me now.
Every person’s journey with migraines is different. Find others who share in your experiences with migraines, and lean on them as well as family and friends for support.
There is always hope.
I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Allergan to write about the realities of migraine as a neurologic disease. All opinions are my own.
Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
I chose to partner with Med-IQ to help generate awareness around migraine symptoms and treatment to help others find relief from these debilitating attacks.
*Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.
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