As part of an ongoing series, I am interviewing people with chronic illnesses and telling their stories. Today’s interview is with Madeline, who suffers from chronic migraines and depression.
If you would like to be featured on Patient Focus Friday, please get in touch through my Contact page or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your first name and age?
What is your chronic illness/injury?
I have chronic migraine and depression. Depression is frequently co-morbid with chronic migraine.
When were you diagnosed?
I started having migraines occasionally with the onset of puberty, but had my first chronic episode when I was 15 during a stressful time of my life. My family was preparing for a move across state and I was living in an abusive environment. I got the help I needed and found a medication that worked. For several years I was medication free and only had episodic migraines. Then, when I was 22, I woke up one day with a migraine that lasted for over 6 weeks. I was then diagnosed with chronic migraine and have been living with daily headaches and almost daily migraines ever since.
I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 17 but had been showing symptoms for about 2 years. Unfortunately I did not follow my doctor’s advice like I should have and struggled with active symptoms. I finally started regular therapy while in my early 20’s and started taking anti depressants after a traumatic event when I was 24.
What are the symptoms you deal with?
I live with constant pain. It is always in my head and often in my neck, shoulders, and back. The pain will sometimes spread to my arms and legs. I am frequently nauseous and am susceptible to colds and viruses. I’m always tired and nap daily to keep my strength up. On what I like to call a “good” day, I have a headache and am tired the entire day. Even on a good day I need to actively practice self care because it can quickly turn into a migraine, meaning more severe pain and exhaustion.
What alleviates your symptoms?
Unfortunately there is very little I can do to alleviate my symptoms. My medical team has not found a rescue treatment that can help me. What helps the most is active self care, not pushing my body or mind too hard, taking naps, having a cup of coffee in the morning and avoiding triggers and stressors as much as I can.
What exacerbates your symptoms?
Every year I seem to add to my list of what exacerbates my symptoms. Even though this is frustrating, this also helps me to better able to advocate for myself and learn more about my body and mental health. Loud noises, bright lights, and hot weather can make symptoms worse. Not eating regularly, irregular sleep schedule, being too active, not moving for long stretches of time, and stressful situations can all make the symptoms worse. I know there is a food connection but we haven’t been able to narrow it down yet since the foods that have triggered pain have had multiple ingredients. I’m hoping that we can figure that out within a year or so.
What is something you wish people understood about your illness/injury?
That age doesn’t determine disability, anyone can become disabled at any age. Also, since my illness is invisible, people assume I am lying or making it up to get out of obligations and responsibilities. It’s frustrating that this stigma is placed on the chronically ill.
In which state do you live?
Have you been affected by opioid laws in your state? If so, how?
I’m currently not on opioids and don’t have much experience with it.
Do you have any advice for other people going through a chronic illness/injury?
You know your body better than anyone else, so trust your instincts and stand up for yourself. At the same time, take care of yourself. Read a book, watch a funny show, drink some tea, meditate. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit.