By Taraha Shimek
In this post, guest blogger Taraha Shimek shares her story of dealing with migraine headaches since childhood. Migraines, which affect more than 12 percent of Americans, mostly women, can be unpredictable and debilitating.
I was a carefree child – outgoing and heavily involved in dance. I was active and healthy with no prior illness outside of the common cold. When I started getting headaches at the age of 10, there was little reason for concern. With each headache I took some medication and laid down to rest; when I woke up the headache was gone.
When the headaches began to progress, more debilitating each time, my mother grew concerned and took me to several doctors. It was then that I was diagnosed as having migraines. I remember thinking, “No big deal, these are just really bad headaches,” but I later found out it was much more than that.
In my early twenties, things took a drastic turn for the worse. I was a newlywed and a new mom to a beautiful baby girl when the migraines became so severe that it was almost impossible to function through them. In addition to the pain, my vision blurred or blacked out. These episodes lasted for days on end at times, making work and motherhood extremely difficult.
The visual loss came on quickly each time and often interrupted my work day. During these episodes, I stumbled out to my car hoping for my vision to return enough that I could drive myself to the emergency room. At the ER, I received an injection in hopes of alleviating the excruciating pain. When the injections did not help, I rode out the migraines in a dark room.
I became a full blown “Migraineur” in my thirties. During that time, I went through several treatments including heart medication that dropped my blood pressure so low I passed out, anti-seizure medication that resulted in short-term memory loss, aphasia (the inability to speak), and a metallic taste in my mouth.
I also developed a new symptom much like vertigo. Thinking this was an inner ear problem, I saw an ENT specialist, but my inner ears were normal. I now had a vestibular component to my migraines and was put on cyclic anti-depressants. The new medication caused extreme drowsiness. My doctors and I tried different types of anti-depressants, taking the medication at different times of the day, but nothing worked, and I had to stop. I could not help but feel hopeless. The migraines were greatly affecting my life and my ability to be the person I wanted to be.
Now, several years later, I can typically tell when a migraine is coming. And with the help of specialists, I have a regimen that helps keep migraines away for longer periods of time. I get injections in my scalp every three months, and I use a non-invasive vagus nerve stimulator at home to relieve pain when I feel a migraine coming on. I also have pills and injections I can give myself when that nagging sensation starts.
Although, at the moment, I have my migraines “under control,” the worry of getting one is constantly on my mind. The treatments I have now help, but often the migraines still envelop me, and I have to stop whatever I am doing, go home, and rest in a dark room.
Migraines have caused me to miss my sibling’s wedding, concerts with friends that I’d purchased tickets for months in advance, and, of course, work and countless other life events.
Migraine is considered an “invisible disease” and often classified as a “headache,” which makes it very difficult for people to understand that taking an aspirin and drinking some water is not an option for me. I am lucky to have a network of people in my life who understand my migraines are more than just a headache; their empathy and support make getting through each one easier.
Taraha Shimek is the mother to a beautiful and talented daughter and a wife of 20 years. She works as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. Taraha’s passions include supporting her daughter’s softball career, attending concerts with friends, and reading and watching books and shows about true crime.
Thank you, Taraha, for sharing your story with our readers.
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