Patient Blogs | Migraine
What It's Like to Live With Chronic Migraine
photo of unhappy young woman with migraine

Migraine episodes are almost like menstrual periods in some ways. Some people are literally stopped in their tracks, and others go on as if nothing happened. So what's it like for those of us living with chronic pain? The best way I can explain it: You just endure and keep coming out on the other side. 

Make no mistakes: Chronic pain takes a hell of a toll on migraine warriors. Long-term pain is irrational and demanding; it's a monster all its own. I was in a terrible place when my migraine episodes became chronic. I lost my purpose and identity, which hurt as much as the pain. 

Can nausea be a good thing? 

Nausea kicks in for me at about a 5 to 6 on a 10 pain scale, and vomiting starts at about 7 to 9. Not to sound too obvious, but the best way for me to get rid of nausea from a bad migraine episode is to, in fact, vomit. Vomiting has the bonus of releasing some endorphins and enkephalins (natural opioids), so after vomiting, I generally feel better for a few minutes.

For many people, recognizing symptoms and patterns before an episode starts is the key to living with chronic pain. Learn what happens before the pain starts and take medication then. For me, it begins with the inability to focus my eyes. So I'm popping medication and getting into a dark room as soon as that happens.

Do you get any visual disturbance?

I do, and I find it weird that my brain gives me this half-hour trigger warning that trouble is on the way. Then, after that, I lose my field of vision. I can look at my hand and see only two fingers. It's like there's a wrinkle in time. 

Have you tried hyperventilation breathing techniques?

One of my friends was on high-dosage medication (preventive and otherwise), and nothing worked for her chronic pain. Then, she spoke to a neurologist who suggested that she breathe into a bag when she felt an episode coming. This anxiety breathing technique increases carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream, encouraging the blood vessels to open and stopping the attack. Of course, it doesn't work for everyone, but it might be worth trying.

Botox for the chronic pain win?

Many people swear by complementary treatments like Botox injections every 90 days to manage their chronic migraine pain. I know it's not for everyone, but my close friend says they can pry those syringes (figuratively) out of her cold, dead hands. How's that for an endorsement? Of course, this may or may not work for you.

What medical help really helps?

All doctors are not created equal. Find a GOOD doctor who specializes in migraine! I saw several neurologists before I found one that fit me (and I'm pretty picky).

You may also want to consider seeing a neuropsychologist because they can help you mitigate many issues past the pain. Also, I don't know if you've gone to therapy, but if you haven't, maybe consider that option. 

Don't give up.

Good luck, and don't give up. Keep pushing, seeking answers, and asking for help. As one of my mentors once said, learning to live with chronic pain is a marathon, not a sprint.  


Tap into a community of fellow migraineurs on Facebook. Learn, share, connect in our Migraine Support Community.




Photo Credit: PixelsEffect / E+ via Getty Images

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Naki Carter

Naki Carter

Diagnosed since 2001

For nearly 20 years, Naki Carter has been living with migraine. Formerly an award-winning journalist, she is committed to ending the stigma around the invisible illness. Carter lives in South Florida near lots of family and friends, where she enjoys a daily dose of “vitamin sea.” Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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