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Migraine Denial and Ostrich Syndrome

My blog has been updated much less frequently lately. There are numerous health-related reasons for that and other reasons that are not health-related.


I wanted to do a brief post to explain one reason I have been scarce lately. Normally, I am not one to bury my head in the sand. At all. However, I will not lie… I have been very reluctant to add another diagnosis to my long list. So, I have been in some degree of denial. Alright, I now see it has most likely been a large degree of denial about one thing in particular… migraines.


Photo by Deborah Leigh.


One of several reasons I was forced to take a nap for several hours today was yet another migraine. Since all of my migraines are happening at period time, I believe hormones are a big factor. Since I had three periods last month (yes, I said three!), I was treated to three separate migraine episodes. (This three-period month was actually instrumental in dismantling my migraine denial. This month – now – the onset of my migraine directly preceded my period yet again). Whether this even-more-bizarre-than-usual cycle is perimenopause or not remains to be seen but I have no doubt that hormone fluctuations are affecting the migraines that I didn’t want to see when I was in Ostrich Syndrome. (Did I mention that I am emerging from Ostrich Syndrome?)

Due to my denial state, I have tried to explain away (to myself) what has been happening as “sinus headaches” or “stress headaches”… despite what my doctor told me awhile back. I was actually shocked tonight when I looked up the post I wrote about that encounter (with my primary care physician) because of how long ago it took place. It was in January! I had this notion in my head that this has been going on for six months at most. Really it has been going on the whole year. This just reinforced for me that I have been in denial. See previous post from when the symptoms started here:


Ten months is an extraordinarily long time for me to be in denial regarding a medical condition. As I said, I am not usually an ostrich. However, I have come to the conclusion that I have been in migraine denial. Goodbye, Ostrich Syndrome. Greetings, reality!



This post was written by Jeanne at http://chronichealing.com. Copyright © Jeanne — chronichealing.com. All rights reserved.


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Reading: Migraine Denial and Ostrich Syndrome

9 comments

1 AmandaNo Gravatar { 11.09.10 at 5:50 am }

Jeanne, I am sorry to hear you are suffering so much with migraines. I don’t get the very often but I have suffered from them on and off since my early teens (led me to give up chocolate for two years as a teenager, can you believe it?)

I “get” the whole denial thing… not so much for the length of time you describe, but I do get it. I remember being on camp once (you know the camps I used to go on to support disabled teenage girls) and a combination of eating cheese two days running (BIG mistake for me) and the stress of having a camper with very challenging behaviour led me to a three day migraine. I kept telling myself (and others) that it was “just a headache”, “bordering on a migraine” at most, but truth be told I should have known better when my vision started going. I can only attribute my denial to the fact that had I admitted to myself I was actually suffering from a migraine I might never have made it through those three days (camp is no fun when sick, especially when you’re the one supposed to be looking after others). So, as I say, although I didn’t deny it for such a long time, I am guessing that some of the reasons for your denial might be very similar… wishful thinking, determination not to add another thing to the list of things you have to deal with etc… I may be wrong, and you can tell me so xx

Whatever the reason, I am glad that you are now accepting it and can look into better ways to deal with them. I would be willing to accept hormones have a major part to play in this because I know my migraines started maybe a year or two before my periods started and my aunt (who was recently diagnosed with Fibro) never suffered from them until she hit the menopause and since then she has had them last for days, even weeks at a time. I’m not saying that hormones are the only reason for them, oh no I would never presume to guess and diagnose, what I mean is I can easily understand the connection you have made between your migraines and periods.

I do hope you can find some relief from your migraines soon, on top of everything else you have to deal with it can’t be easy… heck I wouldn’t wish a migraine on even the fittest of people because I know how utterly they suck!

Take care of yourself xx
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..Jealousy and Pregnancy =-.

2 GyandeviNo Gravatar { 11.09.10 at 12:07 pm }

Don’t feel bad. It took 20 years for me to get a correct diagnosis of migraine and then another 3 years for me to realize that I was completely disabled by them. I just kept hoping they would get better or that the next Rx was going to work. I think we all want to believe we’re not as sick as we really are. I’m glad it didn’t take you as long as it did me to understand how debilitating migraines are. xoxo

3 JennNo Gravatar { 11.09.10 at 12:10 pm }

I’m sorry to hear about your migraines Jeanne. I hope discovering the connection to your cycle will help you find relief.

I know a thing or two about Ostrich Syndrome myself. ;)

4 JasmineNo Gravatar { 11.09.10 at 6:33 pm }

One period per month is bad enough; I can’t imagine dealing with three along with the hormonal migraine that comes with each one. I’m so sorry the pain is knocking you out of commission because I know you would rather be spending time with your family and online, doing what you do best.

Part of the denial could be that you also have so much else going on health-wise. And none of us can blame you for that.
.-= Jasmine´s last blog ..Dollars for Docs- What Drug Companies are Paying Your Doctor =-.

5 AnnieNo Gravatar { 11.09.10 at 10:06 pm }

Oh no! I had dared hope your absence was because you finally got a break and were off having fun! Now that you’re seeing a pattern with these migraines, I hope you can find a doctor who can help you deal with them so you can have a better quality of life.
.-= Annie´s last blog ..Back in Fighting Position =-.

6 JeanneNo Gravatar { 11.10.10 at 12:31 am }

@Amanda:

I remember you saying you’ve had migraines before. I’m sorry. There are many reasons I have been in denial for such a long time. One of this biggest was touched on in Jasmine’s comment. When you have so many things going on health-wise, I think it can be easier to be in denial when something new comes along. Not just because one wishes not to add to the diagnosis list but because simply having so many other things going on can throw one off-track when something else enters the picture.

I am sorry you had a migraine when you were volunteering at a camp for girls with disabilities. I can only hope that I can reach a point where I can tie triggers (such as specific foods) to the migraines. So far, the only pattern I have seen is hormonal. For me, there hasn’t been anything visual. There have been some times that I have gotten nauseous with it but I dismissed that as being nausea because I had my period! (Since nausea at period time is one of the symptoms I have occasionally had over the years because of endometriosis and because these migraines are all before or during my period, I dismissed the nausea).

Now that I am coming to terms with the fact that these are, in fact, migraines… I realize there is a whole host of reasons behind my denial. It is most unlike me to be in denial regarding something medical but it makes sense to me that I have been that way in this particular case. I think part of my denial stems from having many friends who have migraines (quite a few who have ones that are just debilitating!) and knowing that what I have is not as severe as what they have.

Despite the fact that I have often said over the years that one patient should never be compared to another, I couldn’t help but think that what I have must be different than what they have. Does that make sense? Yes, I know that every illness has a variety of severities and manifestations. However, since my migraines have not been severe enough to result in me being, say, bed-bound for 10 days straight or vomiting… I have had a mental reluctance to accept the same label as people who have had that happen… if that makes any sense?

Yes, wishful thinking has surely played a part. By all means, my not wanting an 18th diagnosis was a huge factor in my state of denial! I think what shocked me out of denial was last month. Having three periods in a month’s time and having migraines with each one was hard to ignore! Then, when a migraine kicked in a couple of days before the current period, I could no longer deny it. Four migraines corresponding to four periods within less than two months really got my attention.

Talking to friends who have had perimenopause set off new migraine problems (or exacerbate old ones) was in the back of my mind as this unfolded. In all honesty, my worst fear has been that it might be migraine triggered by hormone fluctuations. With all of the hormones I took for so many years because of endometriosis, the last thing I wanted was migraines that are triggered by hormone fluctuations. I realize that my treatment options may be limited because there are certain things I will not do (such as take hormones). Yes, I have heard of plenty of people who have had migraines start with menopause too. (I’m sorry about your aunt’s fibromyalgia too, by the way).

It will be interesting to see what my primary care physician suggests because I know going in that I have certain limitations (medications that I am contraindicated for, my unwillingness to take hormones for too many reasons to count, etc). The neurologist who I used to see for neuropathy basically dumped me because he seemed to be unable to cope with the fact that my case presented challenges he apparently wasn’t prepared to deal with. (Long story)! So, my PCP manages my neuropathy situation. Fortunately for me, I have an excellent PCP. So, I know she’ll give me the best guidance she can. (Whether or not that means having to find another neurologist remains to be seen). If my PCP can manage it, I sure would prefer it but I’ll do what I have to do. I didn’t mind my PCP absorbing the neurologist’s duties for the neuropathy. It was one less specialist to see and I see so many as it is. We’ll see. xo

@Gyan:

I am so sorry you went through such a horrible ordeal getting a correct diagnosis for your migraines! Yes, it can take time to accept things we don’t want to accept. I think you’re right that we all want to believe we’re not as sick as we are.

I think that, for me anyway, part of not throwing daily pity parties is finding a way to live in a “new normal” when new symptoms/illnesses come up. While it’s good not to have daily pity parties, the downside of working so hard to be as positive as possible can be that it can set the stage for states of denial like the one I’m now emerging from.

Having learned so much about the struggles of people like you… who have such debilitating migraines, I honestly didn’t want to believe that migraines were what has been happening to me.

Thank you for letting me pick your brain and ask you so many questions about migraines lately. It has been very helpful to me. While my PCP talked with me about migraines way back in January, I wasn’t ready to really accept it until I reached a point where it was impossible to ignore.

Having those three migraines last month lined up with the three periods generated an undeniable, “wake up and smell the coffee, Jeanne” realization for me. Sometimes, our friends can help us hear the message that we didn’t want to hear from our doctors. So thank you for your time and energy in helping me analyze what has been happening. You are a wonderful friend. xoxo

@Jenn:

Thanks. I hope it will help too. I’m a bit nervous because I know that some of the treatment options are not going to be good choices for me. Time will tell.

I think we all have some degree of Ostrich Syndrome in us… some more than others. ;) I don’t think of myself as a frequent visitor to the Ostrich Syndrome zone. So, it was a bit of a shock when I pulled up my first migraine post and saw that it was 10 months old! That alone got me to see how hard I have been denying this. I honestly thought it had been 6 months or less since this all started. Clearly, I have been blocking some things out!

@Jasmine:

Oh, yes… the three period month was loads of fun. This was especially true since my periods tend to be on the long side. So, I had very little time in between without a period. (Of course, having once had a period every day for over a year from August 1994 – August 1995… I try not to complain about little nuisances like 3 periods in one month. The year plus period persisted even when my doctor at the time put me on hormones that were supposed to put my body into a pseudo-menopause).

So, I try not to complain about period anomalies after that lovely year of my life. (More than likely I have adenomyosis and that is probably related to that bleeding episode but I refuse to get a hysterectomy. So, there is no way to verify that I have adenomyosis, as is suspected. Another definite possible contributing factor to that year plus period was having been on continuous birth control pills for endometriosis for so long prior to that, in my opinion. A hysteroscopy in 1994 showed the uterine lining was atrophied to the point that it resembled “a menopausal woman in her 80s”, to quote my doctor).

True, I didn’t have to worry about migraines back in the 1994-5 period. (Thank goodness)! Let’s hope that the three periods last month isn’t a signal that my body is about to go into ridiculously long periods again. If this is the threshold to perimenopause, I don’t know what I’m in for. Cross your fingers that last month was just an odd fluke, that it served its purpose (knocking me out of migraine denial), and that is won’t happen again. Honest to Pete, between the endometriosis symptoms at period time (including rectal bleeding prior to and during each period… which prompted colonoscopy #4 in April 2009), the flare-up of interstitial cystitis and IBS symptoms at period time, and now migraines tied to periods… I am a wee bit freaked out. I think my biggest challenge going forward is going to be having so many of my illnesses that are totally aggravated by periods. It’s a daunting thought.

Yes, you’re absolutely right. Part of the denial truly has been because I have so much else going on health-wise. It can make it hard to sort out. With every fiber of my being, I did NOT want to add anything to the list and most especially anything that is tied to hormones.

As I said to Gyan, knowing people like you two who have such debilitating migraines… I felt almost guilty using the same label for myself. I know you have been through so much because of migraines and it feels a bit odd… like I’m somehow intruding into a realm where I don’t belong to say what I have been having is migraines. Again, though, we all know there are various severities and types of symptoms from patient to patient.

To be clear, I am not trying to minimize what I’ve been experiencing either! These migraines hurt like hell! However, I know that there are people who are bed-bound for days at a time or vomiting. I am in neither situation. So, I think that factored into my Ostrich Syndrome.

@Annie:

Sadly, Annie, when I don’t blog for that length of time it is a pretty sure sign that I am really sick with something. Fun? What’s that? Just kidding. ;) I do have times in my life where there’s fun. Unfortunately, my time between blog posts lately hasn’t been because I was off having fun.

Yeah, the pattern kind of hit me over the head (no pun intended!) when I had three hormone-triggered migraines in a month. That was like a flashing billboard telling me to accept reality (whether I like it or not).

If I were willing to take hormones (which I am not) or if my periods were in any way predictable (which, sadly, they are not) then the pattern of hormones triggering migraines might be more useful.

As it is, it’s helpful in a “general information” sense but I’m not sure how helpful it will be beyond that. I could be wrong. I’m no migraine expert.

There are medications out there that I might be able to try. One of the tricks is that every time I make any changes to my medication regimen, it “rocks the boat” and causes way more problems. (I have a long history of drug allergies, I am contraindicated for certain things, I have multiple chemical sensitivity and never know what pharmaceuticals I might be sensitive to, etc). Any medication changes I make tend to effect the big picture of everything I’m taking – in ways that can be problematic.

So, I would be lying if I said I’m not nervous. I am. On a brighter note, I was happy to connect with a woman who uses homeopathy for her migraines. I have had great result with homeopathy for hemorrhaging issues. So, I’ll need to check into that. Plus, many online friends have had great results from physical therapy. I will need to check as to whether this type of PT is available in my area. (It’s not available everywhere). Another plus is that I have an acupuncturist that I have been seeing for just about 10 years now and he’s excellent! So, I definitely will need to have him focus on migraines the next time I go in.

So, there is hope. It’s just going to take some time for me to sort things out.

~~~

Jeanne

7 WinnyNo Gravatar { 12.02.10 at 2:31 pm }

My migraine pattern changed at about 40 – was told it was perimenopausal. A hysterectomy cured the migraines TAH BSO, but that doesn’t help everyone. Some people get worse.
.-= Winny´s last blog ..No More Mammalian Meat =-.

8 JeanneNo Gravatar { 12.02.10 at 8:57 pm }

Winny,

I am 41 (approaching 42) and migraines first got my attention in January. Hormonal fluctuations are clearly a major factor with the migraines I’ve been having. My neck is messed up too. I have no doubt that’s another factor.

I saw a neurologist on Tuesday (primarily to investigate why my lower lip was really numb for several days as if I had had a bunch of Novocain) and I went for my first cervicogenic migraine physical therapy appointment today.

The neurologist went over my options regarding medications for migraines. Due to the fact that I have a history of strange reactions to medications (in part because I have multiple chemical sensitivity), I am hesitant to add another medication to the mix unless I get desperate. (She gave me a prescription while I was there, though).

My regularly scheduled acupuncture (last Saturday) seemed to lessen the severity of this most recent migraine episode. I just finished my 5th period in 2 months (3 in October, 2 in November).

I’m really glad that a total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy helped you with the migraines. As you said, it doesn’t help everyone. I know some people who have gotten worse from that.

I have no plans to have a hysterectomy. I have actually spent many years trying hard to avoid this option. Some doctors would suggest that I might wish to consider a hysterectomy in light of the fact that I have pelvic congestion syndrome, endometriosis, probable adenomyosis, etc. (Adenomyosis can only be confirmed as a diagnosis by dissecting the tissue in the uterine wall. So, one doesn’t know for sure if she has adenomyosis until after she has had a hysterectomy).

In light of the fact that there is no cure for endometriosis and the fact that I believe I could be trading in one set of problems for another by having a hysterectomy, I have actually been going out of my way to avoid one. My reasons for not wishing to have a hysterectomy are much more complicated than I have outlined here. Hysterectomies can be a bit of a loaded topic for endometriosis patients.

Like you said, everyone is different (regardless of what condition might prompt such surgery).

I’m glad you found something that helped you. :)

Jeanne

9 Major Migraine Month — ChronicHealing.com { 04.30.11 at 3:51 pm }

[...] I don’t have the energy to write in very much detail about what has been happening with my migraines these last few months. In a nutshell, though, I was having some reduction in the number and [...]

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