For the past 10 years, or so, my neurologists have treated my migraines with the front-line medications in the war on migraines: anti-depressants.
About 2 years ago, my neurologist referred me to a psychiatrist to manage the anti-depressant prescriptions, because he knows more about them than she does. It's a common thing to do with patients who have intractable, daily migraines.
My "shrink" put me through a few different regimens of medications, depending on the side-effects the drugs caused. Oh, that one causes me to have tremors, so I can no longer needlepoint?
Oh, this one is causing constipation, which happens to be a migraine trigger for me?
Oh, that one obliterates any interest you have in physical intimacy?
It's a process, and at times can be a very frustrating one.
And then, back in January, the side effects became overwhelming.
I was the most depressed I'd ever been in my life: I had no desire for intimacy, which caused feelings of guilt; I'd gained 30 pounds since my wedding and hated the way I looked; I felt like my presence on earth was really just a burden to everyone, but particularly to my husband, who had to deal with the brunt of my migraines and their effect on my moods.
It was bad, folks.
As a teenager, I sometimes self-harmed - cutting myself when I was particularly anxious or depressed, because the sight of the blood calmed me, somehow. It was a physical manifestation of what I was feeling. Following my cancer diagnosis, I stopped completely, and hadn't ever had the urge to do it again. Until January of 2018. Fortunately, a card from my niece on the refrigerator declaring "I love you SO SO MUCH!" caught my eye as I made for the knife block, and I turned around and went back to bed, skin intact.
Whenever you see ads for anti-depressants on TV, there's always a disclaimer about how they can, in some patients, cause suicidal thoughts.
Yeah, that disclaimer is aimed at me.
My psychiatrist realized how depressed I was and took me off the drug I'd been taking, without success, for about 6 months, and he gave me another drug to try out. I had an allergic reaction to the new drug, and stopped taking it, meaning that I was 100% off anti-depressants when I went back to see him a month later.
I was an entirely different person: happier, more cheerful in outlook, and able to take a step back from all of the horrible thoughts I'd been having and to realize that things aren't so awful, after all. In fact, they're pretty wonderful, despite the migraines.
My migraines aren't as debilitating as they were while I was on anti-depressants. I still have them, but I'm still able to function to some degree, meaning I can usually still make a healthy dinner for my husband and me despite the migraine.
I've also lost all the weight I gained since meeting my husband, which amounts to about 45 pounds. If I tried on my wedding dress, today, it would probably just fall off.
The last drugs we tried before I quit taking any had weight gain as a side-effect, and without them in my system, I no longer have the urge to eat as many sweets, or to binge on snacks. I'd tried to lose the weight while I was still on anti-depressants, not realizing that it would be nigh on impossible.
So now, we're trying to manage my migraines by being more careful about what I eat and practicing healthier sleeping habits: I wear a sleep mask at night, try to go to sleep at the same time every day, and have an evening "ritual" that I follow, which involves a warm bath, reading, taking melatonin, etc., though we joke that there's a goat slaughtered in there, somewhere, too.
I'm still having more days with migraine than not, but the migraines aren't weighing so heavily on me, now. Add to that the fact that my leather pants fit again, and things are looking up.
Sometimes, the best drug for what ails you is no drug at all.