Migraines – What a Pain! #MondayBlogs

My Son & Husband Atop Mammoth Mountain
My Son & Husband atop Mammoth Mountain

So, it is May – Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m not motivated to write about mental health. Not mine, at least. Instead, I find myself drawn to write about parenting a son who has suffered severe migraines since he was a toddler.

My son’s earliest migraines involved gastrointestinal symptoms, but no headaches. When he was a toddler, he would throw up for three days straight during and following holidays and play dates. At first we thought he got sick with gastroenteritis every holiday, but my sister pointed out the pattern and that he was reacting to being overwhelmed.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation:

Migraine is not just a bad headache. It is a neurological disease, with head pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors, abdominal pain, and mood changes. While children generally have fewer and shorter migraine attacks than adult sufferers, childhood migraine can be just as disabling, and it can seriously affect the child’s quality of life.

via Migraine Research Foundation.

So, this post has nothing to do with bipolar disorder. I write about myself, but it is my son to whom I devote most of my time and energy. I hope and pray that our recent visit to his pediatric neurologist who recommended increasing his preventive medication will result in fewer and less severe headaches. It breaks my heart to see my son suffer.

Now that my son is old enough to take a more active role in managing his migraines, now that he can articulate what works, what doesn’t work, and what he needs, I finally can admit that mothering him has been hard. I’ve felt like a failure as I’ve sought help for him.

PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ME ADVICE ON WHAT HAS WORKED FOR YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW. We are getting VERY HIGH QUALITY HELP. But migraines do not magically disappear when you stop eating gluten or go to a chiropractor. Believe me. We’ve tried (and he’s going to an acupuncturist this time round).

Medication works. Hydration and eating protein helps. Not overdoing it helps. Avoiding loud noises helps. Avoiding overstimulation helps. Learning how to cope with stressors, how to know and heed his own limits… well, I hope he develops those skills in therapy. That is his job. He is an adolescent. Some things he must learn to do on his own now.

30 thoughts on “Migraines – What a Pain! #MondayBlogs

  1. Susan Irene Fox May 13, 2015 / 11:42 am

    Oh, Kitt, I feel his pain. I used to suffer horribly from both common and cluster migraines, and they are not fun. My neurologist told me that men suffer more from cluster-type migraines. They went away several years ago – have no idea why – but started to return last year. My doc now has me on Nortriptyline as a preventive. Seems to work ok for me. My biggest trigger was and is a change in barometric pressure.Lovely to know something I can control is the cause! :-/

    I pray they are less severe for him with each passing week, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 13, 2015 / 3:40 pm

      Thank you, Susan. He takes amitriptyline, which is a tricyclic antidepressant FDA-approved for pediatric migraine prevention. His neurologist prescribed rizatriptan (Maxalt) combined with OTC naproxen for use when he gets one. Last week the rizatriptan and naproxen stopped the migraine after an hour nap – a quick recovery. This week, though, his headache is related once again to a virus. He still has a weak immunity to viral infections. I got sick Saturday, my husband Monday, and our son Tuesday and today. Unfortunately, we doesn’t rebound as quickly as we do from illness.


      • Susan Irene Fox May 14, 2015 / 8:07 am

        Oh, gosh, Kitt. So sorry to hear this. Thank God you have a good neurologist for him. I believe mine may have returned due to a weakened immune system (lots of chemo for breast cancer). They say the side effects stop once you stop chemo – not true.
        I’ll add you all to my prayer list again. Wow, this must really mess with his emotional state, too. And certainly with yours as a compassionate mom. My heart goes out to you. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley May 14, 2015 / 5:56 pm

          Chemo did a job on my mother’s immune system. She started getting migraines after treatment, as well. Thank you for adding us to your prayer list. I will include you on mine, as well. God bless you.


  2. dyane May 12, 2015 / 4:47 pm

    I had only a very mild headache (not migraine, I had one just once and that educated me on the enormous difference between the two kinds) for 2 days. During that time, I thought of the pure hell your son must endure (and has endured) for so long.

    My heart goes out to him and to you.

    Reading this post reminds me yet again how loving a mother you are, and I’m inspired by how you’ve been proactive in finding the highest level of care possible for him., Forgive me for the following gushfest, but I can’t help it…You never cease to amaze me & you make me feel so lucky to have you as my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 12, 2015 / 9:40 pm

      Thank you. I often feel guilty, believing that I should be doing more with my life. But quite honestly, I reserve my energy to care for my son and myself. I’m not always up for cooking dinner or washing the dishes. In fact, tonight, after my son came home from school with a migraine and refused to go to his appointment with the new acupuncturist because he did not feel well (dark, quiet room + meds are all he wants and needs when suffering a migraine), I told my husband to go pick up take-out Indian food for dinner because my energy is just zapped. I can only do so much. I can’t control the headaches. This week he has an Advanced Placement test, so the pressure is on him to study. I do not care if he passes the exam. He’s only a freshman. Why college credit at 14?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Not Quite Alice May 12, 2015 / 7:56 am

    Oh god. I feel so bad for him. I get migraines each month, I won’t say what works and what doesn’t at each migraine is it’s own monster, and everyone is made up chemically different. My heart hurts for him, as I know it’s not fun. Hell I was just hospitalized with one that went on for over a week and a half and finally interrupted me enough that I was sick every few minutes and couldn’t see. I hope that he gets relief.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 12, 2015 / 9:27 pm

      Alice, that sounds horrible. He was hospitalized once for vomiting and dehydration, but we did not know the cause, just the symptoms.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not Quite Alice May 13, 2015 / 11:21 am

        I’ve gotten use to it. Apparently the Fibro goes hand in hand with the migraines, and the depression, and a whole list. I deal. I just hope he doesn’t have to. Poor guy. I hate it when it immobilizes you and you’re stuck in the hospital because, for me, I couldn’t push through anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley May 13, 2015 / 3:36 pm

          No one should have to push through that sort of pain. Pain relief is necessary.


          • Not Quite Alice May 14, 2015 / 7:07 am

            I’ve become accustomed to it. It really is a part of life anymore. Unless it gets to a point of stopping me from doing anything, I no longer notice it that much. It’s like the buzzing of a fly.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kitt O'Malley May 14, 2015 / 5:51 pm

            Amazing that the body can become so accustomed to living with pain. I guess that is a testament to your strength.


  4. vanbytheriver May 12, 2015 / 2:38 am

    So sad..I didn’t know one could get them so young? My daughter suffers since her early 20’s and is convinced that her younger brother was having abdominal migraines since about 13, when gastrointestinal specialists could not come up with a diagnosis. Wishing you well in a search for relief for him. Van

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 12, 2015 / 9:25 pm

      Thank you, Van. Yes, you can get gastrointestinal symptoms without the headache, especially among pediatric sufferers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • vanbytheriver May 13, 2015 / 4:03 am

        I need to take my daughter’s advice and get him to a neurologist. I can’t believe a team of G/I specialists would not suggest this.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley May 13, 2015 / 11:02 am

          He has seen a pediatric neurologist. I just brought him in recently, and she adjusted his preventive medication (tricyclic antidepressant approved for prevention of pediatric migraines) and prescribed a medication for treatment of migraine headache symptoms (triptan). He needs to see pediatric GI specialist to make sure his GI tract has not been damaged over the years.

          Liked by 1 person

          • vanbytheriver May 13, 2015 / 4:15 pm

            He was prescribed a series of antidepressants by the GI physician, but he had side effects and didn’t stay with anything too long. There is really nothing harder than finding solutions for your child in pain. He is 29 now, and I still worry all the time. You have my empathy. 💕

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kitt O'Malley May 13, 2015 / 5:20 pm

            Thank you. Does your son still get migraines? Sometimes men outgrow them as their testosterone levels increase.

            Liked by 1 person

          • vanbytheriver May 13, 2015 / 6:25 pm

            His actually started as he reached puberty. He is managing, but certainly not over it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kitt O'Malley May 13, 2015 / 6:46 pm

            Sorry to hear that he still suffers from them, but glad to hear that he is managing them.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. joelsax47 May 11, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    Here’s my own experience: I used to have debilitating migraines. But then I had my mood stabilizers switched around. Strangely enough they went away. I didn’t discover the reason until I hit my elbow and experienced some neuropathy in my left arm. When I came in, they kept asking if I was in pain. No, I said. My fingers are just numb. This puzzled everyone until I got to a neurologist. He looked over my list of meds, focused on my mood stabilizer — carbamazepine — and told me that this was also good for nerve pain.

    Now I dread when my mood stabilizer stops working because it will mean a return of the pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 11, 2015 / 7:20 pm

      He is being treated with a tricyclic antidepressant, amitriptyline, which is approved for pediatric use to prevent migraines. His dosage needed adjusting. Previously, he had wanted to reduce his dosage, but in doing so, his headaches increased, as did uncomfortable and unusual behavior and feelings. His pediatric neurologist has been brought back in for a second opinion and we are upping his dose. So far, so good. The two – mood and headaches – are without doubt related. Thanks, Joel.


  6. stockdalewolfe May 11, 2015 / 3:45 pm

    Reblogged this on MOONSIDE and commented:

    Friend, Kitt, a fellow Bipolar, has a son who is a fellow migraine sufferer, horrible for one so young. Reblogging her post because it is so informative and so many people think a migraine is just a bad headache. For all who suffer from them, this is for you! Thanks, Kitt!


  7. stockdalewolfe May 11, 2015 / 3:40 pm

    Great that you are spreading the word on juvenile migraine and migraines in general. You’re a great Mom and your son is very lucky to have you as a Mom. I am so sorry to hear of a fellow sufferer in one so young. All the things you mentioned that don’t work, don’t and the things you listed that do work, do. I have not had success with acupuncture but some people do. The hard thing is to know your limits and what triggers a migraine for you. I wish you all the best and hope the preventitive works!! God bless! Hugs, Ellen

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 11, 2015 / 7:14 pm

      Thank you, Ellen. It can be really frustrating when someone suggests that he avoid food coloring or suggests a book promoting a grain-free when we know that he is not triggered by food. Besides, the last thing I want to do is deprive my son food when his activities are already circumscribed by his headaches. It is just cruel.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. abodyofhope May 11, 2015 / 3:35 pm

    My heart goes out to your son and any child living with disabling migraines. Thank you for sharing more information on childhood migraine disorder. I so hope you, the doctors, and he find ways for him to manage better in time. God bless you and your family, Kitt.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michelle Styles May 11, 2015 / 2:54 pm

    Amen everything you named is learning the triggers and how to manage them best. You’re a great mom and far from a failure. BIG HUGS!!!! Hang in there mom because it gets better all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley May 11, 2015 / 7:08 pm

      His cousin has had very similar experiences with migraines. Luckily, the men in the family, like my husband, outgrow the worst of the symptoms. So, I hope that once his testosterone kicks in his migraines will abate.

      Liked by 1 person

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