My Health Story

by | Feb 21, 2021 |

I took health for granted in my youth. I was happy for the most part, a robust child, save for the odd cold, bout of chickenpox or dreaded stomach bug. That is until I hit puberty.

My first ever experience with a migraine was at the age of 12. I’ll never forget the panic I felt when out of nowhere, my head throbbed so intensely I had to find a secluded corner of the school yard to escape the ear piercing squeals of my peers and to shield my eyes from the sunlight. Pale and nauseous, I found my way to the sickbay. The school called my mum and I went home to the sweet relief of a pitch black room.

From that time on, migraines became a pervasive presence in my life. From what I can recall, I only had a handful of migraines in my early teens. At eighteen I experienced one a week, by twenty-five around three a week and by age thirty-three I was having a mind-bending twenty-four a month!

When migraines became a regular occurrence, I started self-medicating with nurofen. Suspecting this was not the safest nor most sustainable course of action, I eventually went to see a GP who referred me to a neurologist where I was prescribed triptans and told this was my best course of action.

I took triptans sparingly; only at times when I was not in a position to endure a migraine, like going to a social event or sitting a uni exam. These wonderful drugs were indeed helpful, but quite expensive for a young student. So when my migraines ramped up to several times a week, I went back to shovelling down nurofen in between triptans.

After university I moved to London where, aside from my migraines, I was in generally good health. The only time I was sick during two years abroad was when I came down with a terrible flu. I was so ill I had to take myself to the hospital at two in the morning, something I’d never consider doing unless I was so unwell I thought there was a possibility of death. Sounds dramatic, but the fear I felt was real.

When I arrived home from London, I was heading out shopping for my wedding dress when I felt an acute pain on my right side. Yep, appendicitis. A doctor removed this ostensibly useless organ via emergency keyhole surgery, leaving only two teeny tiny scars as souvenirs.

At age 28 I traveled to Latin America where I spent two years backpacking from Mexico to Argentina. Migraines aside, I remained in good health throughout my adventures except for one bout of gastritis which hit me so hard I wound up in a hospital in El Salvador where I was hooked up to an IV and given what, I’m not exactly sure, but it seemed to help.

Upon returning to Australia I came down with tonsilitis, of which I’d had quite a few bouts of throughout my life and as a consequence had taken several rounds of antibiotics. My doctor at the time suggested I get them removed which I unquestioningly did. After a few days of ice cream, my throat healed and I haven’t had any issues with that part of my body since. Hoorah!

Fast forward a couple of years and I decided to try for a baby. After twelve years of being on the pill, I came off and was unable to get my cycle to return. One year later and still no sign of ovulation, my gynaecologist prescribed clomid. Two rounds of taking this life-changing pill, I fell pregnant.

Pregnancy was wonderfully uneventful, and in fact, for the first time since I could remember, I was relatively migraine-free. Brith was also blissfully void of complications (unlike me who entered into the word via an emergency cesarian) and the transition into motherhood was a lovely one, without cause for headache. The holiday was short-lived however, and when I started to ween my son after a year of breastfeeding, the migraines returned in full force.

With age, I like to think, comes an increased level of self-confidence and self-advocacy. So this time round when my migraines were not only affecting me, but my ability to look after another human, I listened to my gut, and sought out a GP who was really going to tackle my migraines.

From the get-go, my GP, a kind and empathetic woman, listened patiently to my health woes, encouraging me to spend time digging into possible reasons behind my health issues rather than just prescribing triptans and calling it a day. Along with working with me over the course of a year (a privilege not everyone is afforded), she also referred me to a dietitian who has been instrumental in identifying a link between food sensitivities and my migraines. Thank you elimination diets!

After a year of tests, supplements and dietary as well as lifestyle changes, my migraines have been reduced to around 2-3 a month. I’ll take that as a win!

Now, you may ask, what exactly is my reason for babbling on about my health issues?

I spent a lot of time on the internet scrolling through websites, blogs and scientific journals in order to better understand my aforementioned health woes. Being the inquisitive bee that I am, I busied myself learning about migraine and their relationship to food sensitivities, hormones, sleep disturbances, genetics, mental health and lifestyle factors.

Many a rabbit hole later, I stumbled across the topic of the microbiome. Something inside me stirred and the crazy world of microbes has captured my attention ever since.

Over the past year I have been delving into chemistry and biology with the hope of returning to uni to study nutrition and dietetics. Future me hopes to be part of some kind of research into the microbiome, perhaps its relationship to migraines? Who knows?

As of now I have infinitely more questions about migraines, than I do answers. But this is totally ok, because now I have a purpose.

In writing about my experience with migraines, I hope to connect with those who have experienced a similar misfortune in their life and to go on a journey together to try and figure out how to better live with this chronic and debilitating condition.

Hungry to Heal will be a space where I share what I’ve learnt along the way about migraines, food sensitivities, the microbiome and other fun sciency things with the hope of not only further cementing my own understanding of these topics but to also help others who might be suffering from similar ailments.

Also please do note, writing these articles will be a learning experience for me, so please feel free to point out any mistakes I make along the way (the best way to improve!) and to share any insights you have on the topics covered.

Brigid xx

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 


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