A young lady takes on a challenge to show support for her mother who is blighted by migraines

Natalie who has suffered from migraines since childhood, shares with us the impact it has had on her life:


“I have suffered from migraines since the age of 5 (now 48 years old) and as a child I use to get extreme headache and vomiting - I had to lie down in a dark room until my attack would stop, usually after falling asleep.

As a child when I was living in Belgium, my pediatrician referred me for an EEG that came back as normal. He told my parents that I was suffering from migraine and he advised them to change my diet slightly (I was at the time eating school dinners that were probably too rich). My parents then started giving me ham and cheese sandwiches for my lunch and this helped a lot. I would only get a migraine very occasionally, although it is worth mentioning that I would suffer quite violently of travel sickness when we would travel long distances in the car.

At the time, I was too small to understand the significance of migraine. I just thought it was one of those things that you have to get on with. This was my take on the problem until my migraines became chronic in 2012. I also found out that my great-grandmothers on my mother's side had suffered from chronic migraine and that it had made the life of my grand-mother quite difficult when she was a child as her mum had difficulty coping with noise in the house.

Various things seem to trigger my migraines including too much light, noise, perfume, cigarette smells, stress, lack of sleep and change in hormone levels.  I used to have menstrual migraines before I started going through the menopause, and I believe that my migraine has become chronic since that time, as I started noticing the first signs when I was 40.

 My migraine tends to develop during the day and my warning signs can include yawning, feeling very tired, nauseous and spaced out/disconnected, feeling irritable and having difficulties concentrating.

I also had a few migraines with aura (feeling dizzy and seeing black spots and shiny points). Since the start of the menopause, my migraines usually start during the early hours of the morning (around 5 am) and I believe that they are usually triggered by a hot flush.

I have tried various treatments over the years without much success. My GP and neurologists in the UK were not very helpful. It was more a question of finding out about treatments by myself. The preventative treatments I have tried without any success include Pizotifen, Propranolol, Venlafaxine and Amitriptyline / Nortriptyline. I had terrible withdrawal symptoms (anxiety attacks, severe depression, uncontrollable shaking) when I stopped taking Amitriptyline / Nortriptyline 18 months ago. I still haven't fully recovered from it and I can still feel some of these symptoms now.

I try to take as little painkillers as I possibly can (no more than 12 painkillers a month / 6 triptans per month). I never take combination painkillers as I know they can be addictive/ I normally take aspirin together with Metoclopramide and a dry biscuit when I start feeling unwell. If I feel that the headache is going to develop into a full-blown migraine, I take a triptan (either a tablet or a nasal spray). I have noticed that Zolmitriptan and Rizatriptan make me feel very anxious and depressed. I very rarely take other types of painkillers, but if I do I'll take Paracetamol or Naproxen. In general, except for a few exceptions, these drugs are not very effective and the headache/migraine comes back within a few hours.

I have tried a range of other therapies, such as osteopathy, acupuncture, chiropractory, physiotherapy (Bowen technique) and hypnotherapy. Osteopathy used to work quite well for me until I started going through the menopause, but then it stopped. I have also consulted several nutritionists who have advised me to take a variety of supplements. I am currently taking Co-enzyme Q10, Feverfew and 5-HTP, but it is too early to say if it is working. I tried taking magnesium, but it did not agree with me. I have also had Botox injections 6 weeks ago (I had to pay for it myself because the Lothian Health Board did not offer it at the time to headache patients).

 I believe that a lot of people do not understand the severity of our condition and how disabling it can be. My daughter often comes back very upset from school because she feels that her fellow pupils do not understand my condition and tend to downplay the severity it by claiming that migraines are just headaches and that I should just "man up".

Quite a few people over the years have told me that I was very lucky to be able to stay at home (I have been unable to work since January 2012) while my husband was earning a living for our family. I was also told a few times that it was all in my head and that it would help me to see a "shrink" about it. 

 I think that there is lot to do to raise the awareness about migraine and think it would helpful if neurologists could give their migraine patients a comprehensive leaflet with information about their condition (do's and don’ts, background information, support groups, etc). The neurologist I recently consulted at my local hospital in Edinburgh told me that she had suggested to do so to her clinical management team, but that they had refused the idea.

Both my husband and daughter are very supportive even though it is not always easy for them to deal with my condition and the way it makes me feel (very depressed and angry at times, not to mention the constant uncertainty they live in, never knowing when the next attack will strike). I also have a couple of friends who are very supportive and understanding but they unfortunately live quite far away from me.

As a whole, my condition has had a very disruptive effect on my family life, but I believe it has also made us stronger and closer.

However, I think that it would help if we had more support from the wider community (school, surgery). Knowing that there are organisations like Migraine Action who are working tirelessly to help us is very comforting. I would like to thank Migraine Action for all the help that they give to the Migraine community and to help them continue to provide the services that they offer to all those affected by migraine, my daughter Laura has decided to do a charity run – please help to support her!”


Show your support for Laura

Laura will be undertaking a 5k run on Saturday 26th May 2018, at the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. Please help to support her by donating generously via her justgiving page www.justgiving.com/fundraising/laura-johnstone11

 My name is Laura and I am taking part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival's 5k Junior run. I would like to raise money for Migraine Action to help my mum who has suffered from migraine since she was 5.

For the last 6 years, my mum has been unable to work as she suffers from a constant headache and she never knows when the next migraine attack will strike.  I also wanted to help the other 8 million people in the UK suffering from migraine. Hopefully the money that I raise will help to find more successful and affordable treatments for this very debilitating and complex neurological condition."

Laura Johnstone

Return to index