The Agony that is Menstrual Migraines

If you get migraines and you don't know why, definitely read this post.

Menstrual Migraines

For all of you (the 8% of guys who read this site) who are like, nope, don’t need to read this — that’s totally fine. But if you have a sister, friend, girlfriend, wife, who is having migraines and doesn’t know why yet, you might want to send her a link to this post.

I’m getting real personal today for a few reasons.

One — I just went through this again this past weekend and realized HOW MUCH IT SUCKS and those are usually good stories, and bloggers/journalists are always looking for good stories.

Two — If I can help solve this problem for anyone so they don’t have to go through the awfulness anymore, then this post is worth it.

The backstory is that I was getting a pretty severe headache about once a month. I didn’t realize it was a migraine at the time because I’m one of those people who downplays pain. I’m not a hypochondriac, and in general I always feel like I can never tell when stuff is going on with my body, or I just brush it aside like it’s nothing until it’s a major issue that impairs me to a point where I cannot work, or do anything else. I mean if I don’t feel like having a glass of wine, something is wrong with me.

So for literally two years I would get this headache. And it was debilitating. Like I would be in bed for four days, with a cold washrag on my head and a bowl of ice water on my nightstand. Even watching movies or catching up on House of Cards was too painful.

For the longest time I thought I was allergic to wine. Seriously. I seriously thought I was allergic to the tannins or sulfates in wine. Which, I guess is also still a possibility. You would think then that I would stop drinking wine, but no I did not. And I continued to get the migraines.

What I didn’t realize for TWO YEARS is that these headaches always happened while I was on my period. I know I know, you would think that this would be so obvious that I would notice after a few months. But my periods growing up never seemed to be that terrible. I never felt like I got very bad PMS or that my mood changed that much. I had cramps for a few hours a day for few days yes, but I felt like other girls had it much worse.

So basically, I didn’t notice, and still thought it had to do with wine. Wine and possibly allergies. Because allergies in DC are bad. Like I didn’t have them when we lived in Kansas City, but the second we arrived in DC I had them. My allergies got so bad in fact I went to get tested and found that in addition to the usual seasonal allergies I am surprisingly allergic to most grass, cats, and severely allergic to dust. Which is the best excuse for hiring a cleaning service, don’t you think?

Back to the migraines. Finally after TWO YEARS I got one and I hadn’t drank any wine (or other alcohol for that matter) within several days of getting the migraine, so I was like wait a minute … why am I getting this migraine!?! Then the next month I decided I wouldn’t drink before I started my period just to make sure that was what it was.

I am on the pill (have been for a long long long time) so my cycle is like clockwork, I know exactly what day I will start and exactly when it will end. And boom, the day I started my period I started to get the migraine. I promptly scheduled an appointment with my GYNO to figure this out, and then spent four days in a dark room.

After about two minutes of me describing what was going on my GYNO was like, ya menstrual migraines are fairly common, especially when you get older (gulp). Ok thanks for reminding me I’m not a spring chicken. Anyway, my GYNO said that the older you get, the less estrogen your body will produce. And when you are on the pill, that last week doesn’t have any estrogen in it, which is why at the end of the week you get your period. She said that basically my body was withdrawing (kind of like an addict to drugs) from not having that estrogen, hence the migraines. So basically I’m an estrogen addict.

They told me that if I wanted to stay on the pill, the easiest and most common solution is to just keep taking the pills that have the estrogen, and skip the last week of pills, and go right into your next pack. So you will skip your period every month and you won’t get any migraines. This was one of those instances where I was thinking COULDN’T THEY JUST HAVE TOLD ME THIS OVER THE PHONE!?!

I must note here that this is just what my doctor said to me for my situation. I don’t get auras so I can safely be on the pill (IF YOU SEE AURAS YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE PILL IMMEDIATELY — GO TO YOUR DOCTOR). So please don’t self-diagnose and do what your doc says — not what I say!

They assured me that it was totally safe to continue skipping my period and my body would take care of itself. I should also note that yes, I’m 33, but that I don’t want children, so being on the pill this long and taking it like this has no effect the whole pregnancy thing because I am not going for that — which is again, why I say you need to go talk to your doc about it if you have a similar issue. I should also note that when I saw my regular doctor I told her about all of this and she was like, ummmm I’d prefer it if you do give yourself a period a few times a year.

So I’ve been doing this now for over a year or so, and here’s how it’s gone:

First of all IT’S FUCKING AMAZING NOT GETTING A PERIOD. I feel we (women) don’t realize how much our periods suck and how much they change how we feel because we’ve been dealing with them for so long. I didn’t have one for six months then thought I should probably give myself one, but I was like, when do I have four days to lay in bed and do nothing? And those four days SUCKED (this was a while ago). So it made me realize just how bad getting a period really is. Seriously, we put up with a lot of hormonal shit that we just deal with because it’s part of being a woman, but man it sucks really bad.

Honestly after NOT getting a period for so long and then getting one with the migraine that I had put up with for two years I just thought what the F are we doing to ourselves!?! This is awful! No WONDER some women go crazy and get mean & bitchy on their periods, this shit is terrible!

And my system did clean itself out on its own. I would randomly get cramps and I’ll spare you any more details but it was all fine and not a big deal.

After that last period I gave myself I wasn’t in a hurry to do it again. But it’s been at least 8 months since I let myself get another period because not having one ever was so amazing, but you sort of forget pain after a while and I finally I let myself get one at the end of last week/over the weekend. And IT. WAS. AWFUL.

In addition to your normal awful cramps (guys, imagine a stabbing pain where the lining of your intestine is ripping off because it’s just done being there that month and that is probably a similar feeling) add being nauseous  — like you could puke at any moment, most food sounds terrible, and you find yourself also eating Pepto while taking Midol and any other pill you can find that might make some of the pain subside. Then add a sinus headache, because your jaw and face hurt (menstrual migraines can mimic the symptoms of a sinus headache), PLUS the whole head-pounding migraine part where you can hardly move and the only thing that seems possible is lying in a dark quiet room with a fan blowing directly on your face, thus making it a migraine versus just your typical period. Even using my phone or laptop seemed impossible, hence why I’ve hardly used Instagram in the past five days. And that is what a menstrual migraine feels like. Oh, and it goes on for at least four days. Oh and actually no over-the-counter drugs help, like at all. I’ve taken every brand, every kind, and they don’t work because it’s a HORMONAL migraine.

After this most recent period that I let myself get, I will NOT be letting myself get one for a long long time. My GYNO says it’s fine and I’m going with that because basically being not only completely unproductive, but also not being able to work out, or do anything at all for four days is just not going to work for me.

I tell this story because it took me TWO FREAKING YEARS to figure this out. Two years I was getting a 4-day migraine every month. I mean it was ridiculous. So if I can help even just one girl figure out that she is getting menstrual migraines (also called hormonal migraines) then it was worth grossing out anyone who read this entire post.

Ok, please weigh in with your period horror stories in the comments. I want to hear them. Do you suffer from menstrual migraines too?

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Photo by Morre Christophe via Unsplash