The Anatomy of a Migraine

I’m a sucker for vocabulary. I studied Latin in college and have a deep love of word origins. Yes, I’m a nerd. I can hear you saying it to yourself as you’re reading. It’s OK. I own it. Anatomy has a few origins, but my favorite is the combo in Greek which includes ana meaning “up” and tomia meaning “cutting.” So let’s cut up my migraine experience this week. I’ve written previously about my migraines in connection to my running, but this week’s post is strictly about what a particularly bad attack looks like for me and what I’ve decided to do about it. If you suffer from migraines, I’d love to hear about your treatment choices, medical or holistic. You’re about to see why…..

Wednesday evening:  After a busy day at work, including three meetings, a sick dog (seizures) and some other challenging issues, I come home and practice 60 minutes of yoga.  Phil generously takes the kiddos to their YMCA class and I make dinner.  Bed time rolls around and I have a headache that has not been eased by my yoga practice.  I blame it on the unexpected stress of the day, take two Tylenol PM and go to bed.

Thursday:  Wake up with mild headache still rolling. Decide to go to work and make the best of it, take 4 advil to get through the day.  Headache worsens and I call my doctor for refill of my Imitrex (common migraine drug).  Pick up prescription on way home, but have to wait til bed time to take since it knocks me out.  60 minute yoga practice does nothing to help headache.  I have to take 2 rounds of meds, so I hit the hay, set my alarm for 2 hours later and get up and take round 2.

Friday:  No work, but get kiddos off to school, head to physical therapy for my IT Band and take care of cleaning up around the house. Headache is still there, but like a dull ache behind my eyes.  Avoid drugs because Phil and I are supposed to go out for a lovely Valentine’s Day date. Practice yoga for 45 minutes, no improvement.  Get dressed up for dream date, go to dinner, get violently nauseous, give away our theater tickets to strangers and drive to Emergency Room.  Back up plan for migraines for me is to get 2 shots-a pain reliever and an anti-nausea drug. Wait for nearly 60 minutes to get the shots, one of which they no longer carry.  Take anti-nausea drug under the tongue instead, get painful shot in my bum (yep, sorry for the TMI) and head home.  Worst. Date. Ever. Bless Phil for his constant understanding.

Saturday:  Wake up feeling relatively OK and have to power through son’s 10 year old birthday party.  Feeling shaky, dull headache still happening, but can get through the day.  Head to bed Saturday night fairly certain I am about to shake the headache for good.

Worst accessory ever
Worst accessory ever

Sunday:  Wake up feeling like a vice has been wrapped around my head and is squeezing it. Pain level on a scale of 1-10 is an 8 or a 9.  Phil drives kids to my mom’s house and we head to hospital ER. $75 copay, here we come.  Time to bypass a shot and go straight to IV meds.  Doctor agrees to give me pain reliever + Benadryl + anti-nausea meds in a cocktail.  Pain reliever and Benadryl go in my IV and I feel nauseous and sleepy at the same time.  Anti-nausea med goes in and I feel awful.  I can suddenly hear the “ocean in my ears” and I faint. I see a flash, like a movie still frame in my mind and I wake up to people screaming my name, not knowing where I am and feeling like I want to rip all of my clothes off.  I am on fire and upset. The pain is not gone and I am worried that I am having a heart attack or some type of seizure. The nurse is mystified that I have reacted so negatively to the meds and I am feeling like I want whatever they can give me that will make all of this stop. Nurse wraps ice packs around my neck, peels off my layers of blankets and gives me Ativan to calm me down. I fall blissfully asleep, then am woken up and told it’s probably best for me to go home. Headache pain is down to a 4 or 5 but not gone completely. I know the car ride home will make me nauseous, but it’s only 5 minutes.  Come home, get sick, go to bed.


And now, on day 5 of this awful journey, I am desperate for anything to work to solve this problem. Friends are telling me they swear by chiropractors, others recommend injections of Imitrex instead of the pill form. I don’t know what else to throw at this problem, but I’m going to start from the ground up.  I’m going to do something I’ve been thinking about for the past 3 months or so. Tomorrow is going to be day 1 of a Whole 30 for me.  I could tell you all the reasons I’ve decided to go gluten, dairy, alcohol and sugar free for 30 days, but their site does it far better than I can. They had me at one word:  “inflammation.” In the book It Starts With Food the authors address the stress we place on our body with the food we put in to it and that many of those foods can add to chronic forms of inflammation. I’m in. I know that it means I’m giving up a number of foods I love and am going to have to make some pretty drastic lifestyle changes for the next 30 days, but let me tell you, if it means I never wake up in an ER again, thinking I might be dying, then drastic is right up my alley.

Goodbye, my dear zoo friends
Goodbye, my dear zoo friends

Have you done a Whole 30 before?  Have you done 27 of them? Have recipes or advice to share?  Please do!

40 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Migraine

  1. Kristina February 16, 2014 / 11:03 pm

    Holy crap! What an awful week/weekend you’ve had! I’m sorry to read this! I gave up wheat and dairy a couple years ago after living with a headache daily for at least 5 years. Long story short, yes, the diet change helped. I was able to go off my acid reflux meds (2 prescription pills a day for 9 years) and my headaches went away. Unfortunately, my daily headaches are back now and have been for much of this school year. I attribute this to many things, but being somewhat lax in my diet is playing a large part, I’m sure. GOOD LUCK!! I hope you are better soon.

    • gorunjess February 17, 2014 / 9:01 pm

      Thank you Kristina! I’ve stopped all of my meds and am going to do my best to stay off them during this next month. I’ve been hesitant to go this drastic, as I always believed “all things in moderation” was OK, but that trip to the ER scared the hell out of me, so I’m going for it. I appreciate your support and hope you find relief as well. I’m sure the stress at both of our workplaces adds to our triggers. 🙂

  2. Luckyygal February 17, 2014 / 10:16 am

    Sorry for your misery. But, reading your blog I thought of food change up right away! It can make the difference / good luck keep us posted… 30 days is worth it.

    • gorunjess February 17, 2014 / 9:01 pm

      Thank you! I look forward to writing about this new journey. Thanks for reading!

  3. harmonteach February 17, 2014 / 10:51 am

    That sucks, Jess. Hope you get this solved. You are far too kind to have to go through this.

    • gorunjess February 17, 2014 / 8:57 pm

      Thanks Jim! I’m hopeful that the diet changes are going to help.

  4. Jessica @ Anchored in CLE February 17, 2014 / 11:33 pm

    That is an awful experience. I’ve never had anything that bad but my migraines are still awful. I had one this past Thursday and had to stay home from work. Sometimes medicine works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m also on a new birth control which I think is affecting it. I definitely think there’s a strong connection to the food we eat though. There’s so, so much stuff in manufactured food that we don’t know about or how it affects us. It really freaks me out. I have tried to eliminate a lot of my processed foods I used to eat but haven’t actually done a Whole30 or a paleo diet yet. I try to get organic products whenever possible, too (though there’s no guarantee with that stuff either). I do hope the Whole30 helps your migraines!! The last medicine I was taking was Treximet, which is a combination of Imitrex and something else (Relpax maybe). It worked for me mostly, the only downside is that because it’s a special mix of medicines, there’s no generic for it. Also thankful for the patient men who get to deal with all of these migraine shenanigans! Though I’m sure they’d choose that over actually having the migraines themselves, haha.

  5. Kirsten February 18, 2014 / 7:15 am

    Hi Jess please check out Dr. Furhman’s site he has a lot of info that may be helpful to you as it relates to migraine headaches and food here is a link to one of the articles I sure hope you feel better real soon! Stopping by from BYB

    • gorunjess February 19, 2014 / 7:58 pm

      Thank you Kristen! I will have to read his site – a friend brought up his name today!

      • Kirsten February 25, 2014 / 9:35 am

        I hope you are feeling bettter!

  6. Emma @ P is for Preschooler February 18, 2014 / 7:56 am

    So sorry you’re experiencing this! I had migraines throughout childhood, but they severely abated when I stopped eating meat. Now they’re starting to return (apparently raising a preschooler is one of my triggers! lol!). I think different things work for different people and it’s just the not-so-simple task of finding what helps you. Wishing you the best!

  7. rachel February 18, 2014 / 9:16 am

    i get really awful migraines as well 😦 they are so awful!

    sorry you are going through this. good luck!

  8. Yuliya February 18, 2014 / 9:26 am

    Wow! How terrible! My mother used to get migraines like that and it scared me as a child. I hope your dietary changes will help!

  9. Me and Baby E February 18, 2014 / 9:42 am

    I’m so sorry you suffer from migraines, I’ve never had one myself but from this post and the stories friends have shared I have some idea of how awful it must be. I gave up gluten and diary to breastfeed my daughter as she had intolerances (and clearly limited alcohol intake) and I have to say as someone without any conditions or chronic pain I felt much better, more energy and more alert. I still avoid gluten but will have the occasional cookie, etc. I am a strong believer in anti-inflammation diets for life in general, and would suggest upping your intake of leafy greens as this will help to de-acidify your body and further lessen inflammation.
    On a medical note have you tried botox on your forehead between your eyes? I have a few friends who swear by it for relief from their migraines, lasts about 3 months and then you have to get it done again

    • gorunjess February 19, 2014 / 7:57 pm

      I’ve considered the botox but never pursued it. The cost is a huge down side for me. Hoping I can solve some of the problem with the food changes. Thanks for reading!

  10. jehdld February 18, 2014 / 11:48 am

    I’ve not suffered from severe migranes before but I have friends who get them and I hear the pain is unreal. I’m so sorry you go through that. I’ve not done a whole foods 30 before but I did do a Vegan challenge back in November and I felt amazing during it. I should do it again…I slipped off the healthy eating ship somewhere around Christmas and never made it back aboard. Good luck in your journey!

  11. Domestic Imp February 18, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    Oh, migraines. I sooooo know migraines. I’m so sorry you do too!

    Found you via BYB

  12. Tawnee H February 18, 2014 / 1:11 pm

    I have had good luck with my migraines being managed by chiropractic care and eating whole foods. I will look forward to hearing about the Whole 30 because i’m intrigued. Thank you for sharing your week, I can only hope it gets better for you and i’ll pray that the Whole 30 is your answer to a better, migraine free life.

  13. Alanna February 18, 2014 / 7:32 pm

    Oh wow! What a miserable, scary experience! I can’t even imagine 😦 I have no advice to share just well wishes as you try the Whole 30 – I hope it helps!

  14. Alexis F February 18, 2014 / 8:39 pm

    So sorry you have had to deal with these. I know from personal experience (not with migraines) that dietary changes can make a Huge difference! I hope you’re seeing some improvement!

  15. Savvy Working Gal February 18, 2014 / 10:44 pm

    I struggled with bad headaches for years – I’m not going to call them migraines after reading your story- they weren’t quite that bad. Though I have spent a sick day or two home in bed nauseous from a head ache. Mine were related to my birth control pills. The headaches occurred during the low-dosage week. My doctor said they resulted from withdrawal. She had me take the higher dosage pills all 4-weeks when the headaches were bad. I still do this especially when my life does not have room for a 7-day headache.

    I had headaches when I was a teenager too. I don’t know what those were attributed to. I certainly wasn’t on the pill back then. I would get off the bus and go straight to bed with a pounding headache. I imagine it was stress.

    I do hope you find relief.

    • gorunjess February 19, 2014 / 7:55 pm

      Thank you for your message. I’ve experimented with the pill as a means to control the migraines, but have not had major relief from them. I’m hopeful that the diet changes will help!

  16. Kim February 19, 2014 / 6:22 am

    How terrible that you are having these migraines. I had them for many years and am I thankful to say that they haven’t returned for a long time. I hope that you can find the trigger!

  17. TaMara February 19, 2014 / 7:36 am

    What a miserable week for you! I pray that you are able to find the answer to what is triggering these migraines. Hopefully the Whole 30 will help you find some relief.

  18. Holly February 19, 2014 / 4:12 pm

    So sorry to hear about your migraine. I can’t imagine. I’ve had headaches but never anything like that. Of course I normally read but stopping by today specifically for the #BYB100 challenge!

  19. mychillthoughts February 19, 2014 / 7:51 pm

    This is horrible! I really hope you find a solution soon. I have several friends doing the whole 30 and it seems that the first few days are difficult and then you get into a groove…I hope it goes well and provides relief for you.

    -Cristyl @

    • gorunjess February 19, 2014 / 7:54 pm

      Thank you Cristyl – I’m on day 3 and the sugar withdrawal has been not so fun. Hopeful that I’ll be rounding the corner soon!

  20. Tamara Wilson February 19, 2014 / 10:23 pm

    I am so sorry you had such a week. I can totally relate, I get them so bad I am down for a week or two. My thoughts are with you sweetie.

  21. Mommy Battles February 20, 2014 / 4:37 am

    I’m so sorry you have such terrible migraines. I’ve been struggling with awful headaches my entire life and I only noticed a bit of change when I started taking effervescent magnesium. It didn’t make my headaches go away completely but it lowered the intensity of the headaches so I could go through the day.

    Visiting from the BYB challenge

  22. Beth February 20, 2014 / 9:37 am

    I haven’t managed a Whole 30 yet, but I know migraines can have triggers, and they’re most likely found among the things you’ll be eliminating from your diet. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a bad headache. I’ve never had one last that long. If you do have to go back to meds – I found Relpax helped me with migraines a lot. Something to consider if you need to try a new route. #BB100

  23. Thaleia Maher February 21, 2014 / 2:48 pm

    Holy Smokes! That was a crazy 5 days of migraine trauma. please update us on how the diet has or has not worked. Did you go to a chiropractor? Have you done anything else to lessen your stress like herbal teas, massage, long baths, etc?

  24. April 24, 2014 / 1:36 am

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  25. Crystal H. June 5, 2014 / 7:18 pm

    Hi, I just read your post and am wondering if the whole30 helped you? I tried and lasted 7 days. I would have kept going but got super hypoglycemic, which then actually triggered a migraine 😦

    Also, I wanted to ask if you take BC pills. I CANNOT take them, because they trigger VERY bad migraines for me.

    Vitamin B has helped me in the past – so maybe that’s an idea you can try as well?

    I hope you are feeling better. I’d love to hear how Whole30 turned out for you!


    • racingtozen June 6, 2014 / 12:28 pm


      I’m happy to report that I had excellent results from the Whole 30. I have been migraine free since February. Any headache I have had has responded to some ibuprofen and rest. You can read more about my Whole 30 results here:

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