The Debilitating Life Of A Migraine Sufferer: 25 Excruciating Days A Month
Since she was eight years old, 21-year-old Janie Abiharb has woken up most days with a throbbing migraine, causing a dull ache on one side of her head.
The debilitating neurological condition causes Janie to suffer through 25 chronic headaches "on a good month".
Janie's migraines are triggered by a long list of factors. They include strong smells like cologne, bright lights, air conditioner, heavy winds, sleeping in too late, not getting enough sleep, carrying a heavy bag, tying up her hair and alcohol
Migraines have affected not only Janie's grades but her social life, with the South Sydney student regularly having to cancel plans due to chronic pain.
"I've lost a lot of friends because I can't go out and they stop getting in touch," Janie told 10daily.
"I've had migraines all my life. No one takes chronic migraine seriously or gets it because I'm smiling most of the time," Janie said.
The Law and International Relations university student works up to 40 hours in retail a week and takes four tablets a day to manage her "excruciating" migraines.
Janie has tried everything from Botox to codeine to get some relief but quit taking codeine after she developed a heavy reliance on the addictive prescription drug that she said could have "killed" her.
"I cried when codeine became a prescription drug and my mum went and bought heaps of packets to help me but now I've stopped cold turkey. I'm happy it became a prescription drug because it could have killed me," Janie told 10daily.
Coupled with nausea and for some, hallucinations, migraines are much more severe than your average headache. According to Associate Professor and Neurologist Karl Ng, 29 percent of women and 12 percent of men suffer from migraines.
He told 10 daily that migraines are vascular, related to the swelling of blood vessels and occur when there are changes in someone's hormonal or external environment.
"Some people suffer visual disturbances and see sparkly lights, zig zags or shapes. Others feel like they're having a stroke and can't feel one side of their body," Associate Professor Ng said.
Professor Matthew Kiernan from the Brain Foundation said migraine sufferers should avoid taking codeine as it generates dependency and can cause chronic withdrawal, resulting in further migraines.
"It's very hard to stop migraines in people who are pre-dispositioned to them. What we're aiming for is to limit the frequency," Professor Kiernan said.
"Migraine sufferers should realise there's a stress component to them and focus on lifestyle management. This includes regular food and fluids, not missing any meals and practising yoga and pilates," he said.
For Janie, who studies at The University of New South Wales and was the youngest person to intern at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, her biggest concern is how her migraines will impact her future.
"I sometimes worry about my future and how I'll work as a corporate lawyer for 12 hours a day. There are things I can't control like when I need to be in a classroom discussing contract law and there are lights flickering above my head," Janie said.
Janie's migraines are expected to ease as she gets older but the complicated condition affects individuals differently. Still, she carries on fighting the pain and studying and working.
"I do have bad days but every time I get a headache, I count my blessings that I'm able to manage them and live in Australia where we have a good health system. I rarely acknowledge how bad they are until I talk to someone and they tell me how severe my migraines sound," Janie told 10daily.
For more information on how to manage migraines and for access to free support groups, visit the Brain Foundation's Headache Australia website.