“Migraine affects my memory” – Siobhan Condron, Patient Story

“Migraine affects my memory. I can’t remember the names of my nearest and dearest during an attack.” – Siobhan Condron, Patient Story

The doctor said something to the effect of, “It seems you have migraine”. I remember thinking, “why is he telling me this”? I know I have migraine, what I need from him is treatment. I was sixteen, but being the youngest of twelve, several of whom also lived with migraine, I knew that the throbbing in the side of my head, the scintillations before the pain, and the photophobia were all migraine symptoms. I had other symptoms that I didn’t recognise as migraine, partly because of timing – the nausea has always come before the headache for me, sometimes even the day before, so it took decades for me to make the link. Similarly, it was decades before I linked the need to urinate frequently with the onset of an attack. Unfortunately, at that stage, when I was first officially diagnosed, despite knowing that it was migraine, the doctor did not prescribe anything or refer me on to a specialist.

Migraine has been a lifelong companion for me. People often talk about how the onset of migraine changed their lives. For me, it is probably more instructive to talk about how getting proper, effective treatment for migraine changed my life. I was thirty-nine when I first saw a neurologist about my migraine. That came about because at the suggestion of my pharmacist, I changed GPs. My new and current GP, prescribed BETA Blockers, as had my previous GP. As before, they had caused extreme drowsiness and moderate depression, so I stopped using them with my GPs knowledge. She was at a loss at that point as to what she could prescribe, so she gave me a neurology referral. The neurologist prescribed a Calcium Channel Blocker, which worked.

One of the things I remember most was the next summer, when I was forty years of age, I was walking down to Carraikgollogan car park from Lead Mines Chimney, with my then friend (now my wife). I was struck by all the colours in front of me, the various shades of lush green, the pinks, yellow and blues of the surrounding flora. I commented with surprise upon how vivid the colours were. My companion was confused and said that they were always like that in the summer. For me though, they never had been, summer had been devoid of notable colour. What was for others a vibrant colour palate, was for me washed out, like something that has been left too long in the sun.

I got a year or so of reduced migraine attacks out of that medication. I stopped taking it for a while and the affect continued, but then it slowly slid into daily migraine again over about six months. I resumed taking the medication, but this time the side effects were much worse. My arms and legs started jerking at night, so my sleep became very disturbed, which triggered more migraine attacks. I stopped taking the Calcium Channel Blocker and started on a low dose of Tricyclic. After a couple of months, it started to reduce the frequency of the attacks to about 3 per week, and I was able to handle the tiredness in the mornings caused by the drugs. Eventually after increasing the dose and even changing Tricyclic, the migraine attacks came back daily.

Through all of this I was working in a very busy management role and studying for a master’s degree at night. I remember typing my dissertation with a very dim headlamp on so I could see the keyboard without having to turn on the light. The light hurt my head even more and increased the nausea. I wrote my whole dissertation with constant, crippling migraine. I got 2% off a first. I believe that if I hadn’t had migraine, I would have got a first.

Migraine affects my memory. I can’t remember the names of my nearest and dearest during an attack. It is ok at home, but in work, when I must present at a meeting, and I can’t remember the words for things. It gets embarrassing and makes me look incompetent. I lost count of the number of social occasions I had to miss, because I couldn’t think, couldn’t see properly and was in too much pain to go. I also can’t count the amount I was just about able to go to, but felt so sick while there, and couldn’t talk to anyone because of the Aphasia. I am fortunate in that I have effective treatment now, so my migraine is episodic these days. Long may that last!

Siobhan Condron, Patient Story

*Please note, this story is for educational purposes only. It cannot be reused without permissions from The Migraine Association of Ireland to protect each patient’s GDPR rights. If you would like to use this story, please contact us first to request permission. Thank you.*