Migraine and PMS
by M.B.

From the age of 19 until the age of 51, I had terrible migraines most of the time. They would sometimes last for weeks. I’m sure my children remember me as an invalid during those years. They peaked around the age of 28 or so. At first, I took aspirin, under the impression it was "harmless." It didn’t work very well, but if you take 15 or so, you will experience a buzzing in the ears and sleepiness; it always helps to sleep.

I was so dizzy, even when I didn’t have a headache or had taken aspirin that I went to a doctor, who warned me that I had taken so much aspirin that I had caused tiny hemorrhages in my blood vessels and should never take it again. I had no money, but in the sixties, you could get psychiatric care free. A doctor at a charitable institution referred me to psychotherapy on the grounds, I suppose, that headaches had to be psychosomatic. I attended a group therapy off and on for 7 years, with no results - at least in regard to the headaches. They gave me tranquilizers and sleeping pills and I began to experience terrible nightmares and even hallucinations in the daytime.

Eventually, I was able to see a medical doctor regularly (after one of my therapists told me he considered me one of the healthiest people psychologically that he’d met) and obtained relief with codeine. I quickly developed a tolerance and my doctor, worried that I was becoming addicted, decided that I needed tranqs again. He prescribed a number of them with frightening side effects, and even put me on thorazine once - all horrible drugs.

But I was taking sometimes 18 codeines per day and I began to realize that an overdose was a real possibility, as I was counting my pills, unable to remember exactly how many I’d taken or when. I had no difficulty quitting the pills when I realized my life was in danger, but I was left with the pain. A new drugstore medication came along at that time which worked better than many things, although I still had to take at least 7 for a bad headache, and then of course, I was too sleepy to function. Also, they made me feel unpleasant.

I had smoked pot in my teens, and had heard it made a good pain reliever, but because in my experience, pot intensified feelings, I was afraid. Finally, a friend talked me into it after a three-week headache - and it was gone. And pot - while it is not side-effect free, exactly - did not put me to sleep or make me lazy.

I accomplished more around the house, and experienced a surge in creativity in both my writing and my artwork. I still had to use over-the-counter stuff too much, as I had to work in offices, and of course the drug war terrorized me. I have been afraid of keeping any marijuana in the house for a number of years.

When I approached my middle forties, the headaches began to slow down and I was able to note when I got the. It appears, now that I had one of the world’s worst cases of PMS! And at 50 the migraines left. I never need to take more than two drugstore pills, or one codeine (if someone lends me one - I suppose that’s illegal too, but codeine in small amounts is free of the unpleasant side effects of the drugstore stuff) and I only smoke pot on occasion for recreation. I can’t think of those headaches even now without a shudder of fear. Even between migraines I lived in fear of them. Pot was the best pain reliever I used, and I am sure it never did my body the harm that I may have done with drugstore medications (all of which have acetaminophen - useless but omnipresent) and could have done in the days when I was counting pills and the doctors were treating me like a malingerer trying to get drugs.

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