In the past year I’ve tried a variety of migraine prophylactics and analgesics. None of the prophylactics made any difference and the side effects were usually very similar: dizziness, lethargy, brain fog. In short, not that different from the migraines. There was one prophylactic which had a spectacularly intense side effect: I’ve had twilight anaesthetics which less punch than Endep! It’s sort of funny now, but on a day when I was the responsible for a child and a baby it was a scary feeling. It did not warrant a second try just to see if my body would get used to it and I was meant to try it for three weeks.
All this trial and error brought me finally to the point of giving Botox a try. In order to get it on the PBS, you have to meet strict criteria but it’s all worth it if it works. Not meeting the criteria would mean that you’ve either found medication which works, or the migraines have decreased in number and effect on your life.
My neurologist have me an information booklet about Botox for migraines and it was like reading a description of myself. Apart from the last year, I have been pretty high-functioning with the migraines so I have often found myself thinking, “Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe I’m making more of it than what it is”. There are moments of relief, when the neurologist first confirmed that I was experiencing chronic migraines, when I read that description of me in the botox booklet, moments that help me to accept that yes, it is real, I’m not making it up or making excuses for things that really are just personal failings.
Then I have a day like yesterday. A day when I can actually think clearly for the first time in what feels like forever. A day when suddenly, things that I struggled with the day before, come so easily it is ridiculous. Yesterday gave me hope. Hope that I can get back to myself, hope that I can have a normal functioning brain, hope that I can be the person, mum, wife, friend that I really want to be but have been incapable of being.
I had my first round of botox injections nearly four weeks ago. 31 injections in total, in my forehead, head, neck and shoulders. The four in my forehead were really painful and the neurologist did them slowly. Those are the ones that will have the most obvious side effect of causing drooping eyebrows should the Botox not be infected in just the right spot. The rest were quicker to do, all up it took about 15 minutes for the actual injections, but there was a good 15-20 minute prep time plus the consultation immediately before to discuss again the possible side-effects etc. In total the appointment was about an hour long. I’m just so grateful that #SnuggleBub is such a chilled baby; I’d taken her in with me because I was thinking the whole appointment would be just 15-20 minutes long!
I found it interesting that many of the injection sites were points that I know to trigger pain. In hindsight it makes sense but I was a bit surprised at the time. I did find myself thinking that I would never put myself through that just for beauty… But then realised that I was being quite hypocritical as IPL and waxing treatments are no walk in the park either yet I think nothing of putting myself through them on a regular basis. I guess the difference is that I don’t do that just for appearances sake either, it is all about being comfortable.
Though the injections were painful, when they were over the was a sense of, “Well, that wasn’t so bad really”. I was warned that the injections could make the migraines worse for the first month as my body adjusted, so I knew not to expect it to be a miracle cute where I would wake up the next morning with angels singing and no pain at all in my head. The first few days I was tender at the injection sites though not all at once. In the morning it might be one site that was show and in the afternoon a different site. I did experience fairly constant neck pain, especially on my left side. The neck pain worsened over the next 10 days, making it really painful to look down. Painkillers made no difference and I was thinking that as a trade-off, it did not cut the mustard. I found it far harder to manage normal life with the neck pain than I do with migraines. I foolishly jumped online to see if this was a common side-effect and read horror stories of people who still had the neck pain two years after having their one and only set of injections. I chose to focus on the people who reported neck pain for two weeks and then a massive improvement on the migraines!
In the third week, the neck pain began to subside and now it is only intermittent and is not affecting my daily life anymore.
The Botox took a few days to fully take effect on the muscles, so at first I though there was going to be no change in my expressions. But no, it has now well and truly taken effect and although I can wrinkle up my forehead, I can no longer frown. It is the bizzarest feeling. I tend to crown when I’m concentrating or thinking, I’ve done it my whole life. My mum was always trying to get me to stop frowning and I’ve had so many people ask if I’m okay when I’m just lost in thought. So far it looks like both our children have inherited my concentration frown too. The first thing one of my work colleagues said when I introduced her to a three month old #Monsieur was, “Oh look! He’s got your concentration frown! I know that frown!” Well it turns out that Botox is the best thing for making me aware of when I’m frowning… Or trying to frown and failing as is the case now! It does feel very weird to have muscles which just won’t listen to you no matter what.
As for how it is affecting the migraines, well I’m still having them but I haven’t had a full day’s dose of pain relief in two weeks, which is huge for me. Yesterday I didn’t even take pain relief until lunchtime; until now it had been pretty much the first thing I’ve done every morning. I’ve had a couple of nights where my head hasn’t been throbbing when I’ve gotten up to feed #SnuggleBub. I don’t usually take pain relief overnight so sometimes the middle of the night feeds have been challenging. I’m also noticing that the pain relief is not zombifying me the way it has been. The side effect of drowsiness had not been mixing well with broken sleep so it had reached a point where deciding to take Relpax was choosing to be completely zonked for the whole day. It felt like a no-win situation – I was either plodding through the brain fog of a migraine or the zombie state of being medicated.
As I write this, I’m on day three of not having severe brain fog. The pain is still there but it is such a relief to be able to think. To be able to focus enough to write this post. Not to have used all my week’s worth of focus and concentration on work, leaving nothing for my personal life. Given that I only work two days a week, I should have plenty of brain power leftover each week for my own life, but that’s not how it has been.
I am cautiously hopeful.
Next assessment, and Botox treatment is in early November. Then there will be another assessment three months later, by which stage we will know whether this is a treatment to continue. In total, six months trial but given that it’s had more effect so far than any of the medications I’ve trialled over the past year, the six month trial doesn’t worry me.
I wanted to include before and after photos but the photos of me trying to frown just look like I’m squinting, so I recorded a video for the full comedic effect!