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The Migraine Thief Breaks My Heart

My oldest niece has been accepted to the college of her choice. I’m so, so proud of her and excited for the adventures awaiting her. And I’m crying because I missed her middle and high school years. Debilitating chronic migraine robbed me of the chance to watch, and help, my niece grow up.

Much of what migraine has taken from me I can still have — the career, time with friends, travel — but kids don’t stop changing. There’s so much I wanted to do and be for my niece and her sister and brother. Yes, they know I love them and that I’d visit and call more if I could (at least as well as kids can understand the havoc chronic illness wreaks on an adult’s life), but I wanted to be present as they grew up. I wanted to watch them mature from kids to preteens to teenagers to young adults. I wanted to be an adult they could call for help navigating the perils of adolescence.

The opportunity hasn’t completely passed me by. I truly believe I’m on a path to more migraine improvement. My oldest niece is 17, the younger one is 15, my nephew is 13. Many chances remain for me to be in their lives, especially if I do continue to feel better. Still, I’ve missed so many years, so many pivotal experiences, so much growth and change.

I’ve said that I don’t think I could survive these years of horrendous migraines without my innate optimism. I can always find the silver lining. Not today. Knowing I may have good times ahead cannot make up for all that I’ve missed with these kids I love so much.

My heart is breaking.

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Depression in Women with Migraine Linked to Childhood Abuse

Researchers have found a fascinating connection between migraine, depression and childhood abuse in women. I didn’t want to miss any important details, so the American Academy of Neurology‘s press release follows. (Emphasis added.)

Depression in Women with Migraine Linked to Childhood Abuse

Childhood abuse is more common in women with migraine who suffer depression than in women with migraine alone, according to a study published in the September 4, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“This study confirms adverse experiences, particularly childhood abuse, predispose women to health problems later in life, possibly by altering neurobiological systems,” said study author Gretchen Tietjen, MD, with the University of Toledo-Health Science Campus and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers surveyed 949 women with migraine about their history of abuse, depression and headache characteristics. Forty percent of the women had chronic headache, more than 15 headaches a month, and 72 percent reported very severe headache-related disability. Physical or sexual abuse was reported in 38 percent of the women and 12 percent reported both physical and sexual abuse in the past. These results for abuse are similar to what’s been reported in the general population.

The association between migraine and depression is well established, but the mechanism is uncertain. The study found women with migraine who had major depression were twice as likely as those with migraine alone to report being sexually abused as a child. If the abuse continued past age 12, the women with migraine were five times more likely to report depression.

“The finding that a variety of somatic symptoms were also more common in people with migraine who had a history of abuse suggests that childhood maltreatment may lead to a spectrum of disorders, which have been linked to serotonin dysfunction,” said Tietjen.

“Our findings contribute to the mounting data that show abuse in childhood has a powerful effect on adult health disorders and the effect intensifies when abuse lasts a long time or continues into adulthood,” said Tietjen. “The findings also support research suggesting that sexual abuse may have more impact on health than physical abuse and that childhood sexual abuse victims, in particular, are more likely to be adversely affected.”

The study also found women with depression and migraine were twice as likely to report multiple types of abuse as a child compared to those without depression, including physical abuse, fear for life, and being in a home with an adult who abused alcohol or drugs.

“Despite the high prevalence of abuse and the increased health costs associated with it, few physicians routinely ask migraine patients about abuse history,” said Tietjen. “By questioning women about their abuse history we’ll be able to better identify those women with migraine at increased risk for depression.”