• Becca

That Time Medication Fried My Brain


I’ve not been a migraine sufferer very long. I was diagnosed with chronic migraines about two and half years ago after a very sudden onset of the disorder. They appeared when I was job hunting for the first time. After rejection after rejection, my head just one day decided to falter and boom, migraines have been a part of my life ever since. How do migraines relate to mental health? Well, after 21 years living a relatively normal and healthy life, the diagnosis came as a shock. Suddenly I wasn’t the healthy person I once was. It took me a while to come to terms with the diagnosis, as I didn’t feel like it fit me. One day I could be well, and the next I would be stuck in bed, not being able to move. This was not how I wanted to start my graduate life!

I saw a neurologist, for which I was very lucky to be able to do. A lot of GPs just don’t know what to do with you if you have migraines. This is when I was introduced to medication. I was first prescribed amitriptyline, which is an anti-depressant. Apparently it’s meant to help migraines, but all I heard was the word ‘anti-depressant.’ This is the problem with stigma. My first thought was immediately ‘what will people think?’ This is terrible, as it’s only a medication. However, because society has conditioned us to back away from medication for mental health problems, I ended up feeling deflated. Even though I wasn’t taking it for a mental health issue, I still felt down. Needless to say, it was not the drug for me. However, I did feel more mellow on it. Then the doc wanted me to try topirimate. This is an anti-epilepsy drug, but again it helps migraines. It’s funny what medications are used for treatment. I was assured that this drug would definitely help, so I couldn’t wait to try it. Boy, was I naive!

Whilst the medication did reduce the severity and frequency of my migraine attacks, the side effects were unbearable. It made my brain fuzzy, which meant that I would forget words when speaking or use the wrong word in a sentence. When I would read sentences, I couldn’t spell or proofread, which is a big component of my job. All of this made me a big anxious mess.

I had never experienced anxiety like it. Because my memory was also impaired, I began making mistakes at work. It made my outlook on life very bleak. I’m a perfectionist, and if I’m not performing well then I get upset. Everything felt like the end of the world, the things I was getting upset about were really not worth crying over. I’ve never been one to overreact, so my family and friends were so confused when I would get worked up about trivial things. And I felt frustrated because I could see I was upsetting them, but I didn’t know how to help myself.

Come off the medication, I hear you say. I should have done earlier, but I was determined to see it through. I kept thinking the anxiety would pass, but it didn’t. It just got worse. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, and I broke down in a dentist’s office, of all places. She was kind but bemused, and I left feeling the worst I’d ever been. If the world ended there and then, I wouldn’t have minded. It was then I decided I couldn’t live like that anymore – constantly on edge and unhappy. I made an appointment with the doc and insisted I come off them. Fast forward a few months, I’m so glad I did. I’m back to my normal, less anxious self. I can read, write and speak normally, and just feel generally happier. It took me a few months to regain my confidence, and there are days it’s not totally back, but I’m getting there.

What I learnt from this particular experience:

  • Research meds before you take them. You know your body better than the doctor, and you know how much you can take.

  • On the other hand, don’t research too much. You don’t want to look up every symptom and then magically develop them. A lot of symptoms are psychosomatic.

  • Reach out to family and friends. They will be your anchor when you are falling apart.

If you would like to submit a story, anonymously or under your name, please get in touch! You can fill out the contact form on the website or email youmeandanxiety@outlook.com!​

Disclaimer: Medication reacts to each person in a different way, any experiences highlighted in this post are from personal experience and won't necessarily be the same for someone else.

#medication #migraine #anxiety #antidepressants