Daisy Swaffer’s whole life is consumed by migraine. She reveals her symptoms, why she had to give up work because of the disease, and what she does to manage the pain.
The first time Daisy Swaffer experienced a migraine attack, she felt she was going to die. “I thought something had exploded in my brain and it was the end for me,” she says. “That was how bad the pain was. Now it’s like that every time.”
Daisy has been so badly affected by chronic migraine that she had to give up her IT job at the University of York. “If I’d had better care from my GP at that initial stage, I might not now be in a situation where I can’t even work,” she says. “But back then, the doctors gave me some tablets and sent me away. I didn’t get any more support, which meant my migraine got worse and worse.” Before stopping working altogether, Daisy typically had between 18 and 21 days of migraine a month and would experience pain every day.
You have to take a holistic view of your life and constantly monitor which factors will lower your threshold and trigger a migraine.
Daisy’s migraine started relatively late in life. She was 29 and her trigger event seems to be a particularly stressful period in her life. Apart from the crippling pain, she can experience other symptoms. These vary, but can include sensitivity to light, nausea and vertigo. Movement is excruciating.
Taking a holistic view of migraine management
Daisy has since been referred to a specialist and learned how to manage the disease more effectively. “You have to take a holistic view of your life and constantly monitor which factors will lower your threshold and trigger a migraine,” she says.
Because of COVID-19, she hasn’t had access to a newly-approved migraine-specific preventative medicine; and, of the other preventatives available, only one has proved tolerable and its effect is limited. She also takes a number of acute medications that can abort an attack — but only if taken at exactly the right time, “which is difficult to judge.”
Daisy’s advice to anyone struggling with chronic migraine is to share stories and find support from other migraine patients on the internet. “But the biggest thing is to talk to people who are close to you and get them to read what you’re reading,” she says. “They’re going to need to understand what you’re going through if they are to remain part of your life.”