Suffering migraines can be mentally isolating

LOUISE O’SULLIVAN is now migraine free — but had suffered from them weekly, sometimes daily. She will speak at the launch of ‘My Migraine Voice Report’ by Novartis and Migraine Ireland in Cork next week.
Suffering migraines can be mentally isolating
Migraine is a misunderstood and invisible condition, says Louise. Picture: Stock, posed by model

NEXT week I will have been migraine free for seven months. The gratitude and appreciation I have for that now is something I never take for granted.

Prior to November last year, which is when I last had a migraine, I was enduring them at a frequency I had never experienced before.

What had started at age 20 as maybe one or two migraines a year had developed seven years on to migraines, and various symptoms of them, almost daily and certainly weekly.

I had no idea what had changed to influence such a dramatic turn in my migraines. Truth be told, I still don’t.

This pattern of migraine lasted for just over two years. It tormented me to a point where I was almost afraid to live for fear of it returning. That’s one aspect of migraine I feel is not highlighted enough, the mental isolation of it.

I gave up any kind of food I thought might have triggered it, no sweet things whatsoever, no alcohol, I had to get eight to nine hours sleep, I tried acupuncture, osteopathy, listened to meditations to keep stress at a minimum, ensured I drank plenty of water, avoided overly bright lights, loud noises, I could go on. Managing migraine is walking a trapeze.

I made two further changes between November and December last year and those were to go to a physio and took an allergy test. I found out I had an intolerance to a few things but one major item I cut out was onions, something I would never have suspected, however, it was after my first physio session that my migraines dissipated.

Louise O'Sullivan.
Louise O'Sullivan.

On June 17 in The Glandore, Lapps Quay, an event is being held to mark the launch of the My Migraine Voice Report by Novartis in conjunction with the Migraine Association of Ireland. The report is an Irish based survey of people who suffer with frequent and severe migraine. The event will outline the findings of the report and include a number of guest speakers including the CEO of Migraine Ireland, Mr. Patrick Little, Deputy Michael McGrath, TD, Dr. Eddie O’Sullivan (who will discuss the survey results) and Dr. Sean O’Sullivan of the Bon Secours Hospital Cork who will outline top migraine tips. I was also delighted to be asked to speak at this event giving a personal perspective on migraine and to discuss my migraine journey to date.

One of the main points of this report was focused on the frequency at which migraine can occur. I had been lucky enough for the first seven years of my migraines to have only suffered them on occasion but having experienced them and the changing symptoms at the frequency and level of the past two years I have admiration for migraineurs who suffer like that constantly. It disrupts your life and is undoubtedly debilitating. One of the criteria for taking part in this survey was that you must have experienced four migraines per month for the last three months and so it reached out to those who are truly impacted by this condition on an ongoing basis.

Another element which is impacted by the potential frequency of migraine is of course your professional life. Because migraine is such a misunderstood and invisible condition it can be difficult for employers and colleagues to know how to manage it and absenteeism can often be an issue. I’m lucky enough to be employed in a company that have always been supportive but for those who are not, reaching out to the Migraine Association for information and advice is a good place to start.

So how do you go about managing this condition? The golden rule is to always maintain a diary. This diary, although will take some time to build up, will be your bible in deciphering what your common triggers are, how you can avoid them and how you can handle a migraine when you do suffer one.

Finding your solutions can be long and tedious but when you do it will give you back some element of control over the condition. The Migraine Association of Ireland can provide you with such a diary outlining the severity and duration of pain, what the symptoms were, what the potential triggers were and also what medications, if any, did you use to dissipate the migraine all of which is vital in getting to the root of your migraine management.

Visit for all things migraine and for further details on the findings of the report please visit the Novartis website at

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