Migraine and Headache Awareness Week Karla Cornelissen

Migraines, they’re more than ‘just a headache’

Karla Cornelissen has endured debilitating migraines for more than three decades. They come on without warning and have ruined hundreds of nights out over the years.

She was 18 when she started getting them. Now 50, Karla is pinning her hopes on a common theory that they can dissipate with menopause.

“I used to do Home and Community Care at Timboon and District Healthcare Service and I met a lot of elderly people. You’d get chatting about things, like my migraines, and they’d often tell me they suffered too until they went through the change,” Karla said.

“Now, as I’m entering that stage, I’m finding mine aren’t as bad. There’s probably not too many women hoping menopause hurries up.

“I have a few triggers. I know that eye strain from things like driving at night or watching too much television can trigger it, and alcohol, but my hormones have always triggered my migraines as well.

“When I was younger, more fertile and in my prime they were a hundred times worse for me. It was so debilitating…they’d turn me into a zombie.”

Karla said she had worked out over the years how best to deal with the migraines and while medication helped some people it had done little for her.

“I’ve tried every drug on the market. Every time a new one came out, I’d test it and they’d all either make be so sleepy or I’d feel like I was losing my mind,” she said.

“One of them, Topamax, gave me the worst memory problems. I would be driving along and all of a sudden have no idea where I was going. I’d have to stop and look in my diary to find out and then use GPS to find out where I was, it was dreadful.

“Now I take some regular pain killers, which dulls it a bit. I don’t lie down, I just keep going and doing things to distract myself from what is going on.

“But, when they were really bad years ago I used to get them every month for at least five days at a time. There wasn’t much that helped…I’d take some painkillers and stand in the shower with the water on my head, that was about it.”

“I always get them around my right temple…it just bangs away, the nausea arrives, you can’t sleep and you just feel absolutely terrible.”

Karla said she also believed preservatives in food were a trigger and her daughter was proof that eating well and exercising could help migraine sufferers.

“I can’t have artificial sugar or I’ll get one. My daughter also used to get them so bad, but she lost some weight, started eating extremely well, jogging and really looking after herself and they are nowhere near as bad now.”

Karla shared her story to help mark Migraine and Headache Awareness Week from September 14-18.

TDHS provides a range of services that might be able to assist in managing headaches and migraines, like Women’s Health Clinic and Dietitian. Please contact 5558 6000 for more information or to make an appointment. You can also contact the Timboon Medical Clinic on 5558 6088 to make an appointment with a GP.
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