Growing up with chronic migraine

By: Conner Ladley, who lives with chronic migraine

16th May 2023

Migraine is something that I have lived with for over a decade, I feel as if migraine has grown up with me. I remember as a child I would get a pain on one side of my head, although only for a short period of time, and just thought it was normal.

Fast forward a few years from that, around the age of 15-16, I was just away to finish my fourth year at school and was away to sit my exams and had my first bout of what I now know as chronic migraine. At this point, I didn’t have access to any migraine relievers, the doctor who I saw at the time told me to just take ibuprofen and paracetamol as I don’t think he understood migraine. I then went back to a second doctor a few months later, as the paracetamol and ibuprofen were making me feel sick and my migraine attacks felt worse than before. This is when I started on preventive medication to try and prevent my migraine attacks from occurring. This worked for a while, although I was still having to use over-the-counter painkillers.

When I was a teenager, people around me didn’t understand migraine that well and the effect that it can have on your mental and physical wellbeing, something that I am still trying to teach people about today as there is still that stigma that ‘it’s just a headache’.

Onto my sixth year at school (around 17 years old) and my migraine attacks came back and I went back to the doctors. This doctor prescribed me some new medication and also a triptan to relieve my migraine attacks. She also referred me to the neurologist in Aberdeen and this was the first doctor that I feel properly understood migraine.

Over the next few years it was touch and go with my migraine, the medication would work for a while but then my body would get used to the medication and it became less effective.

This is still what happens to this day, however, I have learned to live with my migraine and try to not let my migraine attacks interrupt my daily life. I have been on over eight different medications with none of them being specifically made for migraine. My current medications of Candesartan and Nortriptyline seem to be working well although if this fails then my next step is Botox which I don’t really want to have. However, if it helps my migraine then I will try it!

Sometimes, however, when I am having a bout of chronic migraine my mental health is affected. I am very lucky that the people around me understand how my migraine affects me and what they can do to help.

When I get a migraine attack, my first warning sign is I yawn a lot and have a pain in my right jaw. This then moves on to a dull pain on the right hand side of my head, it’s intense. I also get a watery eye and sometimes feel sensitive to sounds. If I can take a triptan at the first sign of my head becoming sore the migraine attack can be relieved in as little 30 minutes, however, if I leave it longer the attack can go on for a few days.

I occasionally wake up during the night with a migraine attack and these are the worst ones that I experience as they can involve my body shaking, feeling very warm and a very intense pain in my head.

Supporting The Migraine Trust

Since 2018, I have fundraised for The Migraine Trust a number of times. I undertook a 10K in Inverness and in 2021 I took part in the Banchory Beast Race which is a 10km assault course. The Beast Race then led to a parliamentary motion for myself and friend Graham when our local MSP saw the fundraising that we had done for The Migraine Trust.

Conner and his friend Graham before The Beast Race.
Conner (left) and his friend Graham before the Beast Race

Following this in May 2022, I then met with MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to help launch a migraine toolkit for parliamentarians with The Migraine Trust. This was a great experience as I got to talk about my experience of migraine and also got to meet some of The Migraine Trust team.

Conner with MSPs in Holyrood.
Conner with MSPs at Holyrood

More recently, I have had a talk with a company regarding using me for migraine focus groups, videos and interviews for pharmaceutical companies and this makes me believe that I can help get rid of the stigma of ‘it’s just a headache’.

Read more about the launch of our migraine toolkit for parliamentarians in the UK here. Learn more about chronic migraine here.