Living with Migraine


Migraine is a neurological disorder that is often socially underrated, as it mostly gets confused with the common and occasional headache. As a consequence who suffers from migraine has often to deal with the stress of lack of others understanding.

Living with migraine implies cyclic phases of severe disturbances which lead to the inability to accomplish the most basic duties.
Mere suffers from chronic migraine which is a complication of classified migraines. It includes the cluster or suicide headache, which is characterized by exceptionally painful symptoms.
She estimates that for more than 110 days in a year she’s called to fight her disease as she can, omitting any other task of her personal, social and working life. Often the impossibility to have a full time treatment through the official channels of care forces Mere to an uncontrolled use of medicines, resulting in frequent intoxications.
One important presence in Mere’s life is her elderly father, who in his turn needs to be looked after. Her dedication to him is extraordinary even though, due to migraine, she’s not able to accomplish all the required tasks on a continuous basis.

Migraine has been started to be thoroughly studied and classified since the mid of the 80 only, and, in most countries therapies and patients are not adequately supported by the national health service. For instance, in Italy, where Mere lives, there are an estimated one million of cluster migraine patients (source: SISC Società italiana per lo studio delle cefalee – the Italian Headache Society ) . Nevertheless migraine is not even mentioned in the essential levels of care ( namely the services that the NHS must provide to the whole population, free of charge or with a partial contribution towards the cost ). As a result, patients are often left abandoned to their pain or with no satisfactory treatment.
Only recently a network of specialized headache and neurosurgical centers has started to spread over the national territory.


UPDATE (2014-18): A couple of years ago Mere’s doctors speculated if she could be affected by patent foramen ovale (PFO), a condition of the heart that normally causes no problems and remains undetected throughout life, but in some migraine patients it can be actually the trigger of most attacks. Clinical studies confirmed PFO for Mere and she underwent an endoscopic minimally invasive heart surgery that permanently solved her PFO.
Since then, Mere’s attacks dropped drastically, from 100 a year to just 10. The huge improvement encouraged Mere to realize the dream of her life, painting. So, to finally answer your question, I am now documenting her new life as a watercolor painter, beside professional assignments and other documentary projects.

  • A first and sudden attack of headache strikes Mere. She rarely suffers of such unpredictable assaults and normally she’s used to have a series of progressive prodromes.

  • Meteoropathy is a less documented symptom associated to the headache.  Mere suffers headache when sudden atmospheric changes are in act, such as drops of pressure and raisings of humidity.

  • 89 years old Mere’s father. His everyday life relies much on his daughter’s outstanding dedication and commitment to him.

  • During an attack of headache, Mere’s father is unable to give any support and can only wait in a another room until the attack slowly fades.  Pain is so intense that Mere pretends to be left alone, sheltered in her room away from light.

  • Aura Phase. Since Mere suffers a complication of migraines, is essential for her to foresee which type is next coming, to prevent it. However, she often ends with a ‘drugs lottery’ which must be followed by difficult detoxication sessions.

  • An attempt to block an incoming attack of headache. A Sumatriptan dose is fired through an autoinjector.
    Sumatriptan is a synthetic drug clinically released in the early 90. It’s the first narrow targeted, yet expensive, treatment of headache.

  • An ongoing attack of cluster or suicide migraine. Photophobia is one of the symptoms associated to the headache. Pain is compared by many patients to repeated stabs in one eye and worse than giving birth.

  • Another attack strikes Mere It’s a repeated plot for her father. Sometimes the waiting is struggling as he’s prohibited to  come close to her room to ascertain her clinical conditions.

  • A sensation of rebirth is experimented  by  certain patients that feel unusually refreshed after an attack. Mere, after a very short but severe attack of cluster headache,  allows to open the window, letting the light enter in her room.

  • The aftermath of a headache also affects  the everyday life. The simplest domestic duties are left behind.  Nevertheless, some people feel unusually refreshed or euphoric after an attack.

  • Mere started a therapy of periodical sessions of subcutaneous injections of botulinum toxin A on the scalp and neck. Since then she had a significant reduction of tension-type  and cervicogenic headache attacks.

  • Mere shows a cervical  MRI scan she made in 2004. The clinical study  helped her  to undertake the botulinum toxin A therapy for the tension-type and cervicogenic headache.

  • Mere gives support to her father, hospitalized in the intensive cardiac  care unit for recursive heart problems

  • Taking care of the father is never an option even for the smallest things

  • Mere gives support to her father, hospitalized in the cardiac  care unit for recursive heart problems

  • The aftermath of a headache also affects the everyday life. Simple domestic duties are left behind.

  • After patent foramen ovale (PFO) surgery, Mere’s attacks dropped drastically, from 100 a year to just 10. The huge improvement encouraged Mere to realize the dream of her life, painting.

    Living with Migraine