Behind the Achy Smile
Erica Carrasco is a 38 year old migraine blogger in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She helps her husband, Stephen, raise their two teens, Marissa and Noah, through a life with chronic pain and neurological symptoms. Their daughter, who also lives with migraine disease, is a junior in high school learning how to thrive with Erica at her side. In her blog, she also talks about missing her career as a Cyber Security Consultant with the United States Department of Defense. Erica lost three jobs in this career field because of migraine and now is learning how to let go and find a new purpose through migraine advocacy. With a candid and open dialogue, Erica is a Speak Your Migraine Network advocate and shines a light on a life with migraine with her husband. Together they discuss what their family life is like and how important advocacy is to the migraine community.
Get to Know Me
Trying to smile through the pain? Yea, me too. If you’re here, reading my twisted thoughts, then you will understand my life with migraine. It might be your life too. My name is Erica Carrasco and I’m from a place called Midland, Texas where high school football and oil rigs reign. We now live in Fayetteville, NC to be closer to better doctors. Together with my husband, we have two amazing teenagers – both in high school. The four of us all deal with medical and mental conditions, so we know pain, depression, anxiety, and obsessive thoughts well. We smile at our downfalls everyday. Together, we work diligently to climb out of this negative and cavernous pit into bright, beautiful sunlight through our daily diet, counseling, and supplementation of deficient vitamins and a few inappropriate memes we find on Facebook. I’m sure there will be a blog or two on each of these things here and there, so stay tuned!
Why do I sometimes find myself stressed, anxious, sad or depressed? So many reasons. HEALTH (or UN-HEALTH), Family Life, TEENAGERS, and disappointment – can’t really stay away from those. I was diagnosed with a rare illness known as Hemiplegic Migraine (HM) in 2009 after battling symptoms of stroke and epilepsy since 2004. It didn’t take long for these strange set of symptoms to become chronic. HM causes stroke-like symptoms and seizure-like spasms (in my body anyway) over and over every time I have a migraine, definitely not your typical migraine. I scare the @#$%! out of people when they see it happen. It’s definitely frightening. It’s also comical when others see my family act like it’s just another day, not too worried because they’ve dealt with these episodes as long as I have. Though, they do freak out when I have a cluster of them and need to be taken to the ER. Those are frightful ones because, honestly, they can get dangerous. My teens were babies when these started, they were 2 and 4 years old. Sometimes migraine pain isn’t part of the symptoms, which makes this condition very hard to diagnose.
While most professionals say the symptoms of HM are completely reversible, I beg to differ. I have had lasting mental effects, as well as tremors and weakness to the left side of my body that seem pretty permanent to me.
In addition, I have myoclonic seizures and simple partial seizures that I am currently undergoing evaluation for. After a lengthy evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, we figured out that the “myoclonic seizures” are actually body jerks I get from stress, ALL KINDS OF STRESS. Both emotional and physical stressors include: physical body pain (from as simple as a stubbed toe to a severe migraine), emotional stress (from happy excitement to anger), and past memories that cause a reaction. The “simple partial seizures” are actually Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES) that are triggered by the physical stress (not emotional) to my body from a severe migraine. My migraines are so taxing on my body that my brain just can’t handle it and brings on these seizures. STRESS is a major trigger for me (as you can tell), as well as an electrolyte imbalance, followed by a major hormone imbalance. Good times.
I am currently following the Ketogenic Died for Weight Loss, while continuing to the appropriate foods found in the BALi Eating Plan (BALi stands for Basic, Alkaline, Low insulin) developed by Roby Mitchell from Amarillo, TX.
I have lost almost 30 pounds since June 2016 (as of this writing on December 5, 2016) by following the recommended food list and tips found in the book, Simply BALi by Dawn M Corridore and Jen W Harris. While that last statement is completely true, I was advised by Mayo Clinic doctors to follow a Low-Glycemic plan. I chose to combine the Ketogenic Diet (Keto in 28) together with the BALi Diet. That means I am eating BALi while maintaining the Ketogenic macro requirements for my body. I have cut out all non-keto breads, pastas, and higher glycemic foods completely. I am doing my best to eat only those approved Keto foods from the BALi food list. The foods I have eaten have been really tasty so I’m happy to continue with this modified Keto-BALi eating plan. So far only a couple medications have ever worked for me. Currently, I am taking Vimpat (a seizure medication), not for epilepsy, but for Migraine. It has helped tremendously to keep the severe migraines away, thus keeping the NES away.
With the Non-Epileptic Seizure (NES) diagnosis I have been advised to seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) from a successful therapist with results for people with PTSD and chronic illness. Mayo Clinic doctor’s think I may have PTSD from the car accident I had in 2004, which is the year I began this new life. They have also suggested C-Spine physical therapy. I am very excited about this one, I’ve had so many muscle issues in my neck and shoulder’s, it’s ridiculous at this point. I have also given in to Botox for Migraine. I’m terrified, but medications, clean diets, natural remedies, etc. have not stopped these migraines completely, which is why I am unable to work or drive anymore. I have a migraine every day…all day long. The only thing that changes is the pain level on any given day. I’ve learned to live with the migraines at a 4 and below. But anything around a 5 and above and you’ll find me in bed, still smiling until I just can’t.
The following lists contain both non-monetized and monetized links. These links are products I use personally and work for me to help keep symptoms down as much as possible. Everyone is different, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. If you try any of these products, I truly hope they help you like they help me!!
- Hemiplegic Migraine (HM) | International Hemiplegic Migraine Foundation (IHMF) Facebook Group
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
- Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES)
- Diabetes Type II
- Raynaud’s Disease
- Hormone Imbalance
- Electrolyte Imbalance
- I removed this section. It’s best to discuss medications with your doctor and not try to make decisions based off what works for me. Everyone’s bodies are different, what I take might not be what you need.
Supplements and My Dosages:
Please do not start any of the following supplements without first discussing with your doctor or provider. These dosages are not meant for you. I manage these dosages with a qualified professional who reviews my blood tests regularly to ensure there is no toxicity or adverse side effects, as I am very sensitive to some medications and supplements.
- Magnesium Citrate (400 mg – 1 capsule – 2x/day)
- Electrolyte Supplement (1 capsule – 2x/day) – Health by Principle brand
- Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) with Pepsin (650mg – up to 5 capsules taken with meds/supplements to boost absorption)
- Myo-tone (2 tab as needed) – for joints and muscles – LOVE THIS STUFF!!!
Electrolytes & Drinks:
- Nuun Tablets : Easy to carry, just dissolves right into a bottle of water.
- Zico Coconut Water : I buy the bottles that have 1010mg of Potassium since I am a bit deficient, these work best for me
- HydroCoco Electrolyte Water : I personally like the Pineapple flavor 🙂
- Evolution Essential Greens 5.2 oz -or- Evolution Essential Greens 32 oz : These drinks are really great for migraines in my opinion, but I have a difficult time drinking them. I don’t really like green veggies, so I force it down since it helps so much.
- Organic Peppermint Tea : I use for my nausea, nothing works better for me! No sugar,
I use raw honey. I now use pure Stevia. Be aware of the Stevia brand you buy. Not all are created equal.
- Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss – I have started with the book Keto in 28 to help me out. The recipes are so tasty.
- BALi Eating Plan (Basic, Alkaline, Low insulin). You can find the free food list here.
- Simply BALi Guide & Cookbook : I use this book, best thing ever!
- Organic, Non-GMO foods
- Raw dairy cheeses and milk if I can find them
- If I go out to eat, I drink water only and try to choose salads with grilled meats and lots of veggies. I do not eat the dressings, I use lemon instead. We don’t go out to eat very much. When we do, I stay away from fried foods, sauces, dressings, American cheese (like Kraft or fake cheese), potatoes, breads, etc. Reason? I have no idea how much sodium, msg, sugar, or ingredients that will trigger symptoms or give me stomach issues. Who wants to spend their evening in the restroom because the fried chicken smelled so good! Ugh, I love Popeye’s Chicken, BUT not enough to spend my day in the restroom regretting it. Ha!
I’m not perfect by any means, I have days where I will eat junk and hope it will not affect me in a negative way. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve learned my body and I know what chocolates I can eat safely and what fried foods won’t send me crouched over with nausea.To keep myself from triggering a migraine related to blood sugar levels, I am now a pretty strict Keto eater. I have not cheated since I began to incorporate the ketogenic lifestyle with my BALi lifestyle. I have found many recipes on Pinterest for ketogenic desserts and breads that within both the keto and BALi lifestyle. What I have figured out is learning what oils are being used. Some oils DO NOT work well with my digestive system, like canola oil. If you go down this path, you will learn your body too. <3
Update: I’ve totally cheated and now I feel awful and I’ve gained weight. My husband decided to go Keto with me and we’re on the Keto path again, but together this time. It really helped with my hormone imbalance, my hunger level, and my sugar imbalance.
Please be advised that some of the links provided are affiliate/referral links and I do receive a small commission/store credit if you make a purchase using those links. This does not cost you any extra when you make a purchase. I very much appreciate your support of this blog in doing so!
Comments are closely monitored in an effort to maintain a positive environment. While constructive criticism and suggestions are welcome, negative comments with no purpose other than to spread malice will be deleted. All opinions are genuinely my own.