It’s “just a headache”, right? How could something that millions and millions of people get every day have such a huge impact on my daily life and ability to function? Well, it’s not “just a headache”. It’s a migraine and it has the ability to turn my world upside down and make it nearly impossible to do even simple everyday tasks. When I have a migraine, it completely stops me in my tracks.
Through the Tunnel, I Saw the Light
I started getting migraines about ten years ago, although at the time, I had no idea that was what I was experiencing. I was still working a corporate job at the time and started having tunnel vision seemingly out of nowhere as I was working at my computer. I could see things in the middle or right in front of my face, but the surrounding areas were dark. I must not have looked right either, as my coworker asked me if I was okay. I literally thought I was going blind.
My boss sent me to the doctor to try and determine what was happening. I explained what I was feeling and the visual disturbance I experienced to the doctor, and was told I was experiencing tunnel vision. The doctor explained to my that this can be a common occurrence prior to a migraine. This was surprising to me as I had never had a migraine before. Sure enough, a few days later, I got my first migraine.
Identifying My Triggers
When I first started getting migraines, they were no where near as severe and debilitating as they are now. Through the years, I have been trying to figure out my triggers, or what may be the cause of my migraines, but have been generally unsuccessful. Common triggers can be anything from smells to foods to sounds, stress, and even medications. I knew if I figured out what was causing my migraines, I might be able to prevent future attacks.
About four years ago, I was able to determine that eggs are a trigger for me. I completely eliminated eggs from my diet and was successful in avoiding having a migraine for about a year and a half. I was so excited to finally be free of the pain and other symptoms that would take over my life for days at a time. Much to my chagrin however, my migraines returned earlier this year.
The Flare of Flares!
I had travelled abroad earlier this year to facilitate Unchargeables Meet-Ups. The stress of traveling triggered a flare of my autoimmune conditions and, I believe, also triggered the return of my migraines. That was about five months ago and my body is still trying to completely recover. Stress can exacerbate many chronic health issues. Although I’m not currently experiencing acute active stress, as I did when I was stranded, I have chronic stress in my life, which definitely impacts my overall health.
I am currently experiencing my second major migraine flare of the year. My last flare lasted about nine days. Hopefully, this one won’t last quite as long. This is the second time this year that I have a migraine.
My Migraine’s Split Personality
I’ve noticed my body had two ways it tends to cope with migraine flares. The first way is to just sleep it off. I’ll be constantly exhausted and basically sleep until it’s over. I actually prefer that. While I’m obviously not productive while I’m sleeping, that’s the worst of it. When I wake up, the migraine is gone.
The other way my body responds is to do the exact opposite. Unfortunately, that’s how my body is responding to my current migraine. I can not sleep and I’m exhausted. I also can not really do anything else. I just have to lay in a dark and quiet room. I am unable to look at a screen (so no computer or TV), and cannot even talk most of the time. At most, I may have short periods of time when I can tolerate a phone call or talk to my daughter or boyfriend, but I just need to have silence most of the day. I can’t even walk my dog. It’s pure misery!
During these migraines, I’m also extremely sensitive to outside stimuli. Lights, sounds, and smells can all make my symptoms worse and increase the duration of a migraine attack. I am very nauseated. I have to wear sunglasses inside because even the light from a lamp is too much for my sensitive eyes right now. I cannot even tolerate a shower because just the water hitting my skull aggravates my migraine symptoms. My head is pounding, I’m nauseated, and I have a ringing in my ears. There is nothing I can do at this point but just lay in bed and wait for the migraine to pass.
If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, you know how debilitating it can be. I’m sure you’d agree with me that you would do just about anything to make it go away, or better yet, to avoid getting one altogether. I do not take any medications for my migraines, as I have not found any that actually work for me. So what do I do when I get a migraine or feel one coming on? Here are some tips I’ve learned through the years to help when I migraine strikes.
First, it’s very important to stay hydrated. This may help prevent a migraine as well as alleviate some symptoms. The best thing to drink is water, but some people report caffeine can help lessen their symptoms. Severe dehydration can actually cause the brain to pull away from the skull, thereby causing a headache. Dehydration headaches can occur at any time, but are especially common during the summer or in warmer climates, such as the case where I live.
I also take extra magnesium when I’m fighting a migraine, but I’m not positive if it actually works. It was recommended to me by a friend, so it has become part of my migraine maintenance routine. I take double the dosage when I’m actively experiencing a migraine. One study, however, actually found that regular intake of magnesium reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6 percent. Other research has shown that taking daily magnesium supplements can be effective at preventing menstrual-related migraines. Magnesium oxide is most frequently used to prevent migraines.
Be Kind to Yourself
My next self-care tip is to rest as much as possible. Your body needs rest to recover from this attack on the body. Migraines are exhausting! Like I said earlier, during some of my migraines, all I can really do is sleep, while during the other, my symptoms will not allow me to sleep. Even when I cannot sleep, it is important to rest. I try to do this by unplugging and eliminating external stimuli that may further aggravate migraine symptoms. I avoid light and sounds and just lock myself in my bedroom with the curtains closed all day.
Another thing I’ve found helpful in dealing with migraine symptoms is massaging peppermint oil on my temples and in the back of my neck. Peppermint oil contains menthol, which can help muscles relax and ease pain. This is usually most effective for me either when the migraine first starts or when it is about to end. If my migraine is severe, the relief is very short-lived, only about ten minutes, but I will take any relief I can get.
With my most recent migraine, I decided to try something new. I have been experiencing a stiff neck, which I don’t actually get with every migraine. I have been using a CBD-infused muscle rub. I have been massaging it from about the base of my skull though my upper back and have actually noticed some relief. Some people also receive relief from cold compresses on their head, neck, or back, but I personally have been hesitant to try this because of my Cold Urticaria, or allergy to cold.
It’s Not “Just a Headache”
Managing migraines, as with any chronic condition, can be very challenging. I hope you can relate to my experiences and find my coping strategies helpful. Like any condition, people may respond differently to stimuli and treatments. It is important to try to identify your triggers and have treatment protocol in place for when a migraine strikes. Migraines are not “just a headache” and treatments can be just as complex and multilayered as the condition itself. Hopefully, I have helped you identify some strategies that may be useful to you in your quest for relief.