#MeToo and Migraines

I recently participated in a survey about pain and painful memories for research purposes. Although I have known about painful memories as a trigger for migraines, the survey had me in a state of mindfulness where I actually allowed myself to draw the connections between my memories and my migraines.

I read the book The Body Keeps the Score (can be found here) a year or so ago and remember thinking, “wow, my migraines could be associated with my own experiences of childhood trauma and sexual assault.” However, I dismissed it as an actual “trigger” at the time because it didn’t feel real enough. It is often the problem with living with an invisible disease that because I can’t always explain or predict when a migraine will happen; I tend to rank my triggers more tangible like “light and sound” over “stress and trauma” as more contributing factors to an episode which is not true.

The #metoo movement helped bring light to a struggle I was going through.  Sometimes memories are so painful that bringing them up actually cause pain and could trigger a migraine–but #metoo allows me to tell other that I am a victim without me having to tell  my whole story.  The simplicity of the hashtag has helped me come to terms with some of  my more “ambiguous” reasons as to why I don’t feel well.  There is the medical research to back me in how my body responds to stress, yet the medical research could not help me explain it in a way to others without having to provide my narrative. Some women (and men) have been able to provide their #metoo story in detail, and that is ok–their story to tell; however, I am not there yet.

I’ll close with a personal example from this week. My alma mater was having a party and I knew someone might there that for lack of better phrasing is on my “#metoo list.” Arguing why he would be there isn’t the point, but unfortunately this person is still around . I had other plan options that night so I wasn’t going to be upset if I didn’t go; however, I felt that I was being pressured and many friends and acquaintances were urging me to go. I knew by going that I would only be put in situation where my body would be in alert, pacing if that person shows or not, just in a constant state of anxiety which would ultimately bring on a whopper migraine. It was a great feeling to not have to explain the domino effect of pain it would cause for me to go and I simply told a close friend that I had a #metoo situation with someone who might have been invited.

I hope this movement spreads to other areas–it is exhausting explaining to where it seems like you are justifying to people that there is something wrong or that you are in pain.

 

Happy Holidays or Head Painadays?

Stress is a HUGE trigger for me when it comes to my migraines.  To clarify, it is more emotional stress than work stress that elevates the migraine watch to warning.

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Holidays are a huge source of emotional stress for me. I travel a lot for work so my idea of a perfect holiday would honestly be a week with no plans, my favorite shows, and my cat. I hate to sound so bah humbug-ish but seriously there is so much pressure during the holiday season. So many parties, plans, etc. in a short period of time–most of

  1. Say NO– a critical skill to learn at work, school, and in life is the ability to say “no.” If it is not something you really want to do or you know that it will for sure trigger a migraine, say no.
  2. Prioritize your plans: Since a lot of my close friends live where my family is, my schedule can turn into a nightmare before I even step foot back in my hometown.  I used to let almost everyone know of my coming into town, now, I make the anchor plans I want to with family and the friends I absolutely want to see. If I happen to have free time, I can keep that for myself or reach out with last minute plans.
  3. Keep to schedule: As I have mentioned in my travel post, keeping to schedule is so important. It is so tempting to go overboard during the holiday season and get in a cycle of super late nights and sleeping in–for me this is a migraine trigger.
  4. Make time  for yourself: If you get family or friend guilt about not attending something, then just say you have plans. You need time to take care of yourself so that you can have a good time with them.
  5. Shop online: The scents and lights of Christmas sometimes are no bueno for my head. Also, crowds can be overwhelming. Also, amazon has like everything.
  6. Get a migraine? Then rest!: I have spent too many holidays outings with a giant migraine, trying to force a smile and listen to conversations without going insane. If you feel like you are getting a migraine or have one, then rest. Don’t wait until you are at your peak pain to do so, let your family and friends know that this is what you need. I would rather be done sooner with a migraine than suffer through any sort of event.

 

Dopamax the Devil- aka Topamax

876.JPGI’m about to get really real with y’all. I still feel like I am messed up from taking topamax for a year.  I got up to the 400mg dosage and I can still recall the horror stories.

 

The day I knew I needed to stop taking it was when I walked into a store and forgot my name and then proceeded to drive home and turned red on left because I thought left was right.

My biggest thing to me is my intelligence. I consider myself a smart person and I thrive on recalling facts, figures, etc. When I have a migraine, what gets me down the most is being in a state where I fumble to find the right words. Topamax put me in a constant state of stupidity. By many blogs and articles , it’s called the “supermodel drug”– it is supposed to make you lose weight, yet become, well, dumb.

I didn’t need to lose weight; however, I did lose about 15 lbs at first on this drug. That weight was not kept off. I regained that weight and some more while on the drug. It made my muscles weak so working out didn’t feel right to me. I literally became the heaviest I have been on this drug.  The weight gain though wasn’t the nasty part…

Alcohol is a big no with topamax–yet, I was not told that by my primary care doc. I remember being on the drug for a week, heading out for a night with friends, drinking no more than I would on a regular Saturday night (I was 24) and finding myself passing out and puking for the first time ever from drinking. I had passed out in the bathroom of the bar. I remember going out months later and being the sickest I’ve was the next morning–puking, shaking, convulsing–truly some of the worst memories I will forever have ingrained in my brain.

I was also super depressed. I felt incredibly angry all the time. At any moment, I could go from an extreme high, to an extreme low–and then stay there.  I couldn’t stand myself. I didn’t like anything about me for no reason. I had a good job, friends, and I felt all over the place. I felt like breaking down all the time.

Today, I still feel like my memory is logged because of this drug. It was one of the most awful experiences I have had with a drug and I worry it caused long term damage. It helped with my migraines only for a short time, and then my doctor kept upping the dose and the results would never last. Yet, the side effects continued to increase. Weaning off the drug was horrible too, you have to do so in increments otherwise you could have a seizure.

Have any of you tried topamax? Are you like me and would love to sue the f*** out of the makers of topamax? Or has it worked for you? Let me know!

Hangover Hell: It’s NOT the Same

So I went out last night and paid royally for it this morning. I love a good cocktail–it is really hard to resist having more than one when the holidays come around. I am sucker for the cinnamon-y flavors and mint added to drinks.  Those of you fellow sufferers know the absolute BS a hangover with migraines is–and those of you who don’t; fact check me, migraine disease can cause hangovers to be worse.

When I say I have a migraine plan, I do try to stick to it for the most part. I don’t like to be the cause of my own pain. However, there a times when I am out on a date or with new friends that I just want to be “normal.”  I want to be able to drink and wake up the next morning with JUST A HEADACHE that can be slept or ate off.  However, I can’t and below are the mistakes that had me racing for the medicine cabinet this morning.

Mistake number 1: Pitcher Margaritas

No, I did not drink the whole pitcher, not even a whole glass but where pitcher margs get me is the cheap tequila. I normally shy from tequlia anyway unless it’s a mezcal cocktail.

Mistake number 2: Gin

I love gin. Gin and freseca used to be my go-to drink of choice on the planes until I realized it was the gin causing a much later in the day migraine upon landing.

Mistake 3: Out Too Late

You know the saying nothing good happens after midnight? Well, somewhat true for me. I need to be in “wind down” mode by midnight, even if I’m not tired. It is really important that I keep to a normal schedule, even on weekends I try not to sleep in too much or I set my alarm and get up. Schedule shifts are a trigger.

 

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Migraine Art

Sometimes, I feel guilty from getting a migraine due to be hungover.  I was the trigger cause for my pain. Then I keep it in perspective that I am human and I make mistakes.

 

 

Pip and in Pain: Having a Pet and a Migraine

Pip, my beloved, somewhat chunky, every so spunky tabby is my partner in crime. We binge watch Netflix together, share a glass of wine (well I drink the wine), snuggle together and endure the ups and downs of the day together. Having a pet is seriously one of the best things about life.  Some of you may be curious- “What is it like to have a pet and migraines?” While I know some bloggers are juggling kids, pets, etc.—I am speaking to those of us who haven’t entered the “kid market” yet.

I did worry when I first got Pip that it would be hard to take care of him when sick. When I travel, it’s easy, someone comes over and feeds him in my absence. However, when I am sick with a migraine, I want no one and sometimes not even Pip to be around me. His cute purrs are too loud for my migraine beaten ears at times.

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Pip imitating me when I have a migraine.

So how do I manage caring for Pip and myself at the same time? In the words of Nike, I “just do it.” So sometimes the litter box doesn’t get cleaned right away, but he always has the food and water he needs–and love. In fact, I have found that most of the time, having him near by when I’m in a zonked out phase is super comforting. Migraines can be an isolating disease–especially if you live by yourself and away from family like I do. The silence is sometimes very painful too, having a therapy buddy helps. Pip will sit either in silence or watching TV with me.  When dealing with the migraine body freeze symptoms, he is a wonderful buddy to hold and give a hug.  While sometimes when the pain is so bad I have to lie in my room with the door closed, overall he is one of my biggest supporters in my migraine journey.

Does your pet help you? Bark or meow in the comments!

Dating in Distress

I love crime podcasts. My favorite has to be  True Crime Garage.   I always wonder/joke with friends at what point on a first date or maybe a 5th-6th date, do I tell the other person that I love listening to examinations of gruesome, awful true crimes?

Similar to this, I often wonder when should I bring up my migraines.

Sometimes, my migraine does it for me. I can’t even get to the first date without my migraine stopping me in my plans and relegating me to a fun Friday evening date with my couch and cat. I find myself pausing in my texting to cancel because I worry about if the other person will believe me or not. It sucks. If I’m not honest and say I’m sick with like a sinus infection, I have to keep to that story and deal with the most annoying texts of “are you better yet?”

I had someone I was dating tell me before that I was “too sick” to date.  I felt horrible. I never asked for that person to take care of me, just wanted understanding when I had to cancel or when I couldn’t be overly communicative.  Coming out of a migraine, I am not the most fun date — I usually can only tolerate one drink and I’m good with verbal skills for an hour before I start to rapidly decline.  Let’s not even bring up getting physical–touching me at any point of a migraine is like asking for death, not only for me, but also you, too.

This is something I am still trying to figure out. My migraines have not and will probably never make into my Bumble profile; however, I am learning to be more open with talking about my migraines on a first date.  For those of you dating, how do you bring up the “migraine” topic? Do you let it happen naturally or do you make an effort?

Also, for more of my thoughts on dating, check out my Thought Catalog post here 

Travel Tips

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I travel frequently for my job which means I run the risk every work trip of being migrained mess for my most important meetings. The changing altitudes, climates, and time zones create a perfect atmosphere for a migraine to pop up in. I also chose a profession where I talk to people for a living.  I have to be interesting, entertaining and engaged. Below are some tips that have seemed to work for me when it comes to traveling. Please leave your travel tips in the comments!

Try to get the window seat: The person who gets the window seat is bestowed with the privilege of controlling the light flow. Who cares what research says about those who hold the window seat. Trust me, no one in your row wants to deal with a migraine sufferer who has to keep getting up to escape to the bathroom or moving around constantly to try and find comfort.

Pack extra pills than needed: Nothing is worse than realizing you miscalculated the number of days you will be traveling. I sometimes just grab the whole bottles if I’m rushing.

Take pills on the time zone where you are going: For example, I travel to the West Coast, I don’t take my morning pill and vitamins when I wake up on flight day–I take them about 9/10am EST so I am starting myself on PST.

Invest in good sunglasses: Seriously, if the plane is too bright or the place you are going is ultra sunny, a pair of good sunglasses will be your best friend. I am partial to ray-bans because you can get pretty dark shades with them; however, find a good pair, buy them and don’t lose them 😉

Invest in a travel organizer: Personally, I like the one linked here: seat pak organizer   It helps to make sure you have all of your pills, pain cream, etc. with you in your seat.  The one I have conveniently hangs on the back of your seat and is waterproof.

Stick to your migraine do’s and don’ts: Nervous flyer? Try not to load up on extra pills or alcohol that doesn’t agree with you. Instead, try learning more about planes, finding apps on your phone (I edit pictures) and maybe, stick to alcohol you do know that is ok. I typically have a glass of wine pre-flight (my flights are typically 3+ hours).  I took a low dose of Xanax once and was a mess for the rest of the day. Was not worth it.

Pack a water bottle, fill up after security: Keeping hydrated is key. Also, you don’t want to wait for the drink cart to be able to take a pill if need be.

 

 

My Migraine Management

Today, I am in a MUCH better position than I was years ago with my migraines. I used to be crawling to urgent care on an almost weekly basis to get a torodol shot which was always at total damper on weekend plans (I’m young, I like to go out).  Or I would constantly be reaching for those triptans–which I don’t take anymore. I found them to be not helpful and giving me rebound migraines.  For a time, I literally did a “hard reset” on my body when I had migraine where  I wouldn’t take any medications (I know I sound like a psycho) but this allowed me to start taking OTC pills again as an effective treatment.

Today, I manage my migraines through a combination of prescriptions, vitamins, and lifestyle choices. The prescriptions and vitamins were recommendations made to me by my neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

I currently take:

 

Prescription pills:

150mg Wellbutrin XL: I suffer from anxiety and depression, this has been the best so far me in managing my lows and helping with the pre-during, and post migraine depression.

200mg of Zonegran (Zonsaimide): It is an anti-convulsant. One time labeled to me as “topamax’s milder son.” I have been on this now for about two years and it cut down on the frequency, but like any medicine, has it’s side effects. The first three months on this made me mind-numbing nauseous and if I miss a dose, I get a little spacey and tingly–super fun! However, this is way different than my experience with topamax the dopamax that I will for sure blog about in a future post.

Vitamins (I order all of mine from amazon, linked in post):

400mg of Magnesium Glycinate — seriously do yourself a favor and invest in the good magnesium. For reviews of what brand, I would recommend labdoor.com.

200mg of Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): seriously helps, I was out for a couple weeks and noticed a difference. ** Also, this is really hard to find in stores, high recommend just ordering online.

5,000mg of Vitamin D— I live in Michigan, enough said. Also, I have had very low vitamin D before

380 mg of Feverfew: I think it helps?

Foods/drinks I stay away from:

Chinese food for the most part–too high in MSG. This one was a hard one for me because I love a good chinese buffet.

Cheap Beer and Vodka–shouldn’t we all stay away from this though?

Hard liquors (for the most part)– I try to stick to wines I know and hard ciders.

Overly onion-ed or garlicky  food–hey, future dates, my migraines are doing ya a favor

Diet sodas…for the most part. I love Coke Zero.

Activities I stay away from:

Amusement parks/fairs–I’m too tempted to ride the rides that will for sure cause a migraine and the lights alone can be a trigger.

When I get a migraine:

Depends on the severity-

Mild: drink a Coke (not diet), a water, maybe 1-2 ibuprofens, sit down if I can

Moderate: eat something– banana, candy bar, something (with that Coke, of course), sip on water, lather up on the biofreeze, and sit-down, take two ibuprofens

Severe: coke, gatorade, water (at this point, I’m throwing up and can’t eat), ice packs, 4 ibuprofens, lie down

OMG I WANT TO CHOP MY HEAD OFF NOW: I go to urgent care and get a torodol shot.

 

What do you do to manage your migraine? Is there something you just can’t give up but you know is a trigger? Please comment and feel free to ask any questions!

 

First blog post!

Hi there!

I woke up this morning after a well-rested night’s sleep with a pounding migraine. My poor cat Pip (he will be regularly talked about) wanted to be petted, but my migraine state body could barely even open my eyes to endure the morning light.

I finally mustered up the strength to get myself out of bed, take 4 ibuprofen (yes, I have been able to go back to OTC after years on triptans) with some water and then wait for the pain to get to a “manageable” state.

I’d imagine like most migraine suffers, we all have a tolerable pain level. For me, it is when the pain is at bay enough that I can make somewhat coherent sentences and not sound like someone who has sat at the bar all night.  As I write this, my brain is still sluggish and my body feels like hit has been hit with a bag of bricks, but at least my head pain is somewhat absent. I am still waiting for the lovely nausea to go away 🙂

Though I am in somewhat good spirits now, this morning I was not. I get into a depressive state both pre, during and sometimes post migraine.  Last night, I felt my neck tensing up (a signal a migraine might be coming for me), so I did myself a favor, drank some water, and went to bed. However, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t prevent the inevitable.  I’m sure many of you have felt this way too–absolutely defeated.

In my defeat, I thought I would start this blog.

As I began to think of having to call off work, a possible date tonight, and if a shower would either help or hurt the pain, I consciously realized how migraine affects all areas of my life.  From the food I eat to the plans I cancel, my migraine has been a constant presence whether I have one or not.  So, I figured, why not talk about it? Out it for the SOB it is. Instead of being of the millions who suffer in silence, why not draw others together to support, comfort, and bring awareness to this awful disease. I truly believe there is strength in numbers; we can be stronger than our migraines.