Migraines: 22 years, 5 ways to cope

I was meant to go for curry with my work friends tonight. Our first team night out EVER and I arranged it. I sent a flurry of emails, I got excited, hell – I even got dressed this morning with “waistline must be stretchable for copious amounts of curry” in mind. So when I got a headache mid-morning, I did the usual. I popped pills, did what I could to get control of my surroundings, and took all my normal steps to get rid of it. By 2pm I knew it wasn’t going anywhere and by 3pm I was nauseous and losing vision, worrying if I would make it home in time.

After a somewhat dicey drive home, I got in to bed and promptly fell asleep for three hours. That’s right; whilst my co-workers were ranting about the day job and chain eating naan bread, I was asleep.

IMG_20160801_182730

You have no idea how many social events I have missed out on in the last 22 years because of these damn things. These things that fight me and destroy me. I’m tough, but they’re tougher.

I like to think I’ve got pretty good at coping with pain over the years. In fact, I will sit through many a social event with throbbing pains in my legs, pins and needles in my hands, stabbing pains in my spine and you wouldn’t even know about it. But throw me a migraine when I’m not prepared, and you got me. I’m a gonner.

That’s why my life is all about being prepared. It’s not spontaneous, it’s not fun. There are rules and I play by them and, more often than not, I’m prepared to catch that migraine before it catches me. This may sound pretty high maintenance, but once you get good at it, you can do it so systematically that no one would even notice.

#1 – Eat.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner. On time. It’s generally an easy one to stick to until someone suggests brunch (that someone is normally me) and I have to sneak in a secret breakfast before hand, and then make sure brunch is eaten at lunch time. Same goes for afternoon tea. A 4pm roast dinner, however, is completely out of the question.

#2 – Drink.

Water and plenty of it. I’m so bad at this one that I don’t think I should be allowed to offer it as advice. Except that it’s an obvious one and an important one, so I’m going to keep saying it and hope that at some point I start listening to myself.

#3 – Regulate lighting.

Stay away from artificial lights or constant changes to light, and keep sunglasses with you to protect you from bright daylight. Where possible, avoid sitting in a dark/dimly lit room and staring at a computer screen. The contrast is a killer. Keep things as consistent as possible. Generally, this is doable but staff training is basically a guaranteed disaster.

#4 – Regulate temperature.

Extreme changes to temperature are a problem as well. Avoid hot, stuffy environments (like the trains in rush hour) and avoid particularly cold places like meeting rooms with lots of air con. Take layers everywhere you go to help you out in the times when you can’t control your environment.

#5 – Know your meds. 

Popping pills won’t solve everything, but if you can’t control your environment then you need to know which meds will delay things or stop it all together. And please, make sure those meds are on you AT ALL TIMES.