Living with Migraines

When you look up the word “migraine” in a medical textbook, my photo appears…along with almost every symptom that I experience from light sensitivity to nausea.

Though I have been told many times by family, friends, and even licensed professionals that I am “too young” or “too healthy” or “too naive” to be a migraine-sufferer, I have had migraines almost all my life. I am all too familiar with the difference between headaches, cluster headaches, tension headaches, sinus pressure, and migraines. I have been plugged to machines that have mapped my brain and been told that there was nothing wrong. I have been given anti-seizure medication, migraine pills, and other pharmaceutical remedies to treat what they still put on file as “headaches”. I was told to log when I got a migraine to see what the trigger was and was always thought to be dishonest because no pattern could be determined. I have done home remedies, omitted foods and drinks that “aggravate migraines” and taken countless OTC remedies all to no avail.

This is just a part of my life that I have learned to deal with and though it does cause issues on day to day living, I have a few tricks that help ease some of the pain. Nothing has been 100% fool-proof and I still continue to get migraines, but these are some methods that help me cope.

  1. Acknowledge the pain. There were a few years that I would try and ignore the warning symptoms that a migraine was, well, for a lack of better terminology, brewing. I did not want to admit that I had to deal with this and most likely the remainder of the day would be shot. However, just denying the pain would not make it go away. I had to accept it and come up with ways to deal with it.
  2. Cool showers. When it is too hot or after extraneous exercise, I am more inclined to get a migraine, so when I feel the beginnings of one, I take a cool shower to help regulate my body temperature and ironically clear my head.
  3. Turn off electronics. Blue light has been increasingly known to hurt our eyes which is also a contributing factor to the onset of migraines. Blue light is emitted from many of our favorite electronic devices from our computer monitors to our cell phones. When my migraine is creeping in, my cell phone is put away, the laptop is closed, and my tablet is shut.
    To help prevent the blue light from causing a migraine in the first place, especially since 8+ hours of my day is spent in front of a computer screen, I wear orange tinted or anti-blue light glasses (which can be bought on Amazon for about $12.99).
  4. Block out light. I use an eye mask to help me block out any ambient light that may irritate my eyes beyond a computer screen. My favorite is one that I also leave in the refrigerator so it helps with the puffiness and blood flow that usually cause my temples to look like they are speakers in a Jersey shore club. I bought mine on Amazon for about $10 (click here) at the time and it did need to be aired out upon receipt but after a day, it became my go to eye mask.
  5. Stay cool. My body temperature fluctuates tremendously when a migraine sets in and I can go from boiling hot to freezing cold. However when a full blown migraine hits, I force myself to lay down with a light blanket and the ceiling fan on. This constant flow of air helps the pressure and prevents me from sweating!
  6. Medicine. Yes, there are times where my migraines are too strong and homeopathic methods are simply inadequate. While I do not like to take medication regularly, I also realize that this was all developed for a reason and suffering will only make matters worse. So I will take Excedrin Migraine or other ibuprofen options to help at least take the edge off.
  7. Eat or drink yogurt. Another way I help regulate my internal body temperature as well as help calm an irritable stomach is through the consumption of yogurt. A quick bowl of yogurt is one way or I drink “tahn”. “Tahn” is an Armenian drink  which is simply yogurt mixed with water and some salt -trust me it tastes better than it sounds. Other Middle Eastern countries have their own name and variation for this drink like “ayran” in Turkey, “lassi” or “majjiga” in India, “kefir” or “doogh” in Persian. If I cannot have either, I will at least consume some acidophilus which will help calm my stomach.
  8. Find quiet. Like light, sounds tend to make my migraines worse so when one is developing, or already full-blown, I will make sure that I find some solitude even if that means using ear plugs.
  9. Hydrate. I am not able to eat or drink much of anything when I have a migraine because even toast makes me nauseous. However, dehydration makes my migraines even worse so I will start off with sipping cold water and then make my way to a coffee or tea for the added caffeine. Caffeine, though a dehydrating chemical, helps dilate my blood vessels making it easier for blood to pump and again, not feel like Jersey shore club speakers. I limit this to one cup though and will continue to drink water until my migraine has subsided.
  10. Steer clear of fragrances. So again, like light and sound, strong smells make the migraine worse and will often make me extremely nauseous. I have been known to wash my hands if I just happened to put on lotion with a scent or will lay down on a towel if my sheets have any added fragrance boosters.
  11. Eat minimally and light. Once the worst of the migraine has passed, I know that I need to eat something. I tend to opt for some toast, cereal, or chicken/turkey. Once I know I am able to consume that small amount of food, I know I am on the mend and will eat more. I will not, however, eat anything raw, dairy, or any other meat until the next day as all of those are harder for me to digest and can aggravate my migraine.
  12. Take it easy. After a migraine subsides, I want to make up for lost time and act like everything is fine. But I have come to learn that doing that will only make things worse. Once I start to feel better, I have to take it easy, often for the remainder of the day, because I feel fatigued and overall weak. Trying to do more than my body will allow will only make me feel worse and often will mean that I will be stuck in bed till the next day.

Headaches suck. Migraines are deplorable. But when you have them, finding your tried and true ways to cope will help. I am also very fortunate to have people in my life that have either experienced migraines themselves or been around other people that have had them, so they truly understand and help me when needed.

So tell me…do you suffer from migraines? What do you do to deal with them?

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