The pain is irrelevant. After learning how to cope with multiple migraines, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. I started getting them after a concussion that was, as silly as it sounds, all the fault of my dog. Dingo was a very quiet Bassett Hound/Black Lab mix. He began barking at 5a.m. one morning. He never barked unless commanded to, so I woke up wondering what was wrong. I couldn’t see anything out the window, and he’d quit, so I turned around to go back to sleep. My bed is right next to a wall, which I cracked my skull against. I sort of went back to sleep, but the pain kept waking me up. By the time I was in town having coffee with a friend, I couldn’t say two words without crying in pain. She told me to go to the doctor. He diagnosed a ‘mild’ concussion (‘mild’ is a doctor word for, ‘hurts worse than anything you’ve ever felt.’)
It takes a lot to force me to go the doctor in the first place, so I decided to find my own solutions for the migraines. I read what I could, and discarded what I didn’t like. Apparently, each migraine ‘owner’ is better prepared, even to just talk to the doctor, if he or she can keep a record of when, how often, and for how long each one lasts. Patterns may become apparent, such as overly loud environments, encounters with possible toxins, etc. Other things you may notice are potential triggers, such as stress, dealing with specific situations, bright lights, caffeine, etc.
Nobody tells me to give up coffee, for any reason. It’s my one vice, and I’m good at it. However, I did recognize other ‘triggers’ that always or nearly always resulted in migraines. The main one for me is naked sunlight. Sunglasses helped, but it turns out I need more expensive ‘no glare’ sunglasses. Many sunglasses that claim to be aren’t really; that does cost extra, and I don’t cheap out on something this important. (You can tell if you look through them at a light that has a ‘halo’ to the naked eye, but comes into clear focus with the sunglasses. Just remember, you may not see really clean glass doors from time to time.) This may even turn out to be environmental, because the one time I was in Alaska, I could go outdoors without them.
I tend to get more migraines when I’m exhausted and/or stressed out. One thing that has cut back on the number of migraines has been the realization that the career I worked towards for eighteen years is not going to happen. Blame it on sexism, or nepotism, but the point is, I need to move on with my life. Besides, I think I’m happier as a science fiction author. Any time something doesn’t even begin to work out in a few years, it’s a sign it’s not going to. Wish I’d known that a lot sooner, but I got over it.
Most of my migraines quit when I stopped drinking diet cola. It really is toxic. I dropped thirty pounds in nine months, and went from a size 14 to an 8! My concentration improved, my vision improved, and my overall health improved. Many of my headaches fail to reach migraine status, even when I do get them.
Coping with the pain used to be just taking a painkiller, then finding a dark room to sleep, or attempt to sleep, for several hours or days. It made me angry that the pain could steal so much of my time, so I looked for better solutions. First, I looked at the painkillers I was taking. I’d been trying to get away with the minimum, because I don’t like having any drug in my system. Then I read somewhere that you must ‘overwhelm the pain,’ because if you don’t the brain will train itself to create worse headaches. Sounded odd to me, but I thought it was worth a try. I began taking migraine strength medication for the migraines. Usually, they do the trick, and I can get on with the day.
Coping also takes huge amounts of attitude. This is the part where you tell yourself the pain is irrelevant. Now, don’t be stupid and refuse to go for medical help when there’s something else going on, but for dealing with just a migraine, it’s better not to pity the pain. If you begin feeling sorry for yourself, and moan about how bad you’re feeling, your physiology is going to fall in line with that, and produce the chemicals in your brain to make you feel worse. In other words, don’t buy into it…been there, done that, and it isn’t pretty. I was in pain when I was visiting with my brothers this morning, but talking to them, listening to them, and having coffee, all seemed to help. After a while, I felt good enough to keep food down.
Sometimes migraines don’t respond to painkillers, attitude, or even rest. In my case, I’ve found a few of these are ones that have specific causes. Eye strain needs rest. If that doesn’t work, or gives only temporary relief, check with an optometrist. Shoulder and back strain require rest, and possibly physiotherapy. That time of the month may mean you’re anemic, and should see a doctor. Really, menstruation should NOT! disrupt your life in this day and age.
My summary is this: migraines are managable, if you refuse to let them manage you. Figure out the problem, get professional help when you need it, and just fix it.
I hope this helps. Thanks for reading.
Phyllis K Twombly