Living with Migraine: I am the 1, in 1 in 8. #ad @1in8haveit #1in8haveit
18 May 2018
Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and 1 in 8 Have It, and have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.
I suffer from migraines, and have since I was a teenager. It was something that I never shared with people when I had one. I would just go to my room if I was at home, go study in the library if I was at school, or excuse myself if I was with friends. It’s debilitating, but over the years, I have become used to the effects.
I have to continue with my life. As a work-from-home Dad with 2 daughters in elementary school, and an amazing wife that commutes over an hour each way to work, there is no down time for me. Or her. Luckily, my girls are quite independent, and know when I have a migraine, to leave me be, and let me get my rest.
Having a migraine is tough. All I want to do is take medication and lay down in my bed. All day, and all night. But I can’t. I have work. I have family. I have responsibilities. It’s a silent problem that people can’t see, and don’t understand unless they suffer themselves.
It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I went to see my doctor about getting a prescription to help with my migraines. But why did I wait so long?
How a Migraine Ruined a Family Visit
In 2015, I went on 2 day a work trip to Montreal, combined with a 2 day social media conference in Gatineau. I drove several hours in the morning to make it to Montreal by mid afternoon, only stopping for washroom breaks and food. It wasn’t a stressful trip at all. On the way back, I had planned to visit my brother and his family in Ottawa for a night, before going to the conference. As I pulled into Ottawa, my head started pounding. I wasn’t sure why, as I had eaten lunch, was well hydrated, and there was no drastic temperature fluctuation.
We went grocery shopping together, and the headache developed into a mild migraine. As we arrived back at his house, I asked him if I could crash on the recliner in the rec room until dinner was ready. I took some acetaminophen, kicked up my feet in the recliner, and closed my eyes. I was hoping the acetaminophen would help, so that I would not have to take my migraine medication, which would have knocked me out for hours. That was around 4:30pm. Well, I ended up crashing until 7:00am the next morning.
I left early that morning to go to a 2 day conference in Gatineau Quebec, just across the Ottawa River. The whole day, I had my head in my hands, and was popping acetaminophen like Skittles. I knew if I had taken my migraine medication that I would get drowsy and miss the conference. As the day went on, I started to develop an upset stomach. My body was telling me something, and I needed to listen to it. The migraine did not let up, and I ended up bailing on the afterparty to get some much needed sleep.
The next morning, I decided to skip the second day of the conference and start the drive home. I was tired, my head was pounding, and I was alone. It was a long drive. After several hours of driving through some terrible traffic, I arrived home, said hi to Wendy and the girls, took my migraine medication, and went to bed. It was 6:00pm. I hadn’t seen Wendy and the girls in 5 days, and I was in too much pain to stay awake and spend time with them. Luckily, they understood, as they have seen me go through this before.
Looking back at what may have caused the migraine… likely some hidden MSG in the food I had been eating while on that road trip.
What Is A Migraine?
Most people think it is really really bad headache. While it can be, it is so much more.
“A migraine is caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.”
Basically, it is a headache on steroids, with symptoms including:
• being bothered by light (photophobia), noise (phonophobia) or odours (hyperosmia)
• nausea or vomiting
• stiff or tender neck
• feeling tired and/or confused
• intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one or both sides of your head.
I am the 1, in 1 in 8
Did you know that globally, 1 in 8 reported are suffering from migraine? As well, it is estimated that almost 2.7 million Canadians suffer from migraine. Well, knowing I am not alone is good, I guess. But that number does not include those who suffer from migraine, and do not seek help for their symptoms. Why is this? Probably because they seek the quick fix of trying to control it with over-the-counter medication. But over-the-counter meds may not be right for you if you suffer from migraine.
Understanding your migraine triggers is key. I have been able to identify a lot of triggers that cause migraines for me. These triggers include:
• changes in weather or barometric pressure
• strong odours, or scents like perfumes or incense
• food additives like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG)
• some food (like most chocolate, processed food, nitrates found in cured meats)
• lack of sleep
• missed meals
While not everyone will have the same triggers, here are some others that are quite common:
• caffeine withdrawal
• hormonal changes in women
• changes in sleep patterns
• drinking alcohol
• exercise or other physical stress
• loud noises or bright lights
• stress and anxiety
• certain medications
Early Warning Signs
Identifying the symptoms of a migraine is just as important as recognizing your triggers. Some early warning signs that a migraine is on it’s way include:
• neck stiffness
• mood changes
• food cravings
• increased thirst and urination
• frequent yawning
What Can We Do?
I like to use essential oils in my office when working. I don’t use a lot in the diffuser… just enough to keep the air smelling fresh, keep humidity in the air, and the scent must be something I can bare.
When I have a migraine, and need to keep working, I use a couple drops of peppermint oil, and try and work as long as I can. If it gets to the point I can no longer keep my eyes on the monitor, I will take my migraine medication and go for a nap.
The room needs to be completely dark, so I pull the blinds, put on my sleep mask and CPAP mask, and fall asleep hoping my migraine will be gone when I wake up. Most of the time, this works for me. In the rare occasion it doesn’t, I take my migraine medication again, and go back to sleep. At that point, my body is telling me I need to rest, so I listen to it.
Dealing With Migraine
Understanding your triggers, and identifying the symptoms, are both vital in dealing with the migraine. But how do you tell the difference between really bad headache and a migraine? The folks at 1 in 8 have a helpful quiz which can help you determine just that. 1in8haveit.ca will also help you understand what a migraine is, how to deal with them, and where to seek help.
As well, be sure to talk to your doctor about all of your treatment options. Having a migraine can be pretty debilitating. Trust me… I have been there, more times than I can count.