What I'd tell my younger self

Wishing I could give advice to myself before I was ever diagnosed with migraine

I’ve had migraine disease for about twenty years now, but, like many people, my condition went undiagnosed for many years.  During those years, I did what I could to take care of myself during these “really bad headaches.”  Sometimes when I look back on how I treated myself during high school, I wince. I’m not regretful, exactly, but I do wish I could go back in time and give teenage and early college Janet some tips on migraine management, particularly as far as food is concerned.

Before all else, I would tell—nay, I would order—high school Janet to eat on a regular schedule. In high school, I was always cutting it really close, time-wise. For my entire life I’ve had trouble waking up in the morning, and in high school I would hit snooze so many times that I’d end up dashing out of bed with barely enough time to take a shower, let alone get a bite to eat.  I would skip breakfast nearly every single day.  My guess is that I had breakfast maybe one morning out of every weekday as a teenager.

You know what else I was really bad at? Planning and making sure I had a lunch to eat each day, let alone a healthy one.  Once in a blue moon I’d be organized enough to pack a lunch at home—usually peanut butter and jelly and a side of chips or something.  But most days I bought school lunch.  Up until the end of seventh grade, buying food in the cafeteria meant you’d get served a full meal (though you couldn’t pay me to choose between the plasticky pizza and the “meatloaf” nowadays).  Teachers would encourage you to eat everything on your tray.  In high school, adults presume that you are old enough to take care of yourself and make sure you’re getting the nourishment you need.

How I wish I had had some little anti-migraine angels on my shoulder to intervene when I ate a packet of chocolate chip cookies nearly every day as my “lunch.”  To be fair, very few things served in the MHS cafeteria were all that palatable, but why did I have to jump on the cookie bandwagon? Lots of folks—girls in particular—would get the warm cookies in their little plastic baggie and make that their meal for the school day.

No wonder I spent many after school times ravenous and exhausted. On days when I had play practice and felt well, I would order fast food on the way to the theatre, scarfing down tons of carbs in order to satisfy the hunger that had built up since the morning.  On days I didn’t have play practice, I’d go home and crash out until at least 6pm, a migraine pounding its way into my brain.  I was confused and upset by these “terrible headaches,” but I rarely, if ever, talked about them with anyone or thought about their possible connection to my lifestyle, including my lifelong habit of meal-skipping.

Do you ever look back at your habits pre-diagnosis and see some obvious things that would’ve made you a little healthier? If you could go back and change your eating habits, sleeping habits, stress levels, etc., what would you change first, and why?

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