My boyfriend and I had dinner with friends recently. They live on the West Coast so we only get to see them once or twice a year. We had so much to talk about. Each of us gave highlights of work and family while toasting to happy life changes. Then it was my turn. Talking about Migraines can be an immediate buzzkill and it’s tricky on how to approach the topic. I chose to focus on the positive. I covered up-coming projects, recent conferences I’ve attended and some thoughts I have on how I can become a better advocate.
They were amazed and excited for me. Sighting how I’ve made a bad situation with my health into a new pathway. Then the husband carefully asks if he can ask me a question, clearly worried that it would offend me. “How is it that when we see you, you look and seem perfectly normal?” Fair question. They read my blog, they know about the ketamine treatments, they understand I can’t return to my previous career. But tonight I was having a great time and they wanted to know how I pull that off.
The answer is simple. When I have an important event or dinner out with friends, I get through it by being medicated. Not to the point where I’m buzzed or high or half asleep. I’ll use a small amount of whatever happens to be in my arsenal, being careful to rotate abortive meds to avoid dependency on one drug over another. I’m also careful not to cause re-bound headaches.
The truth is that getting out of the house and differing slightly from my normal routine is very hard on me. Nighttime is the worst for me starting around 7pm or so until I’m able to fall asleep around midnight. At night, the severity of my Migraines increase. Beside the head pain, my body is uncomfortable. I have steel cables that have twisted in my neck and shoulders throughout the day. On a normal night at home, I forgo the abortive meds as much as I can and just try to sleep through the worst of it.
I’m very selective of when I use abortives for many reasons. One, I don’t want to create rebound headaches, two, I don’t have an unlimited supply and three, I never want to become dependent on an abortive medication. I think we all hoard our drugs to a certain point so that we can use them when we absolutely need to get through a day. Over the years, I’ve really learned to listen to my body. I can typically tell if I can manage it or if I just need to cancel any plans altogether.
It would be much easier if I just stayed in my cave at home. I don’t want to be a hermit. I go through phases where I have no other choice. So in the times I feel like I can go out, I want to make memories and share quality time with those who love me. It just means that I need a little boost to get through it.
I stay away from the meds as much as I can. If I know we have evening plans, I will take extra-long naps during the day, do yoga to center myself and generally take it easy. Due to Migraine brain, I try to make sure I have conversation topics or stories I want to share. And sometimes I get there and I just don’t have the energy to be engaged as I would like to be. Even if I’m extra gentle with myself during the day, typically when it’s time to go out I’m exhausted and need something to get me through the next few hours.
By no means, do I want this to be the norm in order to just maintain friendships. My friend group has dwindled over the years because it is a bit difficult to plan anything with me. Those who have stuck around and support me, get it when I cancel last minute. It’s frustrating for everyone involved. But I have to do what’s best for my health in the moment. It’s a fine line between pushing through and letting the pain get the best of me.
I’m constantly searching for ways to manage my pain better so I don’t need a little extra help from pain killers, DHE, muscle relaxers or Ketamine. Who knows what that stuff will do to my body after years of consistent use? I want to take advantage of the present. Feel “normal” for a few hours. So I carefully use an abortive to feel like myself. I borrow energy from tomorrow to enjoy tonight. It’s not the best plan of attack and could easily turn into a bad cycle or habit. I feel informed enough to make the right decision for myself…and I typically consult with my boyfriend so I have accountability. He’s my voice of reason.
What do you do to get through an evening out, a family BBQ or a vacation?