Day in the Life of a Migraineur
People without migraine disease (or those for whom the disease only shows up rarely) tend to focus on what life is like for patients during an attack. This is understandable—the attacks, after all, are what most sufferers think about as well. For me, a bad migraine episode can entail disorientation, nausea, vomiting, forgetfulness, dizziness, and head and neck pain so extreme that I can’t focus. (Happily, few of my attacks reach that brink these days, but I still get doozies for the record books a few times a year.)
What many don’t realize is that for many of us migraineurs with frequent attacks, not a day goes by that we don’t think about migraine, even if we’re feeling really well that day. (As for me, I doubt more than a couple hours pass without my thinking about migraine, whether I’m trying to come up with new ideas for blog posts for this website or if I’m double-checking my bag to make sure I have my Imitrex on hand just in case.)
Here’s what it’s like for me to live as a migraineur. A morning & afternoon in the life, if you will, is described below. I’ve written a recap of just a few hours in a typical Sunday for The Migraine Girl.
A summer Sunday
I must have slept through my alarm, because I don’t remember opening my eyes until 11am, over three hours after my alarm was set to go off. I hope that I won’t get a migraine after effing up my sleep schedule and oversleeping, I think.
I make a couple of smoothies with bananas and coconut milk. I am so lucky that bananas aren’t a migraine trigger for me. Ack—at least as far as I know, they’re not. What if they are? Could I really give up bananas? I’m not hungry, but it’s so late in the day and I skipped breakfast due to sleeping in. I hope I don’t get a migraine from skipping a meal. Maybe having a banana shake counts as breakfast. Or maybe that’s not helpful at all if banana is secretly a trigger for me.
I am in the middle of a really good novel—an advanced copy of a book that I’m reading on my iPad. I sit in the living room to read. I adjust the screen’s brightness so it’s as low as it can go. The iPad should really have even darker settings for people who are sensitive to light. The lamplight is hitting the screen at a bad angle. I hope the glare won’t trigger a migraine.
I decide to do a little bookshop work. I’ve been procrastinating on a couple of big things and my heart rate increases the moment I open my laptop. I should do deep breathing or something. You know, to counteract the stress I’m feeling. I don’t want to get stressed out and possibly trigger a migraine.
Jim makes us a late lunch of eggs and beans. Eating at home is so great, because we know we don’t have any foods in the house that will have MSG or aspartame or any of my other major food-related triggers. If I were at a restaurant I’d be tempted to read the labels right now, but at least at home I’m safe.
Jim gently points out that I seem a little short-tempered today, that I’m answering him bluntly and not being a very good listener. I decide to put on my sneakers and go for a walk. I hope I’m merely agitated because I’m in a weird mood. Sometimes when I’m agitated, it’s a sign that a migraine is coming, or already here. I am finishing up with my period right now, and my hormone levels are probably fluctuating. Oh, no! Did I take my magnesium and muscle relaxer last night? Oh, I think I did. All is well unless I get a breakthrough migraine. Oh, I hope I don’t. I also hope that it’s not too hot outside to walk. I’d hate to get overheated and risk getting a migraine.
Jim and I run a few errands together. First up is a visit to our friends’ house, where we’re picking up a painting. They have incense burning and I do my best to not appear rude as I try not to inhale. It’s their house, their turf, and I keep thinking we’re about to leave, so there’s no need for me to exit early. Except we stay and I continue to look like a weirdo with my sweater sleeve on my face. I should just say something, but then they might feel bad, when really they shouldn’t at all. And I don’t want to go out on to the porch by myself if we’re about to go anyway.
And on and on.
Suffice to say migraine is always, always in the back of my head (if it hasn’t overtaken my entire skull). Most frequent or chronic migraineurs I know feel the same way—migraine is something we may have to deal with at any moment.
If you have a few minutes, try writing in your journal or in the comments below what it’s like for you to live with migraine. What is your typical day like? What kind of internal monologue is taking place without anyone else having any idea what you’re going through?