How migraine can dominate my every move

On Friday night, Jim and I decided to take it easy and not go anywhere near downtown. (UGA’s homecoming game was the next day, which guaranteed that there’d be hundreds of raucous folks whose energy levels were not exactly in tune with ours.) We went to a Vietnamese restaurant and had some pho, which we hadn’t eaten in quite awhile. (This hot soup isn’t the best summertime treat, as its temperature and spiciness can certainly drive up your temperature!)

Three bites into the soup, I said to Jim, “Hey, know what I just remembered?
“No, what?”
“Every time we eat here we’re hungry again in, like, an hour.”

Having a delicious bowl of pho is certainly a treat, but a handful of shrimp, a cluster of noodles, some veggies, and a hearty portion of broth don’t combine to make a meal that sustains you for the rest of the evening.

Within a couple of hours, I was having some salt and vinegar chips with a side of Imitrex. Somewhere between our lovely outdoor dinner and getting home after a stop at our local video store, a migraine had set in.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m getting better at knowing my triggers and reading my body’s signals, but this is not always the case. I don’t know why this migraine attack hit me at this particular time. Was there MSG in the soup, an amount that somehow hadn’t bothered me before but was affecting me now? Was the cheap-tasting white wine to blame?

Years ago, I wasn’t very concerned with my triggers (not having heard the word in the migraine context and not having even been diagnosed with migraine disease until 8 years into my illness didn’t help increase my curiosity). But now that I’m able to trace the roots of most of my episodes, it’s intensely frustrating to not know at all where a particular attack came from. My fallback reasoning leads me to conclude that stress is to blame (either an overdose of it or its sudden lifting, as when a big project is finally over and done with). It’s scary to not know where this came from.

Two days later, I’m still struggling with the migraine attack but am wary of taking any more medication. You see, this Wednesday I have a really huge bookstore-related event I’m helping to organize, and I don’t want to have a migraine then. If I use up my triptan doses for the week, I will be stuck between a rock and a hard place if an attack comes to the surface on Wednesday. My choices will be: a) take the triptan anyway despite all I know about the dangers of MOH (medication overuse headache); b) take a rescue med such as Lortab and end up being foggy-brained and obviously drugged while trying to make a good impression and organize a lot of people; or, c) take nothing and feel like crap.

Part of me is scolding myself for not taking my medication as we speak, but an even larger part of me is terribly scared that the migraine will keep coming back and, by Wednesday, I will not be at a point where I can take more prescription meds. I’m trying to remain relatively low-stress about this conundrum, but of course the nervousness doesn’t help the stress level (and higher stress levels make it more likely that a migraine attack will come back).

Many of my non-migraineur friends do their best to understand where I’m coming from with this disease, but it’s nearly impossible to explain to them how every little moment has the chance of being overshadowed by a migraine episode. I’ve talked about this problem on my blog before, I know, but I’ve been thinking of it again lately. Oftentimes I don’t even want friends to know how big a part migraine plays in my life, ’cause I don’t want them to perceive me as handicapped or incapable of being so-called “normal.” This problem has been especially prevalent since I decided to launch my own business. On the one hand, I want to be honest with people and let them know that one reason I’m hiring more staff than a normal startup would is because I have to make sure I don’t overwork myself, that I have to make sure there’s a backup person if I am home ill. But if I tell them that, will they doubt my ability to succeed? Will they whisper to each other that this bookstore is a bad idea?

And why am I so hung up on what others think of me?

Perfectionism + being overly concerned with what others think of me + chronic illness do not go well together.

How have you guys coped with any of the issues I’ve brought up here? I’d love some words of wisdom (or at least some words of commiseration).

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