Migraine management confidence boosters

Before I had to quit working due to headache disorders, I discovered the need for creative ways to manage migraine. As a home-based family therapist, I practically lived in my car. Everything I needed for the day went with me. Each day was a 100+ mile round trip from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. If I got a migraine on the road, I had to be prepared to deal with it. On the weekends, my husband and I worked a booth at craft shows and festivals for several months each year. No matter how hard I tried to avoid triggers, I would get hit at the most inconvenient time. It was a challenge to be professional and still do what was necessary to manage frequent attacks.

So I enlisted my husband’s help and we got creative. We thought about what made the worst attacks so bad. We discovered that they usually occurred when I was least prepared and poorly equipped to deal with them:

  • I would be out of medicine or didn’t have effective abortives.
  • I was in public and had no place to lay down in the dark and quiet.
  • I didn’t have ice packs, heating pads, or any other comfort measure.

In short, when I got hit, I had very few tools to help me cope. That was when we discovered this little nugget of wisdom:

The Golden Rule for Migraine Management
You shall be prepared for any and all attacks, at all times, and in all situations.

We got to work finding solutions for every single migraine emergency I had ever experienced.

I put all my medicines on auto-refill with text alerts when one is ready for pickup.
Then I chose a day each week to restock a medicine tray with all my daily medicines and supplements. I knew, at least a week in advance, which medications needed refills. And finally, I set phone alarms to go off three times each day to remind me when to take my medicine. This was a crucial piece to help me stay on schedule when I was going to be away from home and out of my typical routine.

I never left home without a full water bottle and made sure I never run out. I kept some extra bottles of water in my car all the time just in case. Sprite, 7-Up, or Ginger Ale were also handy to have.

I kept protein or granola bars in my purse, toolkit, and car. Nuts and crackers were handy, too. If I did skip a meal, at least I had something to keep my blood sugar up. It also helped to have non-perishable foods that were easy to digest even with nausea.

I stocked up on my favorite essential oils: lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, and clary sage. I mixed up several drops of each into a small vial or a small tube of unscented lotion that stayed in my purse all the time. I kept a small jar of Tiger Balm in my purse, too. It was handy for a lot of reasons. If I felt an attack coming on, I could apply some to ease the pain while my abortives were kicking in. I could also use a small amount under my nose to mask offensive smells.

I also started wearing sunglasses year-round. It was very common to get hit with a bad attack in the middle of a department store because their lights were so harsh. Never again, I resolved. Sunglasses stayed in my purse for use whenever and wherever they were needed. No one ever asked me to take them off or questioned why I wore them. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I just slipped them on and kept having fun.

We stocked the glove box of each vehicle with several emesis bags. Over the years we amassed quite a collection as nurses would stuff them in my husband’s hands at each ER visit (they were really paranoid about puke). By having some in each vehicle all the time (plus more in the first aid kit and still more strategically placed throughout the house), no one ever needed to clean up after me again.

We purchased lots of ice bags, plus “instant” cold packs for both vehicles and the first aid kit just in case ice wasn’t available. Microwavable heat packs filled with rice, corn, flaxseed, or clay were nice but not very practical when away from home. We found that instant heat packs or “hot hands” were a better solution. They were small enough to fit in my purse, so they didn’t draw attention until they were needed.

We purchased a power inverter for my car. It is a small box that plugs into a cigarette lighter to draw power from the vehicle engine. On the other end of the box are electrical outlets. We used it to plug in heating pads while traveling.

One of the latest additions to our tool kit was a TENS unit. It was small enough to wear under my clothes so I could wear it throughout the day. It was so inconspicuous that clients and co-workers never knew. I was amazed at the pain-relieving power of such a small device.

We bought a large bag to hold everything I would ever need in case of a migraine. That bag went with me everywhere. I never left home without it. Over the years the items in the bag have changed, but the bag is still with me.

I changed my thinking about my health care needs. No one questions a diabetic’s need for frequent meals, checking sugar levels, and taking medicine. I have learned to accept these extra preparations as necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I take care of my needs when I must. There is no hiding it. There is also no flaunting it. I don’t make a big deal out of it, so no one else does either. I do what I have to and move on with my day.

Having all these things available didn't prevent me from getting another migraine. They never stopped a stubborn attack that wouldn't respond to anything. However, having plenty of tools available gave me a sense of confidence that came from knowing I had options. Whether it was just a pair of shades or the aroma of Tiger Balm, the trick was in the delivery. When I was relaxed and matter-of-fact, no one but the ugliest of trolls ever questioned what I was doing.

My advice, fill your tool kit and rock it like you own it!

What do you do that makes you feel more confident in dealing with migraines?

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