I Will No Longer Fear the Sun

It’s Sunday morning and it’s one of the nicest days of the year so far. The sun is shining and it’s warm. My husband Paul and I head out for a hike. Because sun is one of my biggest triggers, I go prepared for the worst. I bring my baseball cap and sunglasses, plenty of water, food, and medication just in case. We choose an easy trail through the woods and it takes an hour or so.

On the drive back home a foggy feeling starts to crawl into my brain. Paul asks if I’m okay. I say my head seems a bit off. I reassure him (and myself) that I’ll probably be fine after a shower and a snack. But after a few hours of prodrome fogginess, insatiable food cravings, fatigue, and neck pain, the head pain has started. “It must have been the sun,” Paul says. I know he’s right, but I don’t want to fully admit it. Of my migraines, this certainly hasn’t been the worst attack (though I’m knocking on wood here as it’s still happening as I’m writing). I’ve been able to tolerate light and sound pretty well, and for the most part have just sat on the couch and read a book. The Botox helps dull my pain in combination with my abortive medication. I would rate it a 2/3 on my 1-3 severity scale.

But, severe attack or not, here in lies the paradox of the disease. Migraines can take something we love, like spending a day out in the sun, and make it something we fear. I used to fear the sun, and avoided going outside more often when my migraines were chronic. But now I do everything to not fear what I love. This is partially because I’ve converted back to episodic migraine and so can afford a day here and there of compromised functionality. But in great part it’s because I won’t let migraines take away the things that I love if I can have any say in the matter. I’ve concluded the hike was worth an afternoon of pain. And hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling fine again.*

I used to fearfully avoid anything that could trigger a migraine. I now instead focus on what I can control. If I know I want to spend a day outside, I can take the preparations I did above, with water, sunglasses, etc. I stay on a regular sleep schedule as much as possible, do regular yoga and exercise to help my stiff muscles, and choose to not eat or drink anything that triggers my migraines. And that’s all I can do. And more often than not, these things allow me to enjoy the sun. So I no longer let the fear rule my actions. I have endeavored to find as much balance as possible between living my life and avoiding triggers, and this is my (makeshift) solution for now.

I’m curious, what is it that migraines make you fear? Is it a loud, busy shopping mall? Is it a dinner out at a restaurant with hidden trigger foods? Is it staying up late to spend time with friends? How do you balance out your desire to live your life with your need to avoid triggers for an attack?

*Note: I had a long, sluggish day of postdrome. Fun times!

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