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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.

Tolerating light and sound

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.

I won’t let migraine take away all the things I love

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.*

Focusing on the triggers I can control

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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • JPaula
    2 weeks ago

    I have stopped any alcohol (not that I drank often), I continue to exercise even though it can trigger a migraine. A nap can trigger me and I am sometimes fearful of one. I have specific instructions with my chiropractor and massage therapist to go lightly on my neck and head. Very conscious of body mechanics driving. Air travel is a trigger and I continue with medication.

  • L.M.Dillon
    4 years ago

    I meant to say my doc, hastold me to have botox done, anyone have it done ? X

  • L.M.Dillon
    4 years ago

    Hi Lisa , it was lovely to read about you I have cluster migraines , and have been hospitalized a few times, when my migrain’s start i have no idea when they will stop in a day a week, I just dont no, i am on topamax which i take every day which dose help without them i would have my migraines every day but like u i have to prepare, water, sunhat, meds,and sunglasses tks for your story x

  • bf5ixy
    4 years ago

    I try not to fear the sun since I live in Las Vegas and my husband is a avid Bass fisherman, and loves for me to go out with him.
    What I do fear now is flashing lights from concerts.
    I took our Grandchildren to a Disney Dance program a few weeks back and 15 minutes after the show I felt the migraine coming on in my left eye. My daughter could tell and got me home as quick as she could but it was not enough. Spent the next day down with vomiting and upset stomach. The ice pick feeling in my eyes and neck that lasted for the day and abortive medication just dulled it to a 5. Saw the Dr a few days later to get my Botox and he said no more strobe lights for you.

    I have already taken as many florescent lights out of my office that they will let me.

    Then that week I won tickets to a concert and I was excited to go. The day of the concert came and I told my husband I am afraid to go. I don’t want the lights to trigger that kind of headache again. Nor to I want to be around people smoking and all the perfumes. Also I have noticed since vaping has become popular the smell that comes from those also trigger my Migraines. So we stayed home. I have never let a migraine affect my plans as much as I can. I just go miserable and all. But this time I just said no way. Start of the holiday weekend and I didn’t want to ruin the whole weekend.

    Glad I didnt because the next day we went out on the boat and found some awesome hot springs and waterfalls. That I will be going back to this winter. Kept my self cool as I could and had a hat on and dark Sunglasses and stayed hydrated.

    So I will just pick my battles now on what I want to enjoy.

  • CTN65
    4 years ago

    CTN65

  • bluesjr
    4 years ago

    I sold my moto due to sun-induced migraines. Not a great combination (migraines and motorcycles).

  • CTN65
    4 years ago

    I wish I had as much luck as you.I loved being outside on our boat, or riding our Harley but not in the 5 or 6years.The sun,florescent lighting, and heat put me down for days. The Botox didn’t help I take 6 different meds and still I’m a walking migraine.I have learned to live at a 5/6 pain level every day. I work through the day but my life beyond work is gone. I’m happy for you, hopefully someday I’ll get there.

  • Cyndi Hackett
    4 years ago

    Greetings all,

    Disclaimer: As they say, “your mileage may vary (ymmv)”. My triggers are both barometric and hormonal. Living on the east coast means that I can get a lot of ‘headaches’. I take Sumatriptan for mine and supplement that with a combination capsule of Butterbur with Feverfew.

    Since I began supplementing, I’ve gone from an average of 22 a month to 5-8 per month. Yay! That said, I’ve had to battle the insurance companies to get enough triptans. How does one cover that many episodes with only 9 pills? Cut them into halves! That’s not to say that some days I had to take 4 halves…. but some days I was able to get by with just one. Thankfully, my new insurance company gives me 15 – but they originally were going to give me only 8! I had tried Topamax (preventative) but found the side-effects worse than not taking anything. Combine that with my having low blood pressure (too low to be able to take the channel blockers) and THAT was what gave me a leg to stand on with the insurance company. The fact that I had tried to take a preventative and was not able to take the other options satisfied them enough to (nearly) double my allowed quantity.

    FYI, the recommended dosage for the Butterbur with Feverfew is 2 per day. I initially only took 1 per day and now only take it 2-3 times per week to keep it in my system.

    Best wishes to ALL of you!

  • bluesjr
    4 years ago

    I posted this in response to Lillie’s post, but wanted to make a general comment.

    I’m highly sun-sensitive myself (could not even drive for a year!), and always wear a pair of polarized sunglasses, plus a bucket hat (that shape helps with light from various angles: front, side, back) whenever I go out, especially while driving.

    Someone mentioned Theraspec. If I understand their product, they have the pink glasses for fluorescents, and polarized for outside. That’s also the advice I got from Moran eye center, Univ. of Utah. Moran is one of the few sources in the nation of these migraine glasses. I got pink prescription bi-focals from them, and they work (used to get sick/dizzy just shopping in a grocery store). I also had a good pair of prescription polarized sunglasses made – expensive, but money well spent!

    I also have to wear lightly shaded glasses inside.

    I’m also sensitive to filtered flicking light of reduced intensity (extremely frustrating), and even fireworks displays. In fact, my migraine disease started on the 4th of July one year.

    Anyway to wrap up my recommendations: everyone sun sensitive should try a good pair of dark, polarized sunglasses and get yourself a dumb-looking bucket hat and wear it.

  • Chris
    4 years ago

    I used to fear the sun. I was always wearing sunglasses indoors and out. My Botox doctor got me to take 5000 units of vitamin D every day. After a couple of weeks I started going out in the sun for 15 minutes a day. Within a month I could go out all day without sunglasses at all. I now use sunglasses only when it’s very bright out and I’m driving. It’s the single greatest improvement I’ve had in the treatment of my chronic daily migraines. Some doctors will say that dose is too high. If so, ask to have your vitamin D levels monitored periodically. It’s so nice not to wear sunglasses all the time, and to be free to enjoy the sun again.

  • Sherry
    4 years ago

    I have been pro active for years trying to treat my migraines…daily medication, avoiding my triggers, giving up any type of hormones etc. As I got older the daily meds didn’t work so well and I had to resort to using narcotics for pain management. I realized I had started to take them more and more so I went to a chiropractor and talked to my doctor. Seems as though I put myself into a cycle of rebound headaches. With the help of my chiropractor and the help of my doctor changing my mdication I’ve been able to break the cycle without too much pain. My chiropractor was able to help me with my diet. I didn’t realize MSG can be a contributing factor to causing migraines. He gave me priceless information on the subject which has also helped me tremendously. I really understand the struggle and fear of getting these headaches. I have had many types of migraines which at times have been very frightening. I’ve had ocular migraines without pain, migraine that affected my basilar artery which could cause a stroke, migraine that caused confusion…fun while driving. So with most of us who suffer, all we can do is to try to avoid the triggers. I also do not fear them, I go about my business, do what I can to avoid them and enjoy my life. I’m hoping now that for me I’ve finally found a “cure”.

  • shine4him
    4 years ago

    This is one of my triggers, too. This year, I decided to try something different: forced acclimation.

    Since my migraines often hit when going between extreme temps (like outside in the sun to inside with a cold a/c), and were more frequent at the beginning of summer, I wondered if it was caused by not being adjusted to the temps. I know that over time, our bodies adjust to heat by thinning our blood – which is partly why a 50F day feels cold near the end of summer and the same temp feels warm at the end of winter. So I decided to try speeding up the process to see if that would work.

    On the first hot days of summer, I went out on purpose and did vigorous exercise (making sure to keep well hydrated!). In my case, that was running, but any workout (except swimming) that raises your core body temperature will give the same results. Yes, it triggered a migraine, but I expected that and had not made any other plans that day. I continued this every other day for about two weeks, and somewhere in there I stopped getting heat-related migraines! It’s been about a month now and I’m still not getting them! So I’m hoping that this year I will be able to enjoy summer, for once. And I’ll continue running just to be sure! 😉

    Now if I could only figure out something for those pesky storm-related triggers. 😛

  • slorider
    4 years ago

    Thank you Lisa. Reading this article really helped my awareness of how fear of migraine can affect my life. We have active friends and I hesitate to say yes to outdoor activities in the heat and sun. I worry that if I get a bad migraine, I might not have a cool dark place to hide. I fear that I may have to cancel plans at the last minute or leave early and have a lot of explaining to do. I worry that I will have to spend a lot of time and energy explaining to others that I don’t drink alcohol because it is a big migraine trigger for me. Your article has helped me feel less guilty about having these fears.

  • Ashley H
    4 years ago

    This resonates so much with me! I do not like hot sunny days because if I’m out in the sun, I inevitably get a migraine. I always tell my husband that cool, damp overcast days are my absolute favorite and he thinks I’m crazy. Someone mentioned shopping – I seem to always get a migraine after spending time shopping. To think that “shopping” is a migraine trigger sounds crazy, but apparently I’m not the only one! I hardly ever go to the mall.

    I do try to avoid triggers, but I just cannot let the migraines rule my life. I have so many and I hate them so much, but thankfully my abortive meds do work pretty well. Recently, my husband and I took in a newborn foster child – something that sounds crazy for a chronic migraine sufferer to do. Talk about messed up sleep schedule! But this is one area of my life (growing my family) that I just cannot continue to let migraines ruin. They’ve already put a big damper on things as I don’t want to go off my medicine to hopefully become pregnant. Fostering has been great though – lots of migraines and late nights, but medicine that helps me get through.

  • Mount Desert
    4 years ago

    When I hike, I wet my hair. Then I put on a wet cotton hat on top of which I place a synthetic wide brimmed hat. That helps to keep my head wet so I don’t feel the soon beating down. If necessary, I rewet hat and head during hike. Some people also like something cold around the neck.

  • linda
    4 years ago

    I don’t let anything that triggers a migraine get in my way anymore. I have very affective abortives and would rather take the risks and use my abortives than avoid a migraine altogether by avoiding things I like that trigger a migraine.

  • Meggietye
    4 years ago

    The summer sun is bad for me and it saddens me how many other folks suffer as well :(. I found something that makes a huge difference to me tho. Last September I bought, on trial, a pair of TheraSpecs (special dark glasses for people with light sensitivities..to the sun or electric lights/computers etc) and they have transformed my life. Please go to their website and check them out if the sun makes you sick…or lights or computers.

    My migraines were so painful I had noidea my eyes were in so much pain…as Crazy as that sounds?? I put these glasses on and my eye pain immediately was soothed. I was amazed! Right away I left my dark room and walked out to the kitchen and just calmly stood there…my family couldn’t believe it, I just stood there at 1 p.m…normally even with common sunglasses I couldn’t do that! I had not joined my family at mid day it’s the room bathed in light for months. I have them in my bag at all times & never go into an office without them ( fluorescent lights are a killer for me). These glasses change the wavelength of light so they slightly change colours therefore you can’t drive with them as the streetlights are not “true”. Just go to theraspecs.com for all the information and style choices. Best wishes!

    Cheers,

    Nancy

  • Julie
    4 years ago

    Hi Nancy,
    I’ve got a question for you. Have you noticed any increase in your photophobia with the use of Theraspecs? I got them about a year ago, and they help me a lot. I never go anywhere without them. But my photophobia has also gotten a lot more severe over the past year-to the point where any fluorescent light, even with theraspecs on, triggers a migraine. I wonder if my avoidance of light with the help of these sunglasses could be partly to blame, so I’d like to hear your experience.
    Thanks!

  • Pendragon
    4 years ago

    Hey Nancy,
    I’m just wondering what you mean about not being able to drive with TheraSpecs? How does a slight colour shift affect your ability to drive?

  • Vanessa
    4 years ago

    I live in Las Vegas NV and it is summer. The forecast this week is 111 most days. I fear the sun. I fear the heat. The worst part is I love outdoor activities. I used to love gardening, working in the yard and hiking. I came down with a terrible migraine attack yesterday. I see my husband trying to figure out what we “did wrong” that could have caused it and that feeling sneaks in again that my life isn’t worth living. If I’m not in a migraine, I’m coming out of one, recovering from one, feeling guilty because of one, feeling outcast because of one or wondering when the next one will come and no amount of pep talking can change that this is my life.

  • Janet
    4 years ago

    We lived in Las Vegas (Summerlin for 21) years from chicago. I miss the sun more than anything as we moved to 2 years ago to be near our first grandchild in Atlanta to humidity and rain. I’m chronic and while sun can be a trigger, I’ve been wearing sunglasses inside and out for 30 years. I’ll take sunny no rain triple digit heat to 97% humidity which now has triggered hives and more migraines (not possible I thought).. We have plans to move back on the table as I write. I spent last summer entirely indoors because of rain and humidity..wish I knew you Vanessa…I was very lonely…isolated…but not like this.
    Janet

  • pam bitterman
    4 years ago

    All so familiar! But what I fear most is LACK OF CONTROL, i.e. having no idea what will trigger or has triggered a migraine. This preoccupation is what I have spent most of my time consumed with. The greatest advance I have made( almost 10 years now since the onset of chronic Migraines) in this self examination is that GLUTEN SEEMS TO BE THE BIGGEST CULPRIT. I realize that this may not be the panacea for everyone suffering from migraine but I will say that eliminating gluten has made such a profound difference AMONG ALL THE MANY AND VARIED THINGS I HAVE TRIED that I cannot help but recommend that every migraine sufferer at least try doing it! And it’s not just the number and severity of migraines that has been drastically improved! My energy level, stiffness, “normal” aches and pains, mental clarity, weight loss! have all been significantly ameliorated. I have always been very healthy – on no medications and need none, a vegetarian for over 40 years, very active and creative and athletic until these headaches began. I was blindsided and wanted to find out “what was wrong” as much as I wanted the pain and malaise to stop. Just give eliminating gluten a try. It has helped 75% of migraine sufferers and that is no statistic to sneeze at!

  • Julie
    4 years ago

    How long did you go gluten and dairy free before you saw any benefit? I tried dairy for 3 weeks and gluten for 3 months with no change, but still sometimes get the sneaking suspicion I didn’t give it enough of a trial.

  • bluesjr
    4 years ago

    curious where that 75% gluten number came from.

  • Janet
    4 years ago

    My very first neurologist when I was 20 (I’m now 59) took ALL dairy away…I find it surprising when other chronic migraineurs eat dairy…soy I tripped along by accident and also made a huge difference. Low carb helps also and I concur with gluten free 100%!

  • Janet
    4 years ago

    I’ve been gluten free for a year now….helped quite a bit but I hope more in the days and months to come…overall I do feel the difference…

  • Meggietye
    4 years ago

    Thank you for your post :). I also quit gluten, I went a step further and quit dairy…then I found out soy was a trigger! I now eat no processed foods and am a huge label reader.

    Nancy

  • LillieLynne
    4 years ago

    I fear all you mentioned. We just went to Williamsburg for my sons 16th birthday. He took a friend and went to the parks. I just had my first botox treatment so I was so praying I would have some chance of enjoying even a little bit of the trip. It was in the high 90s the whole time. I took them to the park and found a dark space to hide and knitted. We went through the drive through for food as the restaurants noise level was higher than I could take with so many tourists. I did not even go to the pool. Driving was a problem so we drove after 7 at night to avoid the sun.I did manage to go to Michaels and JoAnns during the mornings to get yarn for the day of sitting and waiting for the boys to take them back and forth to the parks and to get something to eat. My husband has scheduled 2 weeks at the beach. I am sick thinking about it, saying no to even a stroll on the beach because the movement of the water triggers the vertigo that comes with the migraines. The reflection of the sun on the water definitely triggers it. So I will sit in the room or if I get to the pool I will hide in the darkest spot possible where there is no noise or sun. I will eat PB and J sandwiches and left overs from my families trips out to eat. Scared to death Ill ruin the trip if I trigger a migraine that sends me to the hospital. And yes, they get that bad. The vertigo causes me to heave endlessly and my BP gets way over 200 and in the 140s to 160s on the bottom from them. Stroke level. I fear the panic attacks I get from seeing the sunny day and having to disappoint my family by not being part of the day.

  • bluesjr
    4 years ago

    You may already know this, but I suggest a hi-quality pair of polarized sunglasses for that glare off the water, and of course, for driving.

    I’m highly sun-sensitive myself, and always wear a pair, plus a bucket hat (that shape does the most to deal with light from various angles) when I go out, especially while driving.

    Someone mentioned Theraspec. If I understand their product, they recommend the pink glasses for fluorescents, and polarized for outside. That’s also the advice I got from Moran eye center, Univ. of Utah. I got my pink glasses from them.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    I’m afraid of shopping and sunshine. Crazily enough I also dread storms. The last few days it’s rained and I have suffered for it. Today I had to go to an appointment and driving in the sun I have a migraine. I care for my grandkids and I can’t take my strong abortive.

  • Lifecoachjane
    4 years ago

    This is difficult for me to answer because I have daily migraines whether I leave the house or not. Sometimes I can tolerate going out on a milder migraine day, but not often. Like you, the sun is one of my triggers, so are fluorescent lights and the LCD back lights on computer monitors. I’ve been unable to work since April of 2011. I guess for me, I just want my life back.

  • Julie
    4 years ago

    If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do? To survive the pain and loneliness and isolation, as well as to support yourself. I’m only 23, with steadily worsening chronic migraines that have just recently gotten to the point where I can’t leave the house most days or make plans. Any suggestions?

  • Denise
    4 years ago

    I too finally, after so many years, realized that the sun seems to trigger my migraines! And, as you stated, I didn’t want to miss out on activities, such as my grandchildren’s baseball & soccer games! So, I’ve found UV umbrellas & lightweight UV widebrimed hats to alternate. I believe the very cold is a trigger for me, as well. But, I refuse to surrender & miss out on these events! I am also a cancer survivor, so each & every game is precious to me!

  • blueangel1980
    4 years ago

    I am currently in fear everyday of triggers causing yet another migraine. I am having two to four a week and have been out of work since February of this year. So I sound must of my days avoiding anything that could cause a Migraine.

  • LillieLynne
    4 years ago

    You can apply for disability.I have had migraines so severe that I am admitted to the hospital and have had 6 TIAs due to the High BP. ( mini strokes) I get them more than 15 days a month and it effects my speech and my balance and i also get NES ( non epileptic seizures) from the pain of the migraine. I was no longer allowed to work because I was such a risk factor to the office. Im only saying all this because you have reached that same point. And I am sure that you have been on every med they have with no relief. I have more joy in my life by just sitting home in my chair in a quiet spot away from windows than I did when I worked. Yes I cant go out, no I do not have the same level of income. But I am happy in the sense that I do not have panic attacks that someone will notice my head hurts so bad I cant walk or talk and then they will call a mgr who calls HR who takes your blood pressure and you are sent to the hospital in front of all your peers. HR is now taking control of issues like ours. We miss work, or are unproductive on days we do not feel well, so they have created ways to eliminate us. We cause the premiums to go up. We have to take meds and the ones used are the same for Bi polar Epilepsy and even Schizophrenia. So HR can say you are required to take meds that are mind altering and that effects your ability to think clearly to make wise decisions at work. Its supported in court now. You can not win a wrongful termination suit. So apply for disability. They will give it to you. We may not need a wheelchair or a Kane, but we are disabled from doing normal tasks. I do fall because of the dizziness that accompany mine, Ive broken bones, I cant watch TV or go to the movies or go in a restaurant or a mall. Or even get groceries. I cant vacuum because of the noise. Things we take for granted are no longer a choice so yes you can get it. Use a Disability firm to help you apply and it will take about a year.

  • dmae
    4 years ago

    Keeping you in my thoughts, blueangel1980!

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