Overindulgence in alcohol and the migraine that followed
Yesterday, my sister texted me to see if I’d want to join her and my mom for a quick happy hour drink at one of our many local watering holes. (Last year, my parents moved to town, meaning all four Geddises are now within walking distance of each other!) I was on the fence at first, considering all the items on my to-do list I hadn’t come close to accomplishing, but then I thought better of it. “Self,” I thought, “Your to-do list can almost always be delayed just the tiniest bit. Your mom and your sister are two of the humans you treasure most, so go hang out with them. Also: you’ve been feeling good this week, you haven't been around other migraine triggers, and there’s no storm system moving in. A drink won’t hurt.”
So I texted her back to change my “maybe” to a “yes.” Hooray.
Looking over the bar’s menu, I decided to try a specialty cocktail instead of my usual, somewhat innocuous vodka soda with a twist of lime. (Honestly, my usual beverage is tap water with no ice or soda water with lime—it’s not too often that I have any alcohol.) I ordered a caipirinha, a Brazilian beverage I had a a handful of times when I was studying abroad in Argentina.
The drink is made with cachaça, Brazil’s most popular spirit, an alcohol distilled from sugar cane. Apparently it’s very strong, and apparently it doens’t agree with me.
I had two drinks spaced out over two hours and felt a little loopy. When my mom asked if we wanted to go to the place next door for a bite to eat, I jumped at the chance, knowing it’d make me feel a little better. Perhaps Janet of the study abroad days (fourteen years ago, mind you) could take this caipirinha business in stride, but Janet of 2015 has a tolerance a little too low for that.
We had a fun dinner, and I felt pretty much back to normal about an hour later when I walked the few blocks back to my house.
Within thirty minutes of arriving home, though, I could feel the migraine beast arriving. I was self-indulgent, groaning audibly in my own self-pity. Why did I have two drinks, especially after I could tell the first one was stronger than what I’m used to? Why did I have two drinks on a weeknight when I had obligations to fill first thing the next morning? I started the cycle of self-blame, which isn’t very helpful in the moment. Sure, it’s handy to notice what behavior you’ve engaged in that contributed to your migraine and do your best to avoid that behavior in the future, but being totally self-deprecating and self-blaming doesn’t help with stress or the migraine at hand.
I sprayed some topical magnesium on my neck and shoulders and got ready for bed. The discomfort was growing, but I was in that distinct and weird phase of denial, thinking that maybe just a good night’s sleep would cure me. (Sometimes it does, after all, but I could tell this one was like an oncoming train, not to be stopped by a simple night’s sleep.)
My sleep was fitful and full of really bad, anxiety-riddled dreams. Being late for appointments, getting lost in huge buildings with multiple staircases, forgetting huge work obligations and getting reminded a whole room of people was waiting for me. Finally I was able to rouse myself during one of these nightmares. I got up, went to the kitchen for a glass of water, and went to the bathroom to grab an Imitrex.
The rest of my sleep was terrible, made more complicated by a cat who has decided that this week is a good one to run laps and chase loud, jingly things and meow loudly while we sleep.
When I finally got out of bed a full two hours after my alarm was supposed to get me going for the day, my migraine headache was gone. But my stomach was a mess, my brain still felt fuzzy, and my energy level is low.
I wish I had gone out with my sister and mom without indulging. Sometimes I think a migraine is coming for me no matter what, while other times I see a very clear line between the trigger and the resulting migraine. This time I know it was my deliberate choice of beverage(s) that caused me to ruin a night’s sleep and lose time and energy to another migraine. I feel foolish, but ready to start my day now. As I type, I’m wearing walking clothes (loose shorts, tank top, walking shoes) and am going to embark on a neighborhood walk before the temperatures creep into the 90s again. I’m hitting reset and hoping for a good, healthy day today.
Have you ever been in this particular position, over-indulging in alcohol when you know it’s probably not a smart thing to do? How did you end up feeling that night or the next day? How, if at all, has your behavior changed since?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?