When you rebel and risk a migraine

I find myself wanting to confess things on here because I know that I am talking to a room (however virtual) of other migraineurs who understand what it is like to deal with this illness.

So, here goes—a very silly story of a tendency I have to act as if I am someone whose life isn’t affected by migraine disease.

I wasn’t a very rebellious kid, or even a rebellious teenager (and that’s when you’re supposed to rebel, right?).  I fought with my parents (especially my poor mom!) sometimes, sure, but nothing that strikes me as out of the ordinary when I talk to other friends and families.

The main person I rebel against is myself. Or, to be more specific, my chronically ill self.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I would do anything to rid myself of migraines, but that doesn’t mean I always take all the measures I could to actually be the healthiest version of myself.  There’s that time I kind of deliberately gave myself a migraine. There are the days when I just want to act like a normal person and have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner without having to worry that the wine will trigger a migraine.

And then there are the times I go shopping or go out to eat and purchase things that I know aren’t good for my migraine brain.  It’s not as if I am ignorant about these items’ potential ability to become triggers—it’s that I’m willfully ignoring my health problems and rebelling, wanting to be a so-called “regular” person.

This explains why I have a small bag of lotions and candles that are lovely but have smells that trigger migraines for me. I bought them at a time when I was feeling good and in deliberate denial about the fact that they will be migraine triggers most of the time.

This is why I periodically spray what used to be my signature scent (an inexpensive mist called “Moonlight Path” from Bath & Body Works) and then rush to scrub it off within a few minutes because it’s now too strong a scent for me.

This is why I will eat a big ol’ honkin’ piece of sugary cake all in one sitting even though I know that having so much sugar at once will cause me to feel sick.

This is why, when in a really good mood, I decide to stay up way past my bedtime to hang out with friends even though I know that messing up my sleep routine will likely trigger a migraine.

Of course this topic isn’t new to regular readers at migraine.com, but it does seem like one that is worth revisiting, because every migraineur I know has this struggle: the struggle that emerges when you want to engage in behaviors that you know are not good for your migraine brain.

What sorts of things do you find yourself attracted to despite knowing they may trigger a migraine for you?

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

View Comments (25)
  • Mary
    5 years ago

    This really hits home! A couple of weeks ago I went shopping with some friends – that in itself is a major event these days. I decided I was going to go – I can’t keep living like a recluse. I also decided to take whatever medicine necessary to go along and not hold up anything that my friends were going to do. I took 2 ibuprofen before leaving home – I seem to always have head pain and this seemed to keep the pain manageable until lunch. By the end of the trip I had taking 3 maxalt, 2 more doses of ibuprofen and 2 anti-nausea pills. This got me through the day and I enjoyed being with my friends, but at what cost? I spent the next couple of days recovering from my trip and overuse of triptans. It’s a tough decision to make and I have to weigh making things worse or spending time with my friends. I think I’ll have to stick to breakfast or lunches to minimize the damage to my head. It just isn’t fair – I miss too many things!

  • Charlotte Best
    5 years ago

    Last night at a 4th of July party I ate a hot dog and stayed up late to watch the noisy, acrid-smelling fireworks. The migraine started before I left the party, and because of this, I never leave the house without my medication. I took it when I felt the first inklings of a problem. When I got home, I fell into bed with an ice pack under my neck and woke up this morning feeling better but foggy. I’m generally careful about what I eat, what I do, and how long I sleep, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing about last night.

  • Azhure80
    5 years ago

    I can so relate to this. I do this too, perhaps more often than I should, but it’s a calculated risk. If we remove every joy in life, what is the purpose then in living? So much is sacrificed daily that most people take for granted. I wouldn’t call it rebelling though. I would just call it living. Taking risks, and living with the consequences. And many times, despite the pain afterwards…… It was so worth it!

  • Amy
    5 years ago

    I was almost in tears by the time I finished reading your article. I can SO relate. I work to support my theatre habit. When we have a show opening, I work (Payroll Manager – no stress there…) all day, then go to the theatre at night. No going to bed at 830p, which I should be doing. And if we go out after a show, you know I’m getting a margarita.

    When I know a migraine will be coming, I know I’m going to be down for the next few days anyway, so let’s cause trouble while we can. My friends are great. ‘Are you sure you want a ? You’re going to pay for it later.’ I know, but I’ve spent so much time in a cave, watching life pass me by, that I will jump at the opportunity to live, even if it’s only for a few hours.

  • Amy
    5 years ago

    the ? was supposed to be insert trigger here…

  • Misty-mckinnon
    5 years ago

    For me, it’s two things; If I have not had a migraine in the recent enough past that I can’t actually still feel the pain, and my period is nowhere in sight, and lovely looking deep dark CHOCOLATE appears before me at just the right time, I will sometimes decide that it’s okay to have just a little. The tricky thing is that sometimes it doesn’t even cause me any problems–although most of the time it will.

    The other is alcohol. I hardly ever drink anymore, but I do miss so many activities with friends and family. Every once in a while, I decide to try it. Usually before I finish one drink, I realize I can’t do it–the headache starts immediately– and stop. Sometimes though, (once a year or so)I am able to drink a few, but then I always pay a serious price.

  • TracyM09
    5 years ago

    Oh yes Janet, you are not alone! I risk a Migraine once a week to have Pizza Hut and Captain Morgan’s and Coke or 2. It was my favorite back in the days before I went Chronic! I will also sacrifice myself to see anything cultural, Concerts (The Dave Matthews Band is a weakness) and I couldn’t miss Neil Diamond or Tony Bennett, musicals, and dance shows. I’ve got 2 events coming up and I know I will have to pay the piper for my indulgences. I also Love NFL Football…heck almost any Football game, so I will be using my season tickets to watch the University of Hawaii home games where there will be noise, garlic fries, and way too many people!! I guess that’s the price I pay just to be normal for just a few moments in time. I think it’s better than living in a dark cool cave 24/7 365 days a year!

  • thisisendless
    5 years ago

    Since I have a migraine every day no matter what I do, I have stopped trying to control any of it. What’s the point? I was on the super restrictive Bucholtz diet, and lived a regimented life of exercise and sleep for 8 months with no improvement whatsoever. So I have stopped trying.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Thisisendless,
    I can relate. You feel like you’ve tried everything with no results. If the Elimination diet didn’t help, then that means your Migraines are probably not food related. Time to move on to the next thing. And I know it can be hard to get motivated to try something new, but I encourage you to keep fighting. Giving up can only make you more depressed, which will only make the Migraines worse. It’s a vicious cycle. I wrote about it in this article. You’re not alone!
    http://migraine.com/blog/ive-tried-everything-2/

  • Teresa
    5 years ago

    I’m the same way with trying to lose weight, let alone managing my migraines. It’s frustrating to have to tell yourself no all the time and it’s very hard to do what’s right for yourself and not get weak and do what tastes good or is fun for a change.

  • Brenda
    5 years ago

    Ah, another one of my endless issues. I had lost 30 lbs over the course of a year and a half, I was really happy with myself. Then my neurologist put me on amitryptaline (sp?) and within 2 months I gained 20 of it back. And the medication didn’t work to prevent my migraines. So disheartening.

  • thisisendless
    5 years ago

    THIS. This this this. Between my weight and my migraines I can’t stand all the self denial and joyless choices. When I get sick (Which is almost every day now) I tend to want to emotionally eat to sooth the pain and depression.

    It is really hard to fight it on both fronts. There is no “Migraine safe low calorie” cookbook that I have found. Just one or the other, and I have to go through and make all the substitutions. I’m sick of it.

  • teresa56
    5 years ago

    I feel like you have been privy to my thoughts and actions. Yes, I have been guilty of all of the above, especially violating my bedtime (just one more chapter). I behave like a rebellious 3 year old knowing what I am risking, but I WILL be in better control and I WON’T have a migraine THIS time. Oh, famous last words that will have me curled up on the couch with an icepack and swearing never again. Migraineurs have there own version of a hangover. As for your “Moonlight Path”, I have an almost full bottle under my bathroom sink right now. I have found that I can tolerate the shower gel better than the lotion or spray. I rarely wear a scent now, but sometimes. . . oh, to just be normal for at least a few hours. I recently found out that my daughter is now on the same path. That alone should motivate me to be a better example, especially since she asks me to advise her on potential side effects of her medicines. I crossing my fingers and hoping that they work better for her than they did for me. My thanks to my migraine ‘family’ for letting me know I am not the only Don Quixote out there.

  • Traci
    5 years ago

    I have this problem big time. I can’t help but consider it a huge weakness in myself, but I like your way of looking at it better….as rebelling or being in denial. I heard someone say that the body does not remember pain. I think it is true to an extent because as soon as I start craving foods or drinks that will make my head hurt. It’s so strange.

  • Traci
    5 years ago

    I meant to say *as soon a I start to feel better I start craving foods or drinks….*

  • Meli28
    5 years ago

    I have to say it sucks to be us for us to say we want to feel normal is a big deal. I drink coffee every morning but their are times when I would like a second cup of coffee but I can’t because that will give me a migraine. I get so frustrated and angry that I have to alter things that I like in my life just to prevent me from getting a attack. I feel like everything and anything gives me migraines and I am so fed up with living this way.

  • valeriebellows
    5 years ago

    Every now and then I try to be “normal.” I now that processed sugars (cookies, donuts, cake) will give me a MAJOR migraine. But the taste oh so good. One more cookie, one more slice won’t hurt me. WRONG!!! I know better, but I just want to be normal.

  • Nola
    5 years ago

    Every now and then the desire to be “normal” overwhelms even the best of common sense. I have a tiny bottle of my favorite perfume… it’s about 25 years old, and ever now and then I will open it for just one whiff “(I don’t dare put it on!)I miss my old life sometimes, mostly, I’m dealing.

  • Brenda
    5 years ago

    I just threw out my favorite perfume that my husband gave me almost 20 years ago when I ran out of my first bottle. When he gave it to me it was right about the time I started to realize that any type of heavy smell would cause a migraine but I’ve kept it all these years. I literally threw it away in the last week. I finally gave it up. There are many other items that I still hold onto tho that I know if I wore them I would most certainly get a migraine (certain lotions, hand creams, oils, etc.)

  • Teania
    5 years ago

    I really relate to this. I’m only 24, soon to be 25. I’m in the prime age group to do stupid stuff until I get older and have to buckle down. But I’ve found I’ve had to grow up just to keep myself from being sick.

    But I rebel against myself because I stay up way too late. I eat Chicken though it gives me hella migraines. I drink mike’s hard lemonade every now and then. I listen to loud music with a powerful bass. I rebel hard. I feel sometimes like this is to replace my non-existent rebel phase that I was supposed to have when I was 16.

    But to me, it’s not only to relieve the guilt I feel all the time for not being able to participate with my friends in things they do. But it’s also because before I “buckle down” I want to live my life. I want to live dangerously for a little while longer before I have to truly grow up.

  • Brenda
    5 years ago

    Oh boy, I could have written this! I do this also. I will have an alcoholic drink once in a great while if I’m out to dinner with several people and they are all drinking and I feel good and I think, “maybe this one time won’t hurt”. I have a stockpile of candles I can’t use, lotions I can’t use, all purchased when I was feeling great and in complete denial that they will affect me. There’s a handful of behaviors I find myself doing when I feel good that I know could potentially bring on a migraine but I always think that it won’t happen for some reason, that I’m feeling too good for it to trigger one. Total denial. And I’ve been doing it for 20 years. I think it’s because we are so sick of migraines running our lives, we want to feel like we are in control, not the migraine. I am trying to be more aware of this behavior. It is hard though. You certainly aren’t the only one out there who does this!

  • Brenda
    5 years ago

    Traci, it is SO wonderful to know that it’s not just me. It almost brings tears to my eyes. I am constantly being lectured by my husband, “why do you do this when you KNOW it will cause a migraine?” And I get so defensive, I don’t know how to explain it, because yes, of course, deep down I know. It’s just that at that moment, when you feel so good, you think, maybe just this one time.

  • Traci
    5 years ago

    Brenda, you make me feel better because I do the exact same thing.

  • Manda
    5 years ago

    Being a teen who suffers from migraines, I find it immensely difficult not to engage destructive behaviors such as protesting my medications. I get so sick of relying on taking meds for me to feel better (I’m Amitriptyline, B12, Magnesium, and Excedrin migraine currently) that I just stop all together and I ALWAYS regret it!!

  • astrosdiva
    5 years ago

    Manda, “Being a teen” with Migraine Disease is SO different than in the 1960’s! A Migraineur since age 11 (1962), there were no treatments nor preventives. Forget the abortive triptans! Most doctors considered you to be a “neurotic female” who just needed to calm down and not worry. In my 30’s I gained 50 pounds during 5 years of taking Elavil (amitryptaline), and it didn’t even help. After a lifetime of drinking Coke, I eliminated caffeine completely when I was 40. The great thing about this is CAFFEINE HELPS at Migraine onset, but only if you never drink it otherwise. I never drink alcohol nor eat cheese or any of the other Migraine trigger-foods. I do crave chocolate, though, and sometimes eat a bit. I am usually sorry. Doctors assured me the Migraines would pass after menopause, so I couldn’t wait to be 50! They got worse, which is rare. Manda, with all the current knowledge about this debilitating disease, I truly hope your life is very different from mine. Good wishes to all of you. Starla

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