Migraine and the DMV Don’t Mix

Department of Motor Vehicles. Few words fill me with as much dread as these do. It’s more than a hassle; it’s a health hazard for someone with migraine. It’s hot, crowded, loud, smelly, and bright, and frustration is almost guaranteed. Any one of those factors could trigger a migraine; combined, they become a bomb with a malfunctioning timer—you’re pretty sure it’s going to explode, but have no idea when. Avoiding the DMV at all costs is a priority for me.

Apprehension set in the moment I realized my stolen driver’s license had to be replaced in person. I kept reminding myself that all the fretting about how bad it was going to be would only make the experience worse. I told myself that it’s impossible to predict how any event will turn out before it happens. But, come on, this is the DMV. The chance was high that a migraine attack would come on ten minutes after I arrived and be there for another three hours.

My preparation was thorough. I completed the paperwork online ahead of time and checked which office had the shortest wait time. I dressed in layers so I could manage the temperature and took earplugs for the noise and TheraSpecs for the lights; my laptop, Kindle, and phone went into the bag so I’d have entertainment and distraction. I ate ahead of time and grabbed some emergency snacks and a water bottle. I packed up my best behavior and mindfulness skills to bring along. Still, I chewed my lip the entire 25-minute drive and my heart beat a little too quickly as I walked through the door.

And, of course, the experience wasn't all that bad. I was there for 55 minutes, during which I had to go to three different windows and waited eight minutes for change for a $20. I got some writing done and played some games on my phone. It did not trigger a migraine attack. Other than the shorter wait times, the DMV was exactly as I imagined it, but this didn’t ultimately affect me.

I’d like to think my planning played a part in getting me through the DMV without a migraine attack. I’m making a mental note of this experience so the next time I dread something, I can pull it out as an example of why fretting is fruitless. Maybe next time I’ll listen when I tell myself not to worry.

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