Walk the Line
How do you balance the need to avoid your Migraine/Headache Disorders triggers with the equally powerful need to enjoy the things that give your life meaning?
It’s one thing to know what some of your migraine triggers are; it’s a different animal entirely to always make a 100% effort to avoid them. While I sometimes catch myself (particularly in the middle of a migraine attack) saying, “I would do anything to not have migraines,” those are words I preach but do not practice. I am a bit embarrassed confessing that, but I’ve talked to so many other migraineurs out there and know that I am not the only one in this boat.
Some triggers were easy to rid myself of. From the moment my teenage self discovered, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that aspartame was a major no-no for my migraine brain, I cut it out of my life entirely. No problem, no regrets. (I have accidentally ingested it before, but I can almost always taste its cloying sweetness at the back of my tongue and know immediately it’s not real sugar—I then spit out whatever I’ve started eating or drinking and proceed to chug water!)
Other triggers have been harder to let go of, and, for some triggers, I can’t quite figure out why I can’t seem to say goodbye.
In other cases, it’s easy for me to see why I don’t want to avoid ALL of my triggers all the time.
Take the summer sun. While I’m not a beach bum or tanning goddess by any stretch of the imagination (heck, I slather on the sunscreen and often sit in the shade!), I do love being outside in the summer as long as there’s cool water nearby. I grew up as a swimmer, spending most of my time at the neighborhood pool. I love slipping through the water and then emerging for a break, reading a book while the sun and heat dry up the water on my skin and suit.
But intense heat (even mitigated by pool or ocean water), strong sunlight (even that filtered through sunglasses or blocked by umbrellas), and summertime weather are all migraine triggers for me. In recent years, I’ve exposed myself to these triggers less and less, but it’s mainly because I no longer have a neighborhood pool and don’t live anywhere near the ocean—otherwise I’d be outdoors way more often.
I am not ready to give up this part of my life. During my rare beach vacations, I am not one to lie down on a towel and hang out for hours, sweating and burning. But I am one to play in the water for long periods of time, knowing full well that the sun glancing off the water and the beach will kick my brain into high gear and trigger a migraine attack. I cannot remember a beach trip in recent years when I did not end up with a migraine by the end of most evenings.
What triggers have you given up with ease, and which ones are a little harder for you? No judgment here, wonderful readers—I just want to hear from you in the hopes that we can be empathetic listeners. This illness is tough, and it can be difficult to follow all the rules and avoid all the triggers.
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June, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is issued by FightingHeadacheDisorders.com
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