When triggers invade your relaxation time...

Any of you who’ve had to (or chosen to) ask for special accommodation due to your migraine disease know how frustrating and upsetting it can be when your needs are not met; you also know how amazing and comforting it can feel when the person you’re speaking to really addresses your needs and recognizes your health condition as a priority.

In mid-June I started a tai chi class at the MBI (Mind-Body Institute) here in town. My longtime friend (and therapeutic yoga classmate) T. convinced me to sign up.

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I did, and it was only about an hour before the class that I noticed it didn’t meet where my other MBI classes have met in the class. “I’m going to tai chi this evening…Know if there’s fluorescent lighting in the classroom? A migraineur must be prepared! :),” I texted to T. “I will be there,” T. replied. “Yes to lighting. Boo.”

So I went to class armed against the lights, hat and sunglasses safely on my head. Except it didn’t help much at all. The ceiling was low, and the lights were plentiful (and that’s a modest way to put it). Plus there was a huge wall of mirrors on one side of the room, mirroring the fluorescent flickering lights in all their glory. I had a feeling this would be bad.

What was almost as bad as the lights themselves was my worrying over them. I found it really hard to be in the moment with tai chi, to listen to the teacher’s guidance and learn the moves. She said she’d turn off some of the lights once we got started with the practice, but she hadn’t done so when the practice began. My thoughts ran wild. Can I ask her to turn the lights off now? Is it bad to interrupt a teacher during a tai chi practice? Does she even remember that? Am I going to be able to come back to this class? Those mirrors just serve to reflect the light, making it twice as bright in here. I wonder if my hat is tight enough that it’s aggravating my head. Am I going to leave with a migraine? Man, I’m hungry. I shouldn’t come to evening class hungry, ‘cause that just exacerbates the migraine-waiting-to-happen.

You know the drill, I’m guessing. The cycle you get stuck in of worrying about the triggers that surround you. I needed to stop and remind myself not to focus on stories about my migraine.

The teacher did turn the lights down—the ones she could turn down, at least—and after class she spoke with me about what she could do better to help the situation for me. She said she’d investigate other classroom and lighting options and that she’d call me the next day with some possible solutions. She also told me that migraine has been in the news lately—did I keep up with that? I sheepishly informed her that, at least this past Sunday, I was probably the news she was talking about.

I was pleased to get a voicemail from the teacher on Tuesday, the day after class. She wanted to check in on me and see how I was feeling (fine, thank goodness!) and wanted to tell me that she’d found some other lights to use in place of the fluorescents. She asked that I call her today to let her know if that’d work.

I’m so impressed and happy with this teacher. It’s pretty easy to offer good, kind “customer service” and other accommodations, but most people don’t offer (or follow through, if they do make that initial offer). I still believe we are partly to blame, though—we need to politely educate those around us about what environmental triggers may harm us. Only after that can others try to pitch in to keep us healthy. Above all else, we have to be the ones to speak up. Trust me: the more you do it (and the more kindly you approach the subject), the easier it gets.

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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.

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