Yes, I Saw Your Shot: Facing Triggers

As a big sister to four very sweet, hilarious, and very active younger brothers, I always want to provide fun and engaging entertainment whenever I spend time with them. I love to see a huge smile on their faces, and I love being able to provide or facilitate exciting environments and activities.That is why, despite my apprehension because of migraine...I volunteered to take my younger brother to his third basketball game of the season: loud cheering fans, bright lights, that super, incredibly obnoxious horn, screaming preteens, referee whistles and all. Sometimes it can be really tough to keep up with my kid brothers when I am experiencing pain from migraines, and even tougher to navigate that pain when I am in the role of caretaker for someone else.

Living with chronic migraine can often entail being caught in situations in which many of us are having to choose between our family, friends, jobs, and livelihoods or migraine. Here, I am going to discuss how I navigate a trigger laden situation and environment where I knew many of my own migraine triggers would be present, but that I decided to go through with because I wanted to support a loved one.

Calm before the storm

While I certainly felt anxious about taking my brother to his basketball game because of all of the possible migraine triggers that would be present, I also felt really guilty for having missed his previous games, and I wanted to spend time with him. When my mom asked me if I could take him, I said yes immediately. It was close to my house, and I thought we could make a day of it: lunch, basketball game, ice cream. It all sounded like a blast. I set an alarm to get up early the morning of the game to retrieve him so we could hang out.

But then the anxiety and questions set in: Will I have to wait in the car? Will he be upset with me if I don’t watch all the way through? Should I go in for a little while and leave if I start to feel sick? Am I walking right into a migraine nightmare?

Preparation and support

My partner offered to come along to help with the driving (90 minutes round trip) and to also support my youngest brother at the game. I felt comfort in knowing that my partner would be there if I needed to tag team him in to act as honorary big sibling at the game, help care for me during escalation of an attack should one be induced, and do some of the driving. I also packed my bag full of medicine: migraine meds, allergy meds, inhaler, anxiety medicine, a small cloth, ear plugs and a bottle of water.

I still felt anxious that something would turn my fun day into a sour one, but when we picked my brother up from my mom’s, I felt a little relieved. My brother was super excited to be heading to the game. That filled my heart with joy and the anxieties subsided a little. We ate lunch and had a great time catching up on all things pre-teen and soon we were on our way to the game.

Out of my head, into the game

I could hear the blare of the referees’ whistles before we even entered the room. The small bleachers were packed, mostly with sleepy looking parents and a ton of very small children. Another game was just finishing up. From the moment we walked in I felt dizzy. Although my migraines can be triggered days before they occur and can last for a really long time, I have a lot of experiences where they are induced by environmental factors such as bright lights, smells (such as fryer oil and perfumes), and loud noises. Here I was in an environment where many of those triggers were present and I’d volunteered to go.

Why are sports buzzers so loud?..seriously?

BLEAUURGMM. The buzzer had spoken, very loudly.

Ouch was my first thought. I’d felt the loudness in my teeth and immediately contemplated going back out to the car. ‘Watch out for me’ I whispered to my partner. It was finally time for my brother’s team to play and I was thinking of leaving the room. But I was also filled with excitement and ready to see him play some ball! That’s why we were there after all. I decided to stay.

Worth the stay

For the next thirty minutes I watched intently as my brother played a great game. I felt proud. I shouted ‘GET THE REBOUND’ and ‘Go Blue!’ I clapped and cheered and yes, flinched at every loud sound that occurred during the short game, but I was enjoying myself and enjoying supporting my brother. The most exciting part of the game was a moment in which my brother stole the ball from the opposite team and in an energetic play that had the whole gym watching, took the ball all the way back down the court and made a beautiful layup, for the first points for his team of the game.

And... then before I knew it, the game was over. Thank goodness let’s go, I thought after praising my brother for a great game. He asked me if I saw his really great shot, and I was happy to report that I had! We went to get ice cream and my partner drove us to my mom’s while I checked out a bit and rested in the passenger seat. All in all, that day was so much fun and definitely worth it, but yes--by the end of it all my head was pulsing. I balanced doing something I wanted to do for and with my brother with known migraine triggers, and while I won’t be going to the next one, I am really glad I went to this one. I know that it can feel terrible to have to choose between our loved ones and our pain, and sometimes that choice is not even up to us, because the chronic pain can steal moments like this for us. Because of that, I will always cherish this game I got to spend with my brother. 

Do you ever feel like you can’t support your siblings or kids because of migraine? How do you navigate being in high energy, demanding situations as a role model or caretaker while dealing with migraine triggers and symptoms? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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