Migraine and FOMO

When we received an invitation for the wedding of a dear friend in California, a wave of questions arose. After all, we live on the East Coast and I live with chronic migraine. Do we gamble on the hope that a migraine will not appear and make reservations for airfare and accommodations? Or, do we acknowledge the reality of my nearly constant state of pain, and proactively respond with my regrets, sending my husband to attend the event on his own? These options felt like a symbolic choice between embracing life and letting migraine win.

I think I can

I want to, and I have to, believe that these types of experiences are within my reach. This belief feels like a healthy and important choice that leans me toward, rather than away from, life and all its offerings. Even though migraine has prohibited my ability to participate in countless events, my husband and I have a general agreement when it comes to responding to invitations. Whenever possible, we RSVP that I will be in attendance. Doing so gives me the flexibility to come if I can. That way, most times I can wait and see how I’m feeling until the day arrives before making a decision.

After all, I want to be with my husband on all of life’s adventures. I love spending time with and traveling with him. But the hard truth is that migraine limits my ability to be adventurous and my husband ends up flying solo to most events. This reality breaks my heart.

Betting on wellness

A trip to California is a bit harder to leave the decision for the last minute. Reservations would have to be made and paid for, after all. This really felt like a gamble but, as usual, we chose to bet on wellness and hope for the best. We bought tickets for the trip, found a cute Airbnb cottage and after talking with my lifelong best friend, I even extended my trip by a couple of days so that she and I could visit with each other.

Some might say this was not the smartest choice given my daily pain, and proclivity for nausea and vomiting. Triggers that set me off include loud noises, pressure changes, bright lights, stress, and fatigue. All triggers that can be found in travel. That said, again, I don’t want to be held hostage by migraine. I don’t want to be incapable of enjoying what life has to offer out of fear that a migraine might appear.

And losing

In the days prior to the trip, a voracious migraine showed its ugly head. The kind of migraine that is a full body experience. My energy drained to zero. Endless bouts of vomiting. None of my medicines were working.

I couldn’t fathom canceling this trip with all that was now riding on it. The cost, the logistics, my best friend counting on me. As the departure date neared, my stress about the trip was like gasoline causing an already intense migraine attack to become a raging fire.

Incapable of thinking clearly due to the grip of the migraine, my husband was helpful in walking me through the situation until the answer became clear. Proceeding with our plans made no sense given the pain I was in, especially given my track record for slow healing from these kinds of intractable migraine attacks.

It’s about how you play the game

Indeed it took me over a week to get my bearings. In that time, my husband left and came back and I was still recuperating. Thankfully, best friend was wonderfully understanding. She reminded me that we have to put our health first and that my body was obviously asking me to take care of itself. And she was right.

I didn’t spend the time my husband was away depressed about not being there. I was too busy responding to the migraine’s demand for attention. Of course I missed him and my friend, but getting wrought up about the injustice of missing out gets me nowhere but on the way to another migraine attack.

A major upside of all of this is that I remain glad that we tried. I’m glad we gambled for the experience of life. I’m sad I missed out, but I’d be more sad if we hadn’t even tried for me to be there. My spirit is lifted by the belief that these experiences are within my reach. In the meantime, I continue learning worlds about being flexible and that it’s alright to apply compassion to myself.

How do you approach travel opportunities? Do you proceed with the belief you will be able to go, or have you chosen to change the way you approach adventure and travel in your life because of migraine? If so, what do you do differently?

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 (18)
  • ptaillant
    6 months ago

    I’ve been suffering from migraines for 30+yrs. They are definitely chronic with sensitivity to light , noise , smells, foods and weather changes . I have them every month accompanied by nausea and vomiting. I work very hard at controlling their length of stay by avoiding triggers , especially foods . I go about the life I would like to live never letting a migraine prevent me from planning however if I get one while traveling I can usually manage to lessen the severity with medications , ice, heat, rest and massage. ; (
    My fiancé has a rough time with me being sick as often as I am however I don’t let that get to me anymore . I consider myself a functioning migraine sufferer. I push myself to go to work and if I must go home at some point then I do but I at least show up. I continue to function as a mom as well ensuring my kids attend school and their sports activities daily . I cook and clean even in my most sickest moments .
    My sons have had to watch me vomit in between laundry , vacuuming and running out to take them to a piano lesson . It has taught them that we can preserve despite critical illness.
    I pray my migraines will lessen after menopause as they have truly taken yrs from me . : (

  • Marysu
    5 months ago

    I totally get the push to be functional despite constant migraines because I am just like that. I have had a headache for over 50 years!! I raised 3 children, attended nursing school full time while also working full time. I just soldiered through the pain, nausea, exhaustion but my goal for medications was always based on staying functional. I didn’t have time to be gorked out! I also had the hope that menopause would reduce my headaches but it has not worked out that way. They have changed, less severe, less nausea (I never vomited but always wished I could!) but now it is ALWAYS there. It is exhausting to be living this way. I recently came across information about trigeminal neuropathy and discussed this with my doctor. We increased my dose of gabapentin dramatically and so far it is working quite well. The headache is there but at a 3 or 4, not a 9 or 10!! I can’t say this would be a fix for everyone but it is certainly worth considering especially if you are over 50 and still battling migraines nearly daily! God bless everyone of us with this problem diagnosis of migraine because I know the fight I have had to be treated effectively and to be believed that yes, you can have a headache every day!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing what is working for you with gabapentin. Pain decreasing from a 10 to a 3 is definitely an improvement. It sounds like you have been very strong in your journey with migraine. I hope this therapy continues to bring you some relief.

  • mbabi1970
    5 months ago

    I know exactly what you mean with migraines taking years off your life. My sons have grown up with a sick mom. A mom that couldn’t be class mom or do any of the stuff the other moms did. It was hard for me to accept. Still is really. But they understand and I believe are more compassionate people because of that. Like you, I do push myself to attend some things when it’s possible, but I’ve realized through the years that I have to know my limit. I have to be able to say to myself – nope, not doing that today sweetheart – because when I push myself it lands me in bed for even longer. It’s so hard all that we go through. I know that noone in my family could ever deal with the kind of pain I live with on a daily basis. Noone will ever truly get it but that’s ok because we have no choice but to keep going. We are the strongest of them all.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    It sounds like you have been so very strong despite extreme pain. Living with migraine really does make us stronger, more resilient and compassionate. And as you said, those who live with us- and watch us navigating the disease, have the opportunity to learn those lessons as well.

    I join you with fingers crossed for a lift in migraine frequency with menopause. The OBGYN with whom I consulted about this said that the research she had seen said that for women who experienced a reprieve or decrease in their migraine pattern during pregnancy- they would have the same experience after menopause. Alternatively, for those (unfortunately, like me) who had an increase in migraine during pregnancy, they would have an increase in migraine frequency post-menopause. Who knows, but I honestly don’t see how it can get any more frequent – but I can say that her prediction broke my heart as I’ve been banking on this post-menopausal break from migraines for decades. I’m hoping her research is wrong or maybe outdated by now. Here’s hoping you had easy pregnancies?

    Thanks for chiming in and glad you’re a part of our community!

  • mbabi1970
    6 months ago

    Wow I can really relate to this. As you have done, I chose about a year ago to respond yes to most things and then see how I feel on the day and if need be, cancel. The problem is that happens 9 times out of 10. It really depends on my frame of mind and even though I know it is in my healths best interest to not attend, the depression that creeps in is crazy. I just missed a family wedding. One I was looking forward to for months. Actually missed the bridal shower too. My husband went alone. It killed me even though I knew there was no way for me to attend. And I agree that the stress that comes with the anticipation of an event can easily trigger a migraine. We are supposed to go visit my oldest son who is a freshman in college for parents weekend in 2 days and all I can think about is what if I can’t go. I miss him terribly and it would actually break my heart in two to not be able to attend. So I have mastered realizing when it’s impossible for me to do something but I haven’t perfected dealing with lonely depression that comes along with everyone doing what you so desperately want to do.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hi dear mbabi1970- I know we share a lot in common from previous exchanges. My oldest son also started college this year (and if your username is any indication, we are the same age, too!). I can only imagine the anticipation of a chance to see your child and the let down if you weren’t able to go… (were you?).

    You mentioned something that I didn’t speak about in the article but really should have- and that’s the dynamic of isolation and loneliness that follows when we have to cancel or excuse ourselves from plans and trips. We are then left home, alone- while the rest of our family or friends continue on having the fun, adventure, or memorable event, without us. While sometimes we might be in too much pain to have a pity party, other times we may be just well enough to be deeply sad about missing the occasion. And for many migraineurs, depression is a comorbid condition – so that sadness hits us especially hard.

    No question, this is hard stuff. Honestly, made easier by just a few things in this world- a good support system, a healthy perspective (a slippery thing that is always important to work toward grasping), and this great community of ours- where we are constantly reminded that we’re not alone! Speaking of, I’m so grateful to know you’re out there, mbabi. Please stay in touch!

  • mbabi1970
    5 months ago

    Hey this is me in brain fog. Was talking about college drop off when I originally spoke of parents weekend. Ironically, my son came home for parents weekend in stead of us going there. He had alot of studying to do and didn’t want to be tempted at school. So, that actually worked magnificently for me. Saw him for longer and was able to rest when I needed. Again, someone is looking out for me when it is coming to that. Lucked out again. xo Michele

  • mbabi1970
    5 months ago

    Hi Holly. Yes, born in 1970. And yes, I was able to take my son to college drop off. Something was looking out for me that day. The weather cooperated. My pain was manageable and I think I cried so much in the weeks prior to him leaving that there were no tears on drop off day. At least not in front of him. Everything went really well and he is so happy which makes it all a bit easier. However since then the weather here in NJ is literally killing me. It has not been a good fall and I just try to go day by day and not let the pain and isolation become overwhelming. I just love all of your articles. Everything you write speaks directly to me and I’m so glad to have you as a sounding board. So, thank you.

  • ptaillant
    6 months ago

    It may help you to get a massage before you anticipate a migraine . Lessening your stress can definitely help if you can predict when your migraine may strike. I have tried calendering my migraines and have started to be religious about avoiding all migraine trigger foods the week before one may come on. Weeks before a trip or event I’m planning to attend , I regulate my sleep , walk briskly daily to get in exercise and take Ibuprofen along with Ca, Mg and Zinc . Sometimes that will work and I can almost prevent a migraine attack. I will get the aura and a slight heaviness in my head with a mild amount of left sided pain . I can sometimes stop it from escalating.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    That’s wonderful that you’ve found a combination of approaches that has helped you de-escalate your migraine pattern/ likelihood of attack.

    I’m on the hunt for the perfect massage therapist. I find some therapists (if too deep) can trigger an attack- while others, if too light, don’t help at all. It’s like goldilocks, I guess- I’ve got to find someone who is just right!

    Thank you for sharing your recipe of solutions with us. It’s wonderful to learn from one another.

  • Marysu
    6 months ago

    It’s really unfortunate that migraine can run the show whether we like it or not. I have rarely allowed myself to miss out on much but I have never actually vomited, just wished I could many times, and I think that allowed me to buck up and go. Was I miserable at the event? Almost never.

    Now I have near constant migraine and more often say no. I had hoped that in the postmenopausal era my migraines would lessen and the severity has gone down, but to have constant pain is exhausting. That is what keeps me sidelined. We have to do what we know is right for us regardless of guilt trips, actual trips, whathaveyou. The people who love us understand, the people who don’t understand still have to accept our saying no when we need to.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    You are so right that the constant pain that comes with chronic migraine is exhausting: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/chronic-bodys-slow-leak/.

    Interestingly, while many women experience a decrease in migraine after menopause, others experience an increase.

    You’re so right that- while none of us want migraine to rule our lives, we have know our boundaries as the repercussions of overdoing can catastrophic and literally land some of us in the emergency room if we don’t make careful choices.

    Very glad you’re a part of our community- thanks for chiming in.

  • lindaann
    6 months ago

    This one really hit home for me, not so much from a FOMO point of few but from a stress of traveling point of view. I have aging, very dysfunctional parents who live across the country from me and it is a long flight and time change to go to where they live, not mention major stress when I get there. Going always triggers a 4 day migraine and a long recovery when I get home. My siblings don’t seem to get this and often expect me to go as often as they do, when they live closer and don’t have migraine. Travel is hard on our migraine brain.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hi @lindaann and @mbabi1970— Air travel is a well-known trigger for many migraineurs- making our arrival an unpleasant transition: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/terrified-of-air-travel-see-you-on-the-road/.

    It can be extra challenging when our family members don’t have compassion for what we’re up against. The difficulty of trying to help our loved ones comprehend this invisible complex neurological condition is a tricky one. In my experience, it can help to send articles about migraine to friends and family to help shed light on the prevalence and related dynamics. This can help others understand that we’re one of many- and additionally, hearing it from an unbiased source can help to legitimize the information.

    If you have other ideas as to how to increase the understanding and compassion of loved ones when it comes to migraine, please share so we can learn from one another!

  • mbabi1970
    6 months ago

    I think it’s so hard for us when we are dealing with our illness and all that goes with it along with family or friends who don’t understand what we go through. It’s so frustrating. My mom actually had migraines but not chronic like mine and for a much shorter period of time. I’ve been chronic for 10 years now. Even she has no concept of what I go through. Can’t underdtand how someone could be in bed and in pain for days or weeks on end. And being chronic means the pain never actually goes away. Pain is there all the time it’s just if we are able to deal with the pain level we are at. I’m so sorry you go through this. Family out of state is so difficult.

  • bluesguy
    6 months ago

    Wow, your article sure hits home with me. I am so sorry that you have to live with the chronic pain of migraines. My experience is so much like what you describe. I want to be at these social events with friends and family, however, migraines, and their triggers are always on my mind too. I always ask myself about what will be happening; i.e. will there be loud music? will there be loud children? will the lights be too intense to tolerate? will I have to hide from all of this? will I be nauseated? will the pain be too intense? will the migraine make it impossible to think clearly to engage in social interactions?
    So, we live hoping for the best, but sadly often miss out on the best parts of the journey. I hope your journey allows you to have more opportunities to be joyful.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you for chiming in – it’s helpful to find others who relate to remind each other we are not alone. I’d like to think we have the potential to experience just as much joy as anyone else- just that our journey means we may have to take a different route to get there. And the journey of living with chronic pain has a way of presenting some fascinating unexpected gifts along the way: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/looking-for-the-bright-side-of/

    Glad you’re a part of our community – please stay in touch.

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