Getting to Know Gretchen

We have an incredible team of contributors here at Migraine.com, and are introducing some of our newest members by highlighting their “Ask the Experts” questions from Migraine Awareness Month. Gretchen joined both Migraine.com and one of our newer communities, ParkinsonsDisease.net

Can you provide tips or share what type of approach you have taken to cope with migraine?

Dealing with 3 pretty ugly diseases, Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Migraine Syndrome can really suck. Fortunately I have an awesome husband who is very supportive. He seems to know when it is time to draw the shades and when to grab the awesome Ice Cap. Having Chronic Migraine, I am never really free of migraine… It is simply level of pain. So I have learned to function on a pain level of 5-6. When we start to creep into the 7-8 range, well, we have some issues and if we get higher, forget it!

I utilize preventative medications to try to avoid getting to that level, and have medication in case I do get there. But I also use massage, Botox, relaxation exercises, exercise, laughter, (not too much as it is a trigger). I try to schedule my day with devotionals and work in the morning and rest when I need to.

We have the best kept secret weapon… Our ES Dog, Bailey, a Husky/Lab mix who is very sensitive to migraines, she knows when I am ramping up and will come and lie right next to me and allow me to rest my ice covered head on her body. Best therapy EVER!

What do you wish people understood more about migraines?

I am not faking it! This is for real. The pain is real. I am so tired of family & friends telling me what someone else tried for their “headache” or take an Ibuprofen. I need to drink more water, get more sleep, not sleep so much, exercise more, not exercise too much, eat less, eat more.

I wish they would understand that I really do want to go out and have fun and that it makes me feel really guilty when I have to beg off of an outing, especially when that may mean with our grandchild, or having to cut something short.”

What are your tips for avoiding common triggers?

Weather – Living in Florida, and being a walking barometer is a tough thing. I cannot really escape the pressure changes associated with fronts that move in due to weather, and we will not even go anywhere near Hurricane Season…. However, I try to be very watchful of any visual auras that may begin to occur, I watch the Weather Channel and make sure I am prepared to be close to home if needs be.

Stress – I am so tired of people telling me that I need to find ways to reduce stress from my life! While we can certainly do SOME things to unencumber ourselves from stressful situations, with 5 kids, 5 grandchildren, a nonprofit and Parkinson’s Disease, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Migraine Syndrome…. Stress is just part of life.
However, when I feel the level getting too much, I reach for a few tools… my Bible, or my colored pencils and adult coloring books! Being able to spend some time just “Chilling” listening to a devotional or doing a coloring page can drop my level down to a manageable level that will reduce the pain of a migraine.

Foods – Over the past few years we have begun to keep a serious journal of certain foods that seem to preclude a Migraine storm. I am careful with Tomatoes, too much gluten (I have yet to be able to get Gluten Free), I always ask for MSG Free, and I drink plenty of water! We are still discovering more sensitivities.

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