Getting to Know Anna
You know what Migraine.com's contributors and moderators think about migraine, but there’s more to us than migraine. We’re doing a Getting to Know… series to introduce you to the people behind the names. We’re sharing information in a variety of formats, but the goal is always the same—to help you get to know us a little better.
Some of my fellow advocates are listing 36 facts about themselves in honor of the 36 million Americans who live with migraine (this number is more recently estimated at 38 million, but the number 36 is still relevant given the popularity of the American Migraine Foundation’s 36 Million Migraine Campaign). However, I’m writing from north of the 49th parallel, so I thought I’d take a look at our stats.
According to Statistics Canada, as of 2011 there were 2.7 million Canadians diagnosed with migraine, a number that does not include the many people who do not seek medical help for migraine and/or do not receive an accurate diagnosis.¹ 2.7 million represents only seven percent of our population, whereas more recent U.S. estimates account for about 12% of the population (17 percent of women, and six percent of men)². Unless we’re just having fewer migraines up here (doubtful) the numbers don’t add up. Canada might be a bit more progressive than our southern neighbors when it comes to certain things, but clearly we still have a long way to go to catch up in migraine research, awareness, and access to proper care.
So in honor of the statistical migraine research that has been done in my country of origin, I shall move the decimal one space to the right and provide 27 questions and answers to share a bit more of myself with this fabulous community. (27 also happens to be my favorite number! Here goes!)
- What is your family makeup? My living family consists of my mom and her husband, my dad and my other (step) mother, a lovely and only slightly annoying younger brother, three living grandparents, a partner of four years plus his extended family, and two cats: one who purrs, and one who bites.
- Where have you lived? I grew up in Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada. At age 18 I left the lakes and ocean behind to go to University in London, Ontario. Ignoring the persistent call of the sea, I stayed here for love and work, and now I call Peterborough home sweet home.
- Who are your favorite writers? Octavia Butler, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anne-Marie MacDonald. (There’s a theme here: epic, imaginative tales from a female perspective.)
- Who are your favorite musicians? There are too many to name, but the clear standout these days is Janelle Monae.
- Do you play any instruments? I’m a classically trained singer. I can also play some half decent piano. Other instruments I can play badly include ukulele, guitar, flute, trumpet, and cello.
- What are your top three activities? Choral singing, swimming, and reading.
- What is your biggest comfort? Hot chai tea.
- What is your favorite quote? She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails. –Elizabeth Edwards
- Do you collect anything? Sure do. Antique miniature dollhouse accessories. Oh dear. It looks extra nerdy written down. They’re the cutest things ever, I swear.
- Where would you go if you could close your eyes and be anywhere? Long Lake, Nova Scotia, on my favorite giant rock, looking out across the pristine water.
- What is one thing you've always wanted to do? Play Peter Pan on Broadway, flying harness and all. I already know all the songs by heart…
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Having reflected on the pre and post migraine me, I am now a firm believer that personality traits are not set in stone, but rather subject to their environment. I was a raging extrovert before migraine. Now I am a not-so-raging introvert, and that’s okay with me.
- What’s your favorite game? Settlers of Catan.
- If you had to describe yourself in only three words, what would they be? Courageous. Creative. Restless.
- How old were you when you had your first migraine? 27.
- What is the most outrageous thing someone told you would help your migraines? Salt.
- What other health conditions do you manage? Depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and interstitial cystitis.
- Describe your relationship with food. I think of food as essential and joyous nourishment. How great that I get to eat several times every single day!! I am careful to avoid my triggers and be generally healthy, but because my diet is so limited I also try very, very hard to resist the tsunami of information suggesting I need to worry about every single little thing I put in my mouth.
- What non-pharmaceutical approaches do you use as part of your treatment plan? Meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, massage, yoga, Cefaly, exercise.
- What does a typical migraine attack look like for you? An evening of exhaustion, muscle aches, nausea or food cravings, and waves of reading in bed, lying in bed, and sometimes crying in bed. The head pain is not so bad lately if I medicate early enough, but sound, light, and unpleasant smells are always tough.
- Do you have friends with migraine in “real life”? I do. I have sought them out and they have sought me out. There’s nothing like being at a café with your migraine buddy and wincing together at the same sounds. It brings a strange comfort.
- What is the kindest thing someone has ever said or done regarding your health? “That must be so hard. What can I do to help?”
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you at faking being well? 0. I cannot fake wellness, so I opt instead to be as honest as possible at all times about my current state.
- Are you able to work outside the home? No. I did work outside the home for years while also managing frequent and severe migraine attacks, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I currently work from home.
- What do you miss about your former career? I am new to full-time freelancing, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss those regular paychecks even more than I miss my former students.
- What are you most grateful for? A partner who is easygoing, supportive, and understanding.
- If you could give a small piece of advice to someone who is new to living with migraine, what would it be? There are no easy answers. Soak up all the (reputable) information like a sponge, and trust your gut as you develop and tweak your treatment plan for years to come. Progress might be slow, but it can and usually does get better. Hold on. You’re worth it.
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?