Getting to Know Elizabeth
You get to know a lot about Migraine.com’s contributors and moderators through our writing and interaction on the site, but it’s all connected to migraine. Sometimes it’s nice to get to know the people behind migraine. We’re doing a series called “Getting to Know…” where we share some information about ourselves so you can get to know us beyond our experience with migraine. There’s no set format, just a chance for use to share a bit about ourselves with you.
So, hello. Most of you don't actually know me at all, as I am a brand new contributor to Migraine.com, though I have been active in the migraine community for a few years. This seems like a perfect way to introduce myself.
Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?
I have a wonderful big yellow rescue collie mix named Asia Dot (the Dot is in honor of her foster family, who named her Dottie). She is a herding dog, yet somehow adapted herself to my extremely busy, town-living family perfectly. When I'm bed-ridden, she rests with me all day. Sometimes she won't even eat until I'm up and downstairs. She adores us all and seems to think of my daughters as her siblings.
Are you a music person? If so, do you have a favorite genre, artist, or song?
I am! My parents, brother, and husband John are all professional musicians of some sort. Though I played the trombone in high school, the family talent mostly passed me by. My favorite band is Radiohead – very good migraine music. I also love REM, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. “Migraine” by 21 Pilots is kind of my anthem, though I admit that is the only song of theirs I know.
What are your favorite books or writers?
Unfortunately I don't read as much as I used to, but my favorite authors are Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison. I really love Atwood's dystopian MaddAddam trilogy. My favorite migraine book is A Brain Wider Than the Sky by Andrew Levy.
Ha! Parenting changes everything. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie for grown-ups and can't remember what my favorite used to be. Now, as a parent, I appreciate most of the Pixar movies. Inside Out was fabulous for its discussion of allowing sadness to do its thing. It opened up a lot of good talks with our daughters.
Favorite TV shows?
My So-Called Life, Six Feet Under, and Mad Men. Breaking Bad was amazing too but a little tough at times. Oh! The X-Files. Can't forget that one.
What are your thoughts on travel?
I think travel is extremely important in that it exposes you to environments and people outside your usual experience. My cousin lives in New York City, and being able to take my daughters there has been incredible. They've gotten to see Times Square, the huge public library, the National History Museum; ride the subway, and walk my cousin's Inwood area of Manhattan. We live in a small Midwestern town, so observing the diversity and speed of New York was exhilarating for them (and me)! However, travel is difficult for those with migraine. John and I flew to San Francisco a few years ago, and the resulting migraine from the jet lag and who knows what other triggers, millions of them probably, nearly landed me in an unfamiliar emergency room. I was in bed half the time. Still, I wouldn't trade that experience.
How many siblings do you have?
One younger brother. He gets migraines occasionally and always contacts me when they are over to express his awe that I go through it nearly every day.
What’s the last thing you bought?
Three different types of Dramamine.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I have been blogging publicly for several years, and am one of those “over-sharers” on Facebook so I'm not sure what there is that people don't know. How about this: my migraines are inherited from my two grandfathers. While my mother and father both get them, my grandfathers suffered. My father's father, whom I never met, was actually trepanned. That is not why he died, but I also doubt it helped much.
How do you spend your migraine attacks?
My bed is my refuge. I need darkness, a cool breeze, a heating pad, and depending on the severity, ice. I am not one who can push through a migraine attack and function well while faking it; I admire those who can. Migraine is such an interesting illness because it affects us all so differently. If I'm above a 4 on the pain scale, I'm in bed.
What are your favorite distractions during a migraine attack?
If I'm medicated but not completely better, which for me means I'm still suffering from nausea, fatigue, allodynia, and lower level headache, I can read or scroll around on Facebook or watch a movie. If I can't handle using screens I will listen to music. I normally prefer to sleep as much as possible during my full-blown attacks, which happen about once per week and last one to two days. Once per month I may have one last three to five days. In between attacks, I have lower level more treatable pain, and other symptoms.
Do you have a name for your migraines?
This was a question of Katie's that I liked and decided to include. I do use the name “Medusa” for the migraine, or the me I become with the migraine. The image of the writhing snakes protruding from the head seems perfect. I don't turn people to stone however, that I know of.
What are your favorite interests/activities/hobbies and why?
My very favorite thing lately is helping backstage with my daughters' performances. My elder is just beginning her thirteenth play, and my younger dances in her studio's annual Nutcracker production. I also volunteer for the curator at my local history museum, which is a former infirmary on beautiful grounds just outside town. Since I no longer work full time outside the home, I have the time and ability to be more active in my community and with my kids, which means a lot to me.
What is your dream job?
Since I was very young, I always wanted to work in publishing, maybe even write for a living. I took over six years to finish my bachelor's degree at two different state universities; having a real career seemed like something outside my capabilities as a person with such frequent, severe headaches as well as endometriosis and depression (both are sometimes comorbid with migraine, depression especially). I worked many different customer service jobs: clothing retail, managing a coffee shop, working in a bookstore, and then finally at a community center for my local parks & recreation department. Three years ago I had to accept that working full time was doing more harm than good, both to me and my health as well as my family, so I resigned and applied for SSI Disability, and was approved. Now, just this past year, I've actually achieved my dream.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
The kindness and empathy shown by my daughters. Also, recently helping to create an independent online news source in my hometown when our local paper fired its beloved editor over a controversial opinion piece.
Do you have kids?
My older daughter, whom I refer to when blogging as “X,” is 11. She is sensitive and quiet but hilarious and goofy, tall and thin with huge eyes and long hair. She is an equestrian and an actress, a constant singer, and has just begun learning the flute. My younger daughter, “Zo,” is 7. She was a miracle baby in every way, born early and dangerously, and has the personality to match. She is spunky and loud with a short bobbed haircut, a dancing tomboy who loves pink. She tells it like it is. She loves being on stage. She is the one who is more sensitive to my health issues, but that may be because she was with me once, away from home, during my most severe attack in recent memory.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I'd like to say that it was walking into a terrifying-looking empty warehouse in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. But really it was the emergency cesarian section to deliver Zo five weeks early, which wasn't my choice, it was something done to me. I had placenta previa and had been told very little about how dangerous a condition that actually was.
What’s your biggest fear?
Something happening to one of the girls, or to John, of course. But the one I dwell on most is that someday I will get a headache that will never end. I use the word “headache” because my migraines are frequent enough that I feel the other migraine symptoms almost all the time: the fatigue, the vague constant nausea, allodynia, cognitive impairment, neck pain, mood fluctuations. It's the headache that I'm still afraid of, the headache that renders me completely helpless and brings me to my knees.
How do you cheer yourself up when you’re in a funk?
Upbeat pop music. Recent effective favorites are “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Roar” by Katy Perry and of course, the ubiquitous “Shake It Off.”
How do your friends describe you?
I think at this point most would say “strong” or “resilient” based on my openness about my struggle with migraine disease. However, I hope some would also point out that I am empathetic and kind.
How many pillows do you sleep with?
Just one, but it is a ChiroFlow pillow, which has a large plastic pocket on the bottom which can be filled with water. It is amazing.
How many languages do you speak?
One and a half. I took six years of French and was even in the French National Honors Society; I started in 8th grade and continued through my freshman year of college. Twenty some years later I can still sort of read it, but can't speak it.
Are you a beach person, a mountain person, or a city person?
Are you an introvert or extrovert?
A little of both. I need a lot of alone time, but I am energized by being around people.
What is one thing you will never do again?
Run a 5K. I can't believe I did that even once. I am extremely non-athletic.
Who knows you the best?
My husband John, my cousin Katrina and my best friend for thirty years Lori. They've known me the longest and most thoroughly.
Are you an optimist or pessimist?
Again, I think a little of both. I tend to be a pessimist about the state of the world. But I am an optimist regarding my family's circumstances, and the progress being made in migraine treatment. I think positively, and believe good things can and will happen.
Do you have a motto?
I really don't, but back to the lessons of Pixar, Zo started saying “just keep swimming” after we saw Finding Dory. That one never fails.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?