Getting to Know Janet ("The Migraine Girl")
- What’s your favorite color? Red (a deep red as opposed to a tomato red).
- How old are you? 36
- What’s your dream vacation? Can I pick, like, five? Just kidding. At the moment, I’d say a beach vacation in Central America. I’d have a private beachfront cabin with plenty of shade and absolutely no schedule. I’d pick mangoes from the trees to snack on and read and take naps and maybe even write in my usually-ignored journal.
- Miracle of miracles, you have been given an entire month that is guaranteed to be migraine-free. What do you do? I’d schedule hangout time with friends and family, but I’d also work a lot. I know that sounds like the wrong answer, but hear me out: I LOVE my job at Avid Bookshop, and I love my second gig as a migraine.com contributor. I just never feel like I have enough health time to dedicate to either, and I’d love to dive into some work projects without worrying that a migraine was going to kidnap me and take me away.
- How do you spend your migraine-free leisure time? Reading, swimming with friends (in hot weather, at least), binge-watching good TV shows with my husband, chilling with my parents and sister.
- What’s your favorite TV show? I have a lot of TV shows I love, but The Mary Tyler Moore Show is my #1 favorite and has been since I was in 7th grade and they started airing it on Nick at Nite. Bonus: there are no crazy lighting effects or flashy scene changes, no gunshots, and no screaming, making it a good show to watch even during a pretty bad migraine.
- What do you wish everyone knew about migraine in general? That its effects are different for every single patient and that the disease changes a lot over time.
- What do you wish people in your life knew about your migraine disease in particular? That one of my attacks may be completely different from the next. In sum, I can post on Facebook that I have a mild migraine in the morning and still be cheery and happy at a rock show that night. Other times, I can smile and be friendly but am about to throw up from the nausea and pain.
- What’s one migraine trigger you have no problem avoiding? Aspartame. It was my first definite trigger (my mom noticed her sensitivity to it when I was a pre-teen or younger, and that got me paying better attention to the “really bad headache” I’d get whenever I had some brands of sugar-free gum). I hate the overly sweet taste of it and am not a crazy sweet tooth or gum chewer, so it’s usually easy to avoid.
- What’s one [potential] trigger you should avoid but sometimes don’t? Alcohol is a tricky one for me, and I’m still not entirely sure it’s a tried and true trigger for me. I definitely feel better at big work functions (conference receptions or author dinners) when I have a glass of wine in my hand, but I need to work on just sticking to water. Even if alcohol isn’t a trigger for me, it often drags me down and messes with my sleep, so I should probably cut it out.
- What’s your family like? I don’t have enough time to fully describe this amazing band of quirky, smart people. My parents are incredibly intelligent and funny and have been happily married for more than thirty years and live a few streets away from me, which I love. My sister lives just half a mile away and is one of the kindest people I know—she watches out for me and will step up to defend me in a flash. My husband is a fellow migraineur, a hyper-creative musician and artist who makes me laugh every day. I’m grateful to have a very large extended family full of people I just love.
- Does anyone close to you suffer from migraine? My goodness, yes. I have several family members with migraine (including my husband), and many close friends with the illness.
- What’s your dream job? Owning and running my own bookstore—lucky me, it’s a dream that has come true! (As a kid, I often told people I wanted to be an author and illustrator, so writing migraine.com articles helps me round out my dream life.)
- Do you play any musical instruments? In middle school, I was quite good at the clarinet but abandoned it upon entering high school. I’ve also taken a handful of piano lessons and can play at, like, a first grade level—you would not want to hear me. But it’s fun!
- What was the first concert you attended? I’m pretty sure the Monkees at Chastain Park in Atlanta was my first concert (of hundreds and hundreds). My parents took my sister and me, and I remember feeling the magic as the night got dark and the stage lights came up.
- What was the most recent concert/musical performance you attended? By the time this article is published, I’m sure I will have seen even more shows (I live in the music Mecca of Athens, GA and am married to a musician, after all). But, at the time of this writing, I think the last show I saw was Patterson Hood at the 40 Watt Club.
- What’s one household chore you don’t mind at all? Laundry! I actually really love doing laundry (though sometimes I forget to actually turn the dryer on and our clothes get that stale, wet smell).
- What’s one chore you abhor? Scrubbing pots and pans! I will clean the whole kitchen and do ten loads in the dishwasher before I’ll take five minutes to clean the pans that often linger in the seek for weeks (no joke—I’m trying to keep it real for you).
- Do the migraine.com contributors/moderators actually know each other IRL (in real life)? Some of us have met, but most of us have not. I hope that changes soon!
- Did you/do you play any sports? For many years, I was a competitive swimmer, but I stopped about midway through high school. I also had a brief stint with basketball, which I quit around puberty. (I’ve recently learned that many athletic girls quit doing sports around puberty, which is such a bummer. My quitting basketball definitely had to do with migraines, which started showing up around puberty.)
- Do you have any health conditions other than migraine? The only other current diagnoses I have are psoriatic arthritis (it’s very similar to rheumatoid arthritis, but with skin issues, too—what a bonus!) and endometriosis.
- Do you ever accidentally type “margarine” instead of “migraine”? Why yes, at least once a week!
- Do any of your IRL friends have migraine or another headache disorder? Yes, many friends do. The longer I have been active as “The Migraine Girl,” the more friends I find out about.
- Do you live with anyone? Yes, I live with my husband, Jim, and our very adorable and crazy cat.
- You are given an amazing talent for one day only. What’s your talent, and what do you do with it? It may be cliché, but I would fly. It would be a sort of effortless flying, where I wouldn’t have to work hard or flap my arms. Also this talent would visit me on a migraine-free day.
- What kind of food do you crave during or right after a migraine? Lately it’s been McDonald’s french fries—and I’m someone who has been known to take years between McDonald’s trips. Recently I also only had the stomach for gnocchi, which was weird (but yummy, and it didn’t make me throw up).
- Why did you choose to write for migraine.com (a Health Union community) after years of turning down writing gig offers from other sites? From the get-go, I could tell that the founders of Health Union LLC (founders of migraine.com and many other health communities) were 100% patient-centered. They offer a more than fair writing gig to me and hundreds of other people who are occasionally or permanently disabled, and that means a lot to me. Plus the team is just really kind and great to work with.
- What’s one thing you wish your doctor understood better? I actually don’t have any complaints at the moment.
- What was your most recent severe migraine attack like? After a couple of days of a frustrating migraine, I went to bed feeling okay. Lo and behold, I woke up a few hours later with a pounding headache. I walked to the kitchen to get water (I had drunk all mine in the night, apparently) and was overcome with some of the most extreme and sudden nausea I’ve ever felt. I ended up lying on the bathroom floor, trying to be sick so I might find some relief. I also kept thinking about how I wish I’d cleaned my bathroom floor earlier that week when I was feeling good, because lying on the tile was grossing me out and fueling my nausea.
- We know that migraine changes a lot over time. What’s one new(ish) development in your pattern? Lately I have had ear pain with almost every attack. If the attack is unilateral, the ear pain is concentrated on the same side as the head pain.
- You have a few unexpected hours of unscheduled solo time. What do you do? Read!
- When was the last time you put your foot in your mouth? Earlier this week, I was talking about how good the show Stranger Things is but how that last episode was a photophobic migraineur’s nightmare (the lights flash near-constantly in many scenes). My friend let me know that her brother did the lighting for the show. Oops. :) (It was fine, and she wasn’t offended.)
- Did you ever have braces? Yep, from ages 11-14. I was thrilled when they went on in 5th grade (I felt so grown up), and I was thrilled when they came off in 8th grade (I felt so grown up).
- What’s a talent you have that readers wouldn’t know about you? I type really quickly. Like, superstar secretary fast.
- Of course it’s not good to think negatively, but you know a migraine is coming soon: when do you think it might be? I anticipate getting one the first full day of vacation. Waking up early for a flight, traveling across the country on two planes, dealing with meal and sleep time differences, and more make for a perfect migraine cocktail. Fingers crossed my prediction is wrong and my upcoming vacation is migraine-free!
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When was your last migraine check-up?