Part I Ask the Experts: Coping with Migraine
Living with migraine can lead to strong feelings of isolation as well as difficulty staying positive and finding ways to effectively cope. So, for Migraine Awareness Month we reached out to our contributors (experts) and asked them a series of questions. In Part I of this series, we asked, “Can you provide tips or share what type of approach you have taken to cope with migraine?”
“I have chosen to write about having migraines. At first I worried that writing and reflecting about the experience, in addition to having migraines, might cause me to navel gaze and cycle downward. But, the opposite has happened. Processing on migraines through writing and publishing my articles on migraine.com has helped me to launch upward and have a greater perspective. I’ve evolved in my thinking and gained clarity about the ways that this challenge has brought unexpected gifts along the way. Migraine.com has also done worlds to help me connect with others and see that I am not alone.
I take long walks as often as my head will allow as I believe low-impact exercise can help manage my pain.”
“I try to find value or joy out of every moment, even when debilitated. I became an avid listener of music and podcasts during a period of chronic migraine. If I can tolerate sound I try to listen to something during a bad attack when I’m stuck in bed awake but unable to sleep. I feel I can at least be either enjoying a story, learning something, or appreciating music. I very much like to be doing things, but I’ve learned to value down time as well (it helps now that I have two cats to come cuddle with me). I think these lessons learned young will help me all my life no matter what I face as I get older. I am also thankful that I live in a time and place where I have comfort, shelter, and caring people, so even when I am sick I can often take care of me. It may sound cliche, but a little gratitude can get me a long way.”
“I can explain my technique, which is very individual for me and I don’t necessarily recommend it unless you’re in a place where you are very educated about your particular form of migraine disease and have been for quite a long time. I don’t track my attacks anymore. I used to use an app called “My Pain Diary” to monitor daily symptoms and medicines, but during the first clinical trial when I had to use the device provided by Amgen, I stopped in order to not spend 45 minutes per day doing daily entries about my illness, and realized that when I thought less about my symptoms I cared about them less. When I cared about them less, I noticed fewer of them. Of course, that is also partly due to the clinical trials. If I become confused about my symptoms or feel I may need a new preventative medication after this trial is over, I would definitely choose to begin tracking again. I also found myself unwilling to watch the Migraine World Summit this year, because we were required to tune in to the internet at specific times, and I just didn’t want to focus on migraine disease in a dictated way. I want to feel free, and to deal with my symptoms as they occur. I am fortunate to have wonderful colleagues who will summarize and give opinions on some of the new information presented, and I can peruse those at my leisure.
I also make sure that I do things I enjoy. This may fall under “self care,” because these things nurture my soul rather than specifically my disease. My favorite activity is to be involved in my daughters’ dance and theatre performances backstage. I photograph; assist with costumes, props, and sets; help with makeup and hair; and provide support to the dancers and actors while also serving on my local youth theatre advisory board. Usually once during each performance weekend I may have to bow out or even head to the ER, but my friends in both organizations have become like family and always have my back when that occurs. Currently my two daughters both have roles in our summer musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and I could not be more excited!
My last coping mechanism is body modification, primarily tattoos, which I wrote about here. Part of my reasoning is that it is the application of pain that I control and pay for, and which leaves behind a beautiful story of my current situation, unlike migraine pain which leaves no mark.”