Bear and Lions and Church Oh My!!

By: Lynne Pitchford Nov. 3, 2013

This Sunday it happened again. My husband and I arrived early and found an empty pew in our church. By now most of our friends and acquaintances know that for health reasons I prefer to not shake hands. They don’t all understand that the perfumes, after shaves, etc. that are poured onto their hands can produce a migraine, but I have learned to guard against it, and most respect that.

I have also learned that another trigger is music, or make that noise that is loud enough to vibrate your body. It’s not always that loud at our church, just sometimes. I carry earplugs to wear during the music part of our service, and take them out for the sermon. Most people don’t even know that I have had to use them. Occasionally, the music is so loud that it vibrates everything! One friend that has a pacemaker with a defibrillator has had to leave the service because the music was so loud it was vibrating her defibrillator. Most people enjoy loud music. I enjoy the songs and want to sing with the rest of the congregation, so I put my earplugs in and do my best to protect myself and enjoy the experience of being in church when it isn’t loud enough to cause vibrations.

This Sunday it happened again. The triggers were there. Two wanted to shake hands even though I reminded them politely that I am unable for health reasons to shake hands. They laughed and insisted as though it was a joke. My husband took the hand of one and shook it and stepped in front of the other. Then the music started. I put my earplugs in and instantly realized that even others were cringing because the music was so loud it was vibrating the pews. The music director was giving a “thumbs up” and an approving smile to the music booth indicating that they needed to turn the music up even more and nodded and smiled in approval. A lady across the church that had shared with me earlier that this was her first time back in three weeks due to her migraines frowned, picked up her things and left.

Once again, my husband and I had to gather our things and walk back up the aisle and leave as others were still entering for the church service. Shaking hands, listening to music, attending church are such “normal” things in most peoples lives, but not necessarily to a migraineur. I had to make a choice – stay and take a chance on a migraine or leave and protect myself.

We live in a rural area of Oklahoma. If one of us were in the presence of a bear, a mountain lion or a rattlesnake we would backtrack to an area of safety. That’s what we have to do sometimes when we recognize we are in the presence of migraine triggers. Bears and lions and church oh my!!

Learning my triggers and constantly adjusting to medications has been a lifelong battle. I want to do the things others get to do and not be different, but if being different is what it takes to survive then I will do whatever it takes. The hospital stays and ER visits are getting further apart because I’m listening to my doctors and my body. Who knew shaking hands and loud music could be triggers that could put a person in bed for days at a time? I do now!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • wendy
    5 years ago

    I understand cetain scents trigger people (myself included). I had problems with being near someone wearing something with a strong dryer sheet scent the last time I was at church. I am surprised that Steelmagnolia suggests to use Potpouri or other air freshner spray for use in a bathroom if leaving an “offering,” just because I would think more people (like myself – for both migraines and asthma) would have issues with potpouri spray and/or other air freshners. I often try to use public bathrooms in speedy time due to these issues, and some of the “clean scents” – like Febreeze and Gain – are some of the worst offenders for both diseases. [I also had to go to a managing partner in a law firm I worked at when air freshner bottles were left and constantly used in a work bathroom.] I do understand different people are triggered by different things, but something to keep in mind.

  • kim716
    5 years ago

    I’m the sound person at my church, but I also have migraines. On my good days, I like loud music-riding in my truck with the windows down-but I would never, ever make anyone uncomfortable with the level of sound. I know you can’t do anything about the shaking hands, but have you spoken to the Senior Pastor about the loud music? I know that you will never please everyone, and everyone has their own opinions about music, especially in church, but when it comes to a person’s health, that is a totally different matter.

  • Steelmagnolia
    5 years ago

    Lynne i totally understand what you are saying. What is it with churches today that play the music soooooo LOUD that you can’t sit there. It bothers me, not for the Migraines it produces, but also for the damage it is causing to hearing. The hearing of the children and young adults that are there, as well as the senior adults. We have lots of members who have hearing aides and I have seen them jump as if they were shocked when the music would start and get that loud. God can hear just fine and doesn’t need such loud music to know we are worshipping him in songs of praise. I also have a very high sensitivity to odors . And cheap perfumes and mens colognes are a big problem for me. Offensive odors get me as well….like when you walk into a bathroom and no one knows how to use a “courtesy flush” ….sorry to get graphic here, but if you are going to wait for a public bathroom to do your business…and I also realize there are times it cannot be helped…at least have the common sense to understand not everyone will enjoy your “offering” so PLEASE!!!! Flush as soon as you drop and carry a small purse sized Poopouri spray or other similar air cleaner with you. I never go out without it, because I, for one, am very conscious of courtesy to others. Bathroom smells are on of my triggers and then the throwing up starts. I carry an herb called Feverfew with me at all times and it will shorten the Migraine to around 30 minutes for the worst of it, if I realize it is about to happen and catch it when it is just a spot or at the beginning of the aura. An hour if I don’t catch it until after the aura gets almost in a full circle. Quiet, dark and cool air in my face are some of the things I have to do to keep it to a minimum. Before the Feverfew I would be down and in bed throwing up for as long as two to three days. Then for a day or two after. I would be just “out of it”…inability to concentrate, go out into the sunshine, could not stand up for more than a few minutes and would generally feel like someone had just “beat me up” .

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    Hi Lynne,

    You’ve done a great job identifying your migraine triggers – congratulations! And you’re right – for people like us who have migraine disease its imperative to listen to our body’s and doctors orders.

    You are not alone because sounds and smells can be strong triggers for many of us. Some of them we can avoid, but sometimes we are in certain situations and they are inevitable. We often have to make difficult choices, some other people don’t understand.

    Cleaning products can be very troublesome for people with migraine. The information in this link has good suggestions for scent-free cleaning; http://migraine.com/blog/odorless-cleaning-products/.

    Hope this helps,
    Nancy

  • Lisa Riley
    5 years ago

    We attend a church who hosts a worship band with a lead singer who has been opening for bands that you hear on Air1 and KLove Radio. Loud? Our church is an older brick building, and you can hear them on the street. I never, ever walk into the sanctuary until after the music is over, and I miss being able to share in worship with my friends. I can’t wear earplugs, that creates its own set of issues.

    I think all you can do is continue to do what you are doing. I will often use my sunglasses as a shield. I will put them on inside the building to keep people away. They ask less questions when they can see that there is something wrong because I have sunglasses on inside.

  • Lisa Riley
    5 years ago

    To all: My neuro told me that the copper colored polarized glasses were actually the best at blocking the colors that hurt our eyes. I’ve switched (actually about 10 years ago–I invested in a pair of Smith sunglasses) and I can wear them inside and out. Light enough to see inside or to drive at night for short distances, dark enough to block the light and glare. I teach, and my building uses nothing but fluorescent. Needless to say, there’s a lot of days the lights are off in my room. Be well.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    Hi Lisa and grannylynne48,

    There are glasses specifically made to help with light sensitivity in people who have migraine. Many patients have shared with me that the glasses work wonders!

    http://migraine.com/sponsored/are-you-ignoring-one-of-the-top-migraine-triggers/

    http://migraine.com/sponsored/sponsored-proven-migraine-relief-with-new-theraspecs-glasses/.

    Nancy

  • ithurts99
    5 years ago

    This was a great thing to find out. It never occured to me that things like that were actually triggers (especially if you are always touching your face like I do unconciously). I see a world class specialist (neuropthamologist-sp:-) at a nearby university and she told me about what’s called a flicker tint which you can put on your glasses to prevent flickering. As this is one of my major triggers (specifically flickering from big screen movies and household televisions) I was thrilled and it works. I don’t know if I,m actually allowed to mention more details or even this. Maybe the moderator will let me know. Also glare is a big problem for me and I had a migraine every time I drove the car more than a few hours until shortly after I turned forty I discovered that polarized (blue) sunglasses cut glare so well I have never had this problem since ( more than 15 yes.) The opthalmologist that told me about this had the same problem. So after decades of no movies and no TV and guaranteed “car” headaches : wow.

  • grannylynne48 author
    5 years ago

    You are right. Sunglasses work for more than just to protect the eyes from outside and inside light.

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