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The Joys of a Migraine… Total Loss of Life’s Pleasures.

I know everyone has a story. Every migraine has a trigger. And every sufferer loses a part of their life pleasures they once enjoyed. I’m just like every other migraine sufferer. However, I can’t control my environment/triggers to prevent migraines because mine are almost always scent induced – and I can’t control the smells around me. I can’t go shopping without the risk of walking past that lady who thinks she should bathe in her perfume. I can’t sit at my desk and offer the great customer service when the gentleman who just sat in his car to smoke wonders in and expects me to smile and help him when it’s taking everything I have not to burst out in tears from the already welling up pain in my head. There are times our outside office door opens and I smell the essential oils she doused herself in before she even walks through the door. These things leave me scrambling to grab a migraine med hoping I can catch it before I’m heading home for the day and locking myself in my darkroom with an ice pack on my head.

My 8-year-old daughter has had to throw away her pretty smelly lotions she got for numerous birthdays. Her “girly” perfumes, even lip balms. My son can’t wear anybody spray or colognes to “impress the ladies”. My family can’t use fabric softener sheets. My mom has to almost shower before she comes to my house because of the medicated lotions she uses. I’ve had to throw out my favorite Ralph Loren $100/bottle perfume. Talk about devastating 🙁

When I’m invited out, I have to weigh the chances of the ridiculous amounts of perfume/cologne people wear to having a good enough time to outweigh pretty much-guaranteed migraine I’ll end up having. The hour or 2 I can handle being out to the 24 – 36 hours I might be down in bed. Even the idea of a concert, where the lady 6 rows over and 2 rows up’s perfume is overpowering to me. I don’t dare risk it.

The worst part of all of this? Is sometimes no one else can smell the scents. I’m constantly asking “do you smell that?” and 75% of the time, they have to stop and smell and then they say “oh, yeah, maybe”. But I’ve already smelled it and am grasping for a migraine med. Or I’m already planning my escape to get out. I’ve always had a sensitive nose. But only the last 4-5 years has it gotten so bad that my life has pretty much stopped. And it’s not that the scents are bad, or as my one co-worker says I tell her, that she “stinks”. It’s not that they “stink”. They are just scents. Horrible scents.

Pleasures such as sitting around a bonfire on a cool evening has ended. Within minutes of that fire being lit, I’m scrambling to get away from it. If my kids or I are near one, our clothes have to instantly be washed and we all shower to get the smell off our bodies and out of our hair when we get home or the migraine will not go away. My windows in the fall have to be shut uptight because the neighbors enjoy those bonfires.

Going out with friends to listen to live music has come to a screeching halt. Because although the lady next to me has a nice smelling perfume – I can’t take it. And although that hot guy across the dance floor looks great, his cologne is literally making me cry. Life halting.

My daughter came home all excited from a friend’s birthday party. They got to play dress up. All I could do was try to stop the immediate tears from the immense pain welling up in my head while I asked her to please go shower and get her clothes in the washer because I couldn’t take the scents. Life-altering.

There isn’t a day that goes by that a scent doesn’t bother me. Some days I get lucky and it’s fleeting. Some days I’m lucky and my migraine pill keeps the headache to just that, a headache. But most days – I’m walking around with a throbbing and jabbing pain in my head from the wondrous smells I use to enjoy. And I wonder… with all these pleasures gone, will life ever be fun again or am I always doomed to hide in my closed up house with the only scent I can handle (cinnamon) melting in my wax melter praying the neighbors don’t start their woodstove tonight? Or praying that tonight when the boyfriend stops by that his shampoo doesn’t bother me today. Or when I walk into the office, praying that I can get through the day without turning my office lights off and shutting the door to try and just get through my day.

Ahh…. the joys of migraine. The total loss of life’s pleasures. Home to the headache hat, the darkroom, and the night mask.

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

  • glassmind
    1 week ago

    You are in empathetic company. Scent triggers and sensitivities are often discussed here.

    I’m sure you’ve tried everything, still, may I offer an idea?

    Since you are able to tolerate cinnamon, try carrying a small bottle or ungent of cinnamon oil with you at all times.

    I do this with lavender and some other oils that I find both tolerable and theraputic. When I encounter a triggering scent, I take a hearty whiff of my therapy oils. It helps in some cases. (Yes, some fumes are just too overwhelming.)

    I also always wear a scarf with a dab of lavender and I carry a high washable resuable surgical mask as well as have disposable masks stashed in the car for if I forget the other or my scarf.

    Yes, I get asked about covering my face. Yes, I realize my lavender could be a trigger for someone else.

    We do what we can. (:

    I love herbal natural scents, but when I am in an attack they are intolerable and exaccerbate head pain and nausea. Synthetic scents and chemical fumes are always triggers. You have my sympathy.

    I wish you the best. Take care. Hugs

  • Luna
    3 weeks ago

    “when the boyfriend stops by that his shampoo doesn’t bother me today.”

    Get him a shampoo that doesn’t smell. If I were to consider having a relationship the guy would have to be scent free. But since I have to change clothes when I get home and hang my clothes outdoors to air out, keep my hair in a hat so it doesn’t smell. I have no hopes of a relationship. Just washing doesn’t get the smell out of clothes or hair for me. Hate to have to call a repairman as they smell and the house has to be aired out. Visitors have to sit on the front porch. Life is a struggle.

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Lacy-dumbmigraines78, thank you so much for sharing your story with the community. I hear how deeply scent as a trigger for your migraine symptoms impacts not just you but your entire family. Scent is so hard because it is so impossible to control. It is miserable having to give up so much to avoid the scent triggers as much as possible. You are not alone struggling with finding joy. I thought these articles might resonate with you:
    https://migraine.com/stories/balancing-life-within-pain/
    https://migraine.com/blog/shift-perspective-change-life/
    I appreciate how honestly you shared of yourself. Please know we are always here to listen whenever you need support. Wishing you a gentle day. ~Allyson (Migraine.com team)

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