Trigger Happy! 10 Ways To See Migraines and Their Triggers From a Different Perspective
Yesterday, I made French Toast with maple syrup. Before that, I hadn’t eaten maple syrup for 20 years. Being Canadian, that was tough! I couldn’t eat it because it triggered a migraine, without fail, every time. Crippling pain, relentless nausea/vomiting, being knocked flat on my back for five days straight without even being able to open my eyes because the light seared straight through and burnt my brain. (Well, that’s how it felt anyway!)
Maple syrup wasn’t the only (food) trigger that sparked an attack, and so when I was first diagnosed with migraine I had to embark on that long, soul destroying journey of figuring out every tiny thing my body suddenly decided it couldn’t handle anymore.
I used to see everyone around me looking happy, energetic and living life to the full while I sat huddled in pain and drowning in sorrow. I felt so depressed and so angry with my migraines for everything they cost me. I had to quit my job. My relationship broke down. I lost friends, had to give up social activities and was forced to move house.
But, over time, as I learnt to accept and manage this chronic condition, I realized that actually, my migraines – and every little trigger – taught me a whole heap of stuff that I’m now really grateful for. Of course, I’d have been grateful not to have migraines in the first place – but, hey, it is what it is. Some things we can’t choose… but we can choose how we see them.
So, while I was mourning the loss of maple syrup from my life, besides coping with the biggies like the breakdown of my personal and professional lives; and while I was trying to figure out what triggered the attacks (not to mention learning how to cope with the all-consuming pain), I started learning new stuff:
1. My migraines made me experiment with food. Of course I had to lose the stuff that triggered an attack – but I also got to learn about new things that I’d never heard of. I introduced them into my diet if there was a chance they could help to reduce/prevent migraines. I so missed all the things I loved and couldn’t have anymore. But, I became healthier and stronger by learning how to manage and improve my diet.
2. My migraines made me respect my body, everything I put into it, and the care I took of it. I learnt the importance of exercise, and of spending time looking after my emotional wellbeing too (stress can be a major trigger).
3. I used to hate my body for ‘letting’ the migraines happen. Now, I love and respect it for its strength and ability to withstand and survive the pain and distress.
4. This helped me to become gentler with myself, and take the time to develop a harmonious teaching and learning strategy, rather than constantly fighting a losing battle.
5. My migraines taught me to see really strong emotions for what they are (emotions, not facts). I learnt to understand that I didn’t deserve the pain, and I hadn’t done anything ‘wrong’. It wasn’t my fault.
6. This helped me learn how to deal with the strong emotions I felt, and to give myself comfort and support rather than beating myself up all the time.
7. My migraines made me realize I was human.
8. They forced me to reach out for help and support that I would never otherwise have discovered. I have met some amazing, caring and wonderful people who have held my hand on this journey.
9. My migraines allowed me to feel unadulterated joy when I learnt to celebrate the pain free days.
10. They’ve allowed me to create a new life I love. Okay, I had to give up my original hopes and dreams… but my new reality is just as good – if not better!
I’m actually in a new kind of limbo land right now… I’ve eaten maple syrup, had a cup of dandelion tea and even two squares of chocolate. And they haven’t sparked a migraine. I wasn’t even triggered by some really strong perfume I smelt a month ago (used to be a full-on trigger!). The menopause is changing my condition… but as yet, I don’t know what the future holds.
One thing I do know, though, is that those 10 things above will be enough to carry me through whatever comes next. Whatever happens, my migraines have made me healthier, stronger and more resilient than I’d ever have believed possible. There really can be a silver lining (or 10!) to every cloud.
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