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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.

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

  • Lee614
    11 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your experience and positive outlook! I broke my right ankle 6 months ago and going through the process and pain of having it set, the surgery, and PT has made me realize that I am much stronger than I’d ever thought. It was especially bad when I’d get a migraine attack during the recovery period. I am making choices with my life to live it as fully as possible to the best of my ability. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

  • MigraineSavvy author
    11 months ago

    That sounds good – you’re happier now… YAY!

  • MaryE81711
    1 year ago

    I really needed to hear 2, 3, 4. Menopause did not change my migraines, but I wonder if a concerted effort to really respect my body would. I just had hip replacement surgery, and the hard work of rehab/physical therapy is reminding me that I AM STRONG.
    Thanks for your thoughtful post, and best wishes that you will be enjoying even more of the favorites you had to give up.

  • MigraineSavvy author
    1 year ago

    Mary, thank you for your kind words. It means a lot to me. I still use these things as a gentle reminder to practice radical self care… no matter what!!

    It sounds like more baby steps for you. I love that your rehab/physical therapy is reminding you that you are strong. You are SO strong Mary… .. in so many unseen ways. You’ve made it through how many migraines and surgery, and rehab/physical therapy already and life’s challenges and surprises…. you are strong Mary. I’ve no doubt! Thank you for your comments here once again, and I wish you the very best and fastest recovery. Keep us posted… if it feels right.

  • tulin2
    1 year ago

    I love your 10 points. They collected my random thoughts, organised them and laid them out in a way I cannot write them down myself. Thank you!

    I trust your menopause will bring you ever more relief from migraines. Mine did not… but I think I’ve seen that the hot summers we spend in Turkey seem to be triggering more and more migraines for me. I look forward to retirement in cooler, damper England!

  • MigraineSavvy author
    1 year ago

    Oh tulin2 I’m so pleased they helped you organise your thoughts. So cooler weather helps you? Me too. The heat and humidity here in Australia are definitely triggers. Stay well and dry!!!

  • MigraineSavvy author
    1 year ago

    I am praying they don’t come back… it’s always lurking in the back of my mind!!! It’s been 2 years… and I know just how lucky I am they’ve gone. I can only wish the same for you. Do take care.

  • DriverShirl
    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing your story, it moved me and i found a lot of your circumstances similar to my own, it is for that reason that i would like to take this time to thank each and everyone that have commented and shared their stories on these pages, Rest assured that i have read almost everyone and know how much you have all made me feel that i am not alone in this migraines hell. I am 71 and migraines have been a part of my life for over 30 yrs, although that doesn’t make me any kind of authority on them by any means! Just wanted others who suffer to know that i feel your pain and pray that all of us can find some comfort in sharing our pain, God bless y’all and thanks sooo much.

  • MigraineSavvy author
    1 year ago

    Oh DriverShirl… You are not alone… xo

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi MigraineSavvy,

    This is fantastic!! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and tips with us!

    Nancy

  • MigraineSavvy author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Nancy, you’re very kind. It’s my pleasure to help other migraine sufferers be positive wherever possible! It can be so hard sometimes…

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your kind words! Helping each other is one of the few perks of having migraine disease!!

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