Monday, October 6, 2008

Migraines Are a Pain

It recently occurred to me that I haven’t made any “Healthy Writer” posts for quite some time, so I thought I’d talk about a subject that’s near and not-very-dear to my heart. Migraines.

A few months back I saw, on a writer’s discussion board, a thread about migraines and I was stunned to see how many writers are cursed with them. Yes, I said cursed. I'm normally a "glass half full" kind of girl, but when it comes to migraines, I just can't see any upside to them at all. So, I thought that I'd share some of my own experiences here and hopefully, some of you will share, and maybe together we can help others. First question: Are you plagued with migraines? If the answer is yes, then you have my sincere sympathy.

Now, I’m not going to try to explain what a migraine is medically because well, I’m not sure the medical profession knows the truth behind migraines (but if you want to read up on them, you can read this Wikipedia article or go here). I won’t profess to be an expert on them, despite their frequent visits for the past eight years of my life. What I will share though, is what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. So here we go...

For those of you who don't get them, you might wonder, what is a migraine? Well, remember high school woodshop? You know those steel vises anchored onto the worktables? Well, imagine putting your head into one of those, lining up your temples just even with the vice and then asking someone to crank the vice down as hard as they can. That’s a migraine. It is NOT a headache. It is not under the victim’s control. It is not something one can just “push through.” It is debilitating pain that causes vision problems, painful light and sound sensitivity, nausea, dizziness and a throbbing pain in your head that personally makes me glad that I don’t own any guns. I am not exaggerating. It is THAT bad.

What triggers a migraine? I first started getting them a year after a car accident, when I was hit by a drunk driver (please folks, don’t EVER drive even after having a couple of beers). This unfortunate life-altering event also happened to coincide with peri-menopause (Oh, lucky me! I got a two-fer). Through the years though, I’ve realized that I have a variety of triggers for my migraines (I find the word “trigger” so fitting, as some migraines do feel like someone has shot me in the head). Okay, so here is a list of my triggers:

Hormone imbalance (you know what that means ;-)
Certain foods at certain times (very dark chocolate, alcohol)
Barometric pressure drops (as in, storm fronts moving through—a biggie in the fall and spring)
Fluorescent lights (this is a new discovery for me)
Sleep deprivation

What are yours?

Now, the last three things tie into my writing life and can be quite problematic for me. Fluorescent lights (like those in convention halls or in classrooms or in meeting rooms at hotels) can certainly offset a migraine (and what a drag it is to be hit with a migraine at a conference, or worse, during a school visit!). Sleep deprivation can also occur at conferences, writing retreats or other writing-related events. And stress. For Pete’s sakes, just planning for and getting to an event can be stressful for some of us!

Have you noticed any writing-related things that trigger migraines for you?

My post is getting a bit long now, so I’m going to stop here (but not because I don't care). Later this week, I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve found that have worked for me to control my migraines (See? There's a little hope).

I hope some of you will join in and share your experiences by leaving a comment.