Tag Archives: migraine

When a migraine hits…

When a migraine hits I feel at a loss. I want to detach from my body. I feel fearful of the impending pain, discomfort, nausea, and vomiting that are a part of the whole migraine experience. I feel disappointed in myself for letting this happen. I feel a piercing pain in the right side of my head that travels down the right side of my neck and sometimes into my upper right trap which then seizes up toward my ear.

 

When a migraine hits I feel hopeless. I feel excited to find my comfortable spot on the couch. Although true comfort never seems attainable. I feel misunderstood and disconnected from almost everyone – hard as they may try to sympathize. I can’t stress enough: it’s not just a headache.

 

I feel like I am letting people down. I’m sure of it. I want to be 12 again in my parent’s house with my mom changing my ice pack every time it gets warm. Alternating between taking sips of icy ginger ale and eating crushed ice. The only things my stomach can somewhat tolerate.

When a migraine hits I feel responsible and at fault. I feel like there must be something I could have done differently to avoid this. And sometimes, I feel like in some way I am deserving of this.

When a migraine hits I feel isolated and alone and I want a familiar face around me. I want a warm hand on my back, reminding me it’s going to be ok, that this will pass. That even though THIS happens, I am still loved. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

 

When a migraine hits I feel depressed and disassociated from my body. In fact I want a new body: a new head, arms, intestines, and legs. Not because of the way my body looks this time, but because of the way it feels. I can’t imagine greater pain or discomfort (although I’m sure on some level it does exist – probably childbirth).

 

I feel the lure of distraction from a bad rom-com or TV series that can take me to another place where I imagine everything is good and perfect. I am healthy and don’t have to worry about a thing.

 

When a migraine hits I feel reminiscent of when they weren’t quite so bad. When they didn’t interfere with the life I want to live.

 

When a migraine hits I also remember. I remember that this too shall pass and am reminded of the transient nature of … EVERYTHING. I remember all the ways I am loved in texts received and shoulder rubs given. I remember how grateful I am for the days when I DO feel healthy. Healthy enough to work and enjoy the time I have on this earth.

 

When I wake-up the morning after I am left with the residue of the migraine. The pulsing in my right temple is still there but I feel lighter. I feel like my body has gone through the ringer and I’ve made it to the other side. Phew. I feel like I have been given a gift of the day ahead of me and the days to follow. I worry less about being able to fit in a run or knocking off all the things on my checklist.

 

Maybe I have also been given the gift of migraine to help keep me in check. To turn me around sometimes and to continue to grow what is good in my life. To Worry less and Love more.

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Migraines: A New Chapter

migraineday 2Today I awoke with a piercing pain on the right side of my forehead, just above and slightly behind my right eye. I awoke to that, plus nausea. I immediately thought to myself “CRAP.” I had the sinking feeling I might be in for a migraine attack. Fear rose and I deliberated between muscling through the day or making the calls to cancel appointments and clients.

 

As soon as I stood up to go to the bathroom and drink some water I knew it: this one was for real. Sometimes I wake up with a mini-migraine that subsides after going through morning rituals of drinking water and moving around. The quality of pain is different than that of the full on migraine attack. The migraine attack includes the piercing pain traveling down the back of my skull to the top of my neck, that metallic taste in my mouth, and the nausea. These things signal it’s time to slow down and take care.

 

And what I’m learning, is that these migraines require time and patience. I’ve gotten to know them, to understand the ebbs and flows, the build up to peak pain and nausea, and then the slow descent back to feeling like myself again. Where I notice things like how blue the sky is, how wonderful it feels to move around, and how delicious food tastes.

 

To provide some background, for the last year I was on a clinical trial drug where I received a monthly injection to prevent migraines. Doubtful as I was, the trial worked and I was nearly migraine free for an entire year. When I say it changed my life, I really mean it. Long gone were the days of regularly canceling work and social events. And the PediaLite that sat in the back of my fridge for nearly a year finally got tossed out as I no longer needed it.

 

To wake up with this piercing migraine today triggered fear that “the migraines are returning.” I really don’t want to return to the way I was living my life where I would be out of commission for 2-3 days at a time 3-4 times per month. The only places I visited were the couch, the bathroom, and my bed while waiting for the migraine to pass. Needless to say it was a big lesson in impermanence: I constantly reminded myself “this too shall pass.”

 

As I venture into this new chapter of my experience with migraines, I am vowing to be gentler with myself. I wonder: What can I learn? How can I move more slowly? How can I take better care of myself? This process is sweet, soothing, and softening. Even just by taking this new perspective, I feel more at ease.

 

I spent an hour this afternoon lying on my floor supported by two bolsters and covered by a cozy white blanket with gongs playing in the background. I was transported out of the pain state. Even though the migraine didn’t totally disappear, the pain lessened and I felt more relaxed.
I felt grateful to surrender to the process of migraine and at the same time to take accountability for my own self healing. After giving myself this mini gong bath, my faith that “everything would be ok” was fully restored.

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Take Care

It’s been a weird, migraine-limbo day. I woke up with that “oh crap I’m getting a migraine” feeling … which wasn’t quite enough to completely dismantle me but WAS enough to have to miss my beloved Bowspring class and although I treated my migraine “naturally” I still felt all screwed up and out of control.

I so wanted my day to go as planned, to follow every step, every appointment I had on my calendar.

I managed to make it to a lululemon goal-setting afternoon but even so felt like I just wasn’t fully there because I had this fog of migraine that so palpably was separating me from the rest of the world.

I could feel it in my interactions with everyone I came across today.

When I came home from goal-setting I was more relieved than ever to slip into my most comfortable of clothes, curl up on the couch, and doze off to the continuation of my Parenthood binge. I felt comforted, sweet, and held.

I let go of needing to control the outcome of my day and held onto “take care of yourself Maggie.” Because sometimes that’s all we can do.

The obligations and need for control get in the way and I’m working, slowly learning, that when my body is giving me clear messages I need to listen. Not only that, I need to honor them.

Not surprisingly, I am starting to feel better as I crawl out of migraine-limbo. I’m so happy to see the sunshine and my newly blossomed orchid sitting so content on the window sill. I am happy that tonight I get to spend time with my guy and that tomorrow is a new day.

So, please go and take care of yourself darling. Lord knows you deserve it.

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4 Weeks Migraine-free!

gratitude-quotes-03I want to shout something from the rooftops: 4 WEEKS MIGRAINE FREE!! I have been holding my breath and waiting for today to come because it marks a pretty monumental thing for me: 4 weeks without a full blown migraine attack. I have had headache days and days when it felt like I was in the early stages of a migraine but … NOPE! Not a single fucking migraine. I remember what it felt like to live this kind of life. Where I can make plans, and keep them (well, most of the time).

I have been struggling with the fact that this improvement is likely due to the fact that I am participating in a trial study for a new migraine drug. I wish I could tell you “I am healing myself 100%” … A part of me absolutely HATES that I get an injection of this drug every month … but then there is the part of me that recognizes and is eternally grateful for advances such as this in modern medicine.

I do make sure that I eat well, sleep well, move my body, and feed my soul – all things necessary for a healthy life.

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

So instead of feeling guilty that I am on this new drug, I will feel indefinitely grateful that I am starting to see the light. Migraines are no joke, it has been a rough few years and I can hardly begin to explain what a relief it is to know that I can possibly live this way again. Even if it is temporary, I am grateful. INSANELY grateful.

What are you grateful for today?

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Joan Didion Says it Best (About Migraines)

I spent most of the last two days in bed, with a migraine. Again. I start to feel like a broken record, as I “go dark” for these migraine days. But today feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, as it always feels when a migraine comes full circle and I get that post-migraine high.

I can’t remember how, but I must have been googling “migraine stories” and I stumbled upon Joan Didion’s essay “In Bed” about her experience with migraine. The first time I read it, I felt so much comfort to know that I am not the only one. Everything she says hits the nail on the head and I think to myself “Yes, Yes! That’s exactly it!”

I notice that I have a lot of shame around my migraines and I am working on that. When I keep coming back to a story like this though, I start to lose a little bit of that shame – little by little – every time. It’s like it’s not so bad to not be perfect.

“And once it comes, now that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first every small apprehension is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine, there in that imposed yoga, the concentration on the pain. For when the pain recedes, ten or twelve hours later, everything goes with it, all the hidden resentments, all the vain anxieties. The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.”

And she’s absolutely right. Today the ice and bitter cold don’t seem to matter. I am grateful to breathe in the crisp air and drive my car through mucky snow tracks and put on layer upon layer before leaving the house. Because I feel like I have come home in my body and I want to be grateful and aware of each experience and sensation and feeling as much as I possibly can.

To read Joan Didion’s full essay click this link.

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A Feeling of Everything-is-alright-ness & Philadelphia Half Marathon

I think I love doing these races so much simply because they make me feel more alive. Just getting to the starting line last Sunday for the Philadelphia Half Marathon was a total well of emotions. And when I crossed the finish line … well you will just have to read on to find out what happens.

This year has been a big old wake-up call for me, most especially pertaining to my health.

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years, teaching yoga for 8 years, and health coaching for 3 years. I am also a perfectionist. Or at the very least have some major perfectionist tendencies. This perfectionism has kept me from coming clean, or being totally honest not only with myself but with every person in my life – from those who I see on a daily basis to those who sometimes peek at my social media presence.

My migraines took a turn for the worse around Christmas last year. They became more frequent, longer in duration, and the symptoms were more severe than I had ever experienced. I was getting a migraine every 7-10 days lasting 2-3 days and, without fail, I could not hold anything down; vomiting regularly and spending at least a day recuperating and rehydrating. I am still dealing with these severe migraines but I have taken several steps to make taking care of them a top priority.

I didn’t want to tell anyone what was really going on except for a select few because I thought admitting that I was having a challenging time meant I was a failure – in so many ways – including a failure as a yoga teacher and health coach. It hadn’t dawned on me that being truthful with myself and giving my health the attention it needed was a huge part of being the best teacher/coach I possibly could.

Since December 2013 I had to say no to so many people and events: from endurance events to weddings to teaching … it started to become so very apparent that my health was not in a good state. Not only that but I was not giving my health the attention it deserved.

I would be struck with a migraine and on top of the physical pain and discomfort I would sink into a state of depression. I am now learning to transition into migraine-mode with more forgiveness and compassion for myself. It’s is tough work, but I am learning to let go and let the migraine just take me into the migraine-state for however long it needs to process through my body.

So what on earth does this have to do with a half marathon? Well, I was hesitant to even sign up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. What if I got a migraine on race day? It was something I thought of every time I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. The list of what if’s ran through my mind endlessly. I finally came to peace with the fact that a migraine might happen on race day, but I also accepted the exciting possibility that it might not.

The very last run I went on before we left for Philadelphia, I said to myself “I’m going to run this thing” – that became my mantra and I visualized approaching the starting line with my friends and imagined what it would feel like to get back into doing this thing that makes my heart sing.

And guess what? I ran that thing! I got to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon and even set a personal best at 1:57:43. This was the first race for me in about a year which, if you know my history with triathlon and running, is a pretty big deal as I have spent the past 4-5 years filling my calendar with races.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.54.42 PMSo what happened when I crossed the finish line?  My eyes filled with little tears, I got that knot in my throat, and my heart swelled up. (I think I’m officially a “Finish Line Cryer.” Is that a thing?)

The days that I have spent on my couch in more pain and discomfort than I can come close to describing … those days have given me a greater appreciation for the days without a migraine. Where I am grateful just to toe the line at a race and be amongst the running community. Where I am grateful to share race stories with my friends, our teeth chattering as we make our way back to our hotel. Where I am grateful for that hot shower after a race, the water washing away the sweat and soothing my aching muscles.

It’s a feeling of lightness, of “everything-is-alright-ness” … and maybe migraines have given me more awareness of its existence.

PhilaHalfI am grateful for my experience with migraine. Migraine has given me a deeper understanding of debilitating pain and discomfort; it has given me greater appreciation for the days WITHOUT migraine – what a sweet blessing those days are; migraine has taught me to accept the help and support from loved ones when it is offered, and to ask when it is needed; and migraine got me to get my butt in gear this year to make my health a priority. We should never be so busy that we cannot take care of ourselves.

 

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To Toe The Line

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Sunday will be my first half marathon in over a year. Which, given my track record (no pun intended) over the past 4-5 years – a tendency to sign up for road races on a whim, compounding multiple half marathons in the same year as an Ironman – says a lot.

This year has been challenging to say the least and I limited myself quite a lot because of the severity of my migraines.

Sunday is the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I am most definitely undertrained, but I know that once I toe the line I will finish.

For me this race is much less about finishing, or finishing in a certain time (I have no doubt this will not be a PR race). It is ALL ABOUT toeing the line.

I just want to wake up Sunday morning, migraine-free, and get to that starting line. That will be enough for me.

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Migraines, Congruency, and When to Say No

congruencyEver since I was little I remember getting migraines. My first memories of them include lying on the Middle School auditorium floor, covering my eyes with my sweater, or my mother squeezing the tender spot on my right hand.

Fast forward to being 30 and I still get migraines. They go in waves of severity but currently they seem to be terrible, awful, and no good. Without going into too much detail, they leave me lying in bed (or on the couch) holding my head to try to manage the pain, making frequent trips to the bathroom because I cannot keep anything down.

I had a migraine just a few days ago. It came on Thursday night and finally started to subside Saturday evening. From the moment I woke up on Friday I knew exactly what was in store. I collected my pillow, most cozy blanket, and put on my most comforting yoga pants and headed to the couch where I would lie for hours in and out of sleep, switching ice packs every hour or so.

As the migraine worsened I started canceling obligations: work and social. I started thinking of what I was missing out on – the professional opportunities, the date I had planned with my boyfriend, the haircut, a day spent in sunshine. As Saturday approached, I started thinking about my time and the way that I spend it.

For all I know migraines are not life threatening. They are however very debilitating and affect my quality of life. They also reaffirm the idea of congruency, what is important, and what it is that gets me out of bed in the morning. Or, when suffering from a migraine, what is it that I miss doing the most?

And finally, these migraines are starting to shed light on the fact that I, like so many people today, have the tendency to say yes far too often and spread myself way too thin.

So why write about it in a blog post? I want to be completely transparent and use this as a commitment to my intention to say no with the confidence that I will not be missing out, especially when it is congruent with what I want. I’m starting to see that when we honor what it is that we truly want, we also start to learn more about the meaning of self-love.

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.  My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” 
– Kim McMillen

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My Friend The Migraine

I am a little ashamed to write about this. Just as I am ashamed to admit every time I have a migraine. Here goes a post that’s not going to be very pretty, as I am writing it in the middle of what is turning into a 2 day migraine (let’s hope it stays that way.) It feels like a knife is wielding it’s way into my head on and off, on and off, throughout the day and sometimes it’s just on-on-on-on-on for a long time. Relentless pain with no relief. My brain is on fire. And then I get the nausea, vision auras, and if I’m really lucky, vomiting. I apologize if that grosses you out but it’s the truth.

The only relief I find is covering my entire head in ice packs (or my trusty migra-cap – thanks Mom!) or when I’m lucky enough to have someone squeeze my hand really hard to create enough pressure and pain so as to distract me from the pain in my head. I have had the occasional meditation class or session give me relief, either partial or absolute, and I know this is something I should turn to more often.

Instead what I will more often do is allow myself to enter the cycle of doom: a migraine starts coming on, I debate whether or not to take the uber-powerful prescription I have or do I ride it out, hoping it won’t last too long or be too painful? I then begin to identify WHY this particular migraine is setting in: stress from work, something I ate, bad karma. Seriously, all of that goes through my head and I play the blame game with myself, inevitably feeling immense guilt and stress not only for bringing this pain upon myself but also for how it might affect my actual life. Missing out on work, dinner with friends, being completely zonked when I teach a client even though it is quite evident to them that something is wrong. Words don’t come as easily and I don’t balance as well as I normally do in the balancing poses.

This particular migraine, while taxing, has been different. I am trying my darndest to stay positive. I did not cancel a thing and showed up for work at the office for as long as I could stand the fluorescent lights. These migraines give me a taste of what it might be like to have depression because I feel despondent, powerless, and unable to do some of the things I love most. Focusing on building my business with a migraine? Forget about it. Heck it’s hard to even read a chapter in a book.

For the people who know me, you also know that I get migraines, mostly because there is a good probability that I have had to cancel our plans at some point in time. Migraines make me dizzy, nauseas, throw up, unable to think coherently, depressed, down in the dumps, tearful, and worst of all – fearful. I am fearful that they will be a part of my life forever and that they might stop me from accomplishing goals that I set for myself. I realize this was a big reason why completing an Ironman was so huge for me.

So now what? Well now I do what I can to prevent more migraines (long story for another post, for sure) but I also have to accept and make friends with the migraines. When a migraine comes on, I literally see it as my biggest enemy, I give it a personality, it freaking HATES my guts and wants to ruin my life. There has to be another way around it. A way of laughing at the migraines. Like the time that I got out of jury duty because of the fact that I got migraines that lasted up to 72 hours. I swear to God that this was not intentional and I was only answering the questionnaire with 100% honesty when they asked about medical conditions. Now that is actually kind of funny.

I would have to say that another positive that I see from them is forced time for introspection and reflection. While it might be painful, it forces me to rest, eat well, meditate while at the same time I want to disengage from email, Facebook, my iPhone… I feel numb to all of that and alive to my thoughts and emotions, wild as they may be. I’m thinking I should pay more attention to these migraines and what they bring up.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

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