Well goodness, friends. It’s still happening!
The migraine nonsense has yet to fully release me from its grip – although I’ve started to have enough information to piece it all together (what’s causing what, why does this feel like this, etc.). I think I know how my brain found itself here, and I’m fairly certain that I’m days away from a full recovery (unless I just jinxed myself).
I wanted to continue to tell this story because I’ve found this whole experience to be a lot to process, both physically and mentally. Readers who have migraines, I want to hear about your experiences. Readers who have friends or loved ones with migraines, I want to open up a dialogue about them, so please share this post with them.
Because let me tell you — they suck. Since migraines don’t have one cause or trigger, and they also don’t have one universal treatment or solution, they can be difficult to manage. I’ve found it extremely helpful to talk to fellow migraine sufferers, because unless you get them, I can imagine that it’s tough to understand from the outside how they feel.
If you have migraines: I want to know if you also crave cheesy carbs, and if you have different terms for the types of pain they’re feeling, like “low buzz” vs. “drill hammer in temples” vs. “strangle” (when it feels like your neck is getting pulled down all day). I want to know what solutions you’ve tried, what has helped and what has hurt, and how you communicate with others about your migraines.
Please share your experiences in the comments section below — let’s start talking!
Here are some things I’ve learned about my own migraines:
preventative pill (topamax) = literally a headache
I’ve learned that pills can be dangerous, and it is 100% your responsibility to ask every question there is to ask, and your right to make the decision about what you choose to put in your body.
When I was prescribed Topamax, I was told that the only side effects were “tingly feet and maybe some weight loss”. And no migraines? It sounded quite nice. But the reality was far different from the picture the doctor painted — I should have made him paint a more accurate picture by asking questions and filling in the details. Now ya know.
With Topamax, I had issues with focus and memory loss that made my normal job performance impossible to achieve; I woke up with headaches, unable to open my eyes; I “hit a wall” after 20-30 minutes of light activity (like walking) and became severely fatigued, and I was sensitive to light and sound, to where walking down the street seemed torturous. It’s been rough.
I will say, the emergency pill I was prescribed (Relpax) for when I feel a migraine coming on has been very effective. I had to leave work with a migraine yesterday, and after a Relpax and a short nap, I felt back to normal within a few hours (usually I’m out for the day).
My body’s been through a lot in the last month, with the wisdom teeth surgery, the week of migraines, and then the zombie meds and MRI (came back normal, hooray!). So I’m going to lay off all meds for a while. If I decide to try a different preventative medicine, I’ll ask a lot more questions about it so I know what I’m signing up for.
chiropractic care = calmer neck ❤
So far, after three sessions of chiropractic care, I’m finding that seeing a chiropractor regularly helps reduce the neck and shoulder tension/pain I feel when I get migraines. Usually, a migraine for me is a definite, head/neck pain combo. Today, it was just the head pain — I see that as success. The wonderful, humble husband and wife team at Nashville Chiropractic is doing a great job and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
I’m currently seeing them twice a week since I’m still having near-daily migraines. After I get back to normal, I’ll continue to go once or twice a week as a preventative measure.
migraine tools ❤
My heated neck wrap is my saving grace. This thing has constantly been around my neck for two or three weeks now, and I *kind of* want to have it surgery implanted there, if only it could stay warm. It relaxes the tension in my neck muscles by heating them and gently weighing them down. Obsessed.
Using candles as light to reduce brightness is amazingly soothing. I love letting a candle’s gentle light be the only light in the room. It’s very peaceful — which helps release tension in my neck and shoulders. Huge fan of this wonderfully named candle, made locally.
If light is a problem for you while you sleep, an eyeshade can work magic. It seems slightly silly until you try it when you have a migraine. Holy Cheetos. Find one that speaks to you (and fits your face).
eating well ❤
My body is craving simple, clean food and I’m giving it what it wants. Although I’m breaking some of my usual habits — like getting bread at Jimmy John’s (learn how not to here) — I’m eating real, whole foods and trying to focus on getting high-quality calories. This is important during migraine-y times because it’s often hard for me to eat anything due to nausea.
what I eat when I have migraines (based on no science whatsoever and my gut alone)
When I’m having a migraine or a bad headache, my jaw is tense, my neck is tight, my mind is in survival mode, and I want something simple, light-ish, and comforting.
I’m glad I now have a good roster of migraine-friendly foods that I can prepare or find quickly and easily, especially when I am home alone with a migraine.
These may not be the exact things my body might needs from a nutritional standpoint (still doing research to find out exactly what that is) — but they are what my body craves, which to me feels like a signal that I should listen to. They also make my body feel better when I eat them, which I see as a good sign.
I try to get a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat, with some fruits and veggies worked in, but sometimes I don’t achieve it. The general theme is: (mostly) complex carbs, with functional natural beverages, as clean as possible. Please share your favorite migraine or sick day foods below!
highly uncomplicated carbs
peanut butter crackers
Back in the day, mom’s office used to have a snack closet that was meant for her patients, but after school, we were allowed to snack as we pleased. The luxury of having your mom as the boss. My favorite option was the peanut butter crackers.
Those crackers were like gold to me, since we only had “real food” (eye roll) at the house and they didn’t fit the bill. I think I used to eat them when my head hurt as comfort food, and I definitely do now — our office carries them regularly in the snack closet (thanks Tia!). They’re basic, carby, slightly salty and feel very wholesome in the moment. Horizon Organic and Late July make an organic versions, although if we’re being honest I usually eat the conventional kind.
oatmeal and oatmeal-y things
Whether it’s overnight oats with banana, cinnamon, and raw honey, or Kind Healthy Grains bars, oatmeal has a very soothing quality about it, so it’s a migraine day staple. I used to take baths in oatmeal for my eczema, so it obviously has a lot of healing powers.
a little protein and fiber
I eat these for the protein and the fiber. To be honest, I constantly debate how I actually feel about the nutritional integrity of Quest Bars (since they have cookie flavors and aren’t made from ingredients I can buy at a Whole Foods), but I like how they make my body feel, which is a good sign to me. 20+ grams of protein is tremendous for that small amount of slightly sweet, chewy food, and Quest Bars also have a lot of fiber — 25 grams, which is basically a daily serving. The fiber makes it digestively disruptive for people who already eat a lot of fiber, but on migraine days, it’s a perfect dose to keep your stomach from grumbling for a while, since eating is painful.
wild rice cakes, nitrite-free turkey, and dijon mustard
When you’re eating pretty bland foods, mustard can be a welcome (but not overwhelming) adventure for your taste buds. The wild rice cakes add some complex carbs, and the turkey adds some protein. Mostly I do yellow mustard, but sometimes I upgrade to dijon.
This is my favorite brand of rice cake. Taste around and find a turkey you like — that’s personal.
our avocado toast
Made exactly the same way my boy and I always do — with feta, lime juice, salt, and local bee pollen. It’s delicious, has a complex carb and a healthy fat, and it makes me feel normal because it’s a food I eat at least once a week.
a soulful splurge
A recent favorite, discovered after the wisdom teeth surgery, is garlicky polenta with cheese. Yes I know that aged cheeses are supposed to be a migraine trigger and to that I say, everything is a migraine trigger.) Adding an egg — poached or scrambled — adds some protein and makes it more of a meal. I’ll write up that recipe soon, which my boyfriend has perfected — he had a lot of time to experiment. ❤
When I’m in a migraine-y time, I’m not usually very interested in salads. I don’t normally drink a lot of juices (because they’re expensive and I eat a lot of greens), but I always try to grab one on days when I get migraines, to make up for the lost greens and give me a hit of vitamins. I try to limit the sugar, and go with greens, ginger, lemon, and maybe green apple.
Coconut water is packed with electrolytes [learn more], which help ease the effects of dehydration. Dehydration is a major contributor to migraine pain, and can sometimes (in my experience) trigger migraines on its own. Stay hydrated! On normal days, I just drink a ton of water, but on migraine days, I add in coconut water.
I think the tea just calms my nerves. I often stress when I’m having a migraine, because it keeps me from being able to perform my normal activities — so I feel guilty for skipping out on life. This stuff is good.
coffee in serious moderation
Caffeine withdrawal can trigger migraines, and I’ve found that it’s important for me to stay on a fairly tight schedule — wake up, coffee. If I wait too long before finding coffee, my head starts to pound. On normal days, I have black coffee, sometimes iced. On days that start with migraines, I usually make a large, milky coffee and sip on it. I add the milk because it adds a little protein and fat, which I need since I’m often not really able to eat.
share your stories
I’d love to hear about your experiences with migraines and what you’ve found to be helpful. Moving forward, I’m interested in pursuing a yoga practice, meditation practice, and acupuncture, so far. What have you tried and how has it worked?
I want to… get inside your head. (That one’s for you, Liz.) Please share your comments in the comment box below. ❤