I’ve suffered with debilitating migraines for most of my adult life. They’ve changed quite a lot over the years, but they’re completely overwhelming when they hit and they can cause a lot of disruption. I’ve got a long way to go until they’re under control (if that ever happens), but I do have a few coping strategies that help a little.
Migraines and me
I can’t remember when I first started suffering with migraines, I think it might have been when I was at university. But over the last 10-15 years they’ve become a regular part of my life.
Initially, I’d get the classic migraine headache. It would usually have me bed-bound for a day and then I’d be back on with my normal life. I can’t remember them actually being an issue when I was at university, but I do remember the first time I was in a position where I had to attempt to carry on as normal whilst suffering with one. I was doing my teacher training at the time and I was on a placement in primary school not far from where I lived. A job opportunity arose and they were holding an open evening for potential candidates after school. I’d felt OK when I woke up that morning, but as the day wore on I was feeling increasingly poorly. By the time the evening came round, I had a full blown migraine and for the first time I was suffering with sickness too. I had to keep excusing myself throughout the tour and the q & a session and I’ve absolutely no doubt that blew my chances with the job.
Since then, I’ve found that I’m often able to bring the actual migraine headache under control if I catch it early enough. But then I’m left with up to 48 hours of sickness. I’m honestly not sure which is worse. As a working Mum with three children, life often grinds to a halt when a migraine hits. The children are left to their own devices, and I’ve not doubt that my work suffers too. I’m extremely fortunate that I work from home. I don’t think I’d hold down a job if I had to go out to work with the amount of days my migraines would keep me home.
Everyone is different, so everyone’s migraine triggers are different. For me, there are quite a few triggers that I know about, and some that I have a feeling trigger my migraines.
- Stress – I can guarantee that if I have a really stressful few days, I’ll be wiped out by a migraine.
- Hormonal changes
- Alcohol – I can only drink a couple of alcoholic drinks without waking up with migraine the next day.
- Chocolate – I seem to be OK with small amounts.
- Lack of sleep
I have to admit that I don’t really cope well when a migraine hits. There’s really not a lot I can do except spend the time at home, hoping that someone can come and help me with the kids!
These days, I usually try to work through my migraines. I will say that this is only possible because I work from home and in my job I do two two-hour shifts each day. There’s absolutely no way I’d be able to go out to work with a migraine, I’ve actually no idea how I’d hold down a job outside of the home!
If you’re a sufferer, I’ve put together a few tips that I’ve found help to keep things running smoothly.
Admit you need help.
This has been a big one for me. I don’t like to ask anybody for help usually, I just don’t like to put people out. However, I’ve realised that’s actually quite unfair on everyone else. It’s not the children’s fault that I’m ill, and by asking for help they’ve got somebody there who can give them the attention they need, prepare them meals and just be there for them when I can’t.
One of the only things that helps me sometimes is to sleep it off. I have been known to pretty much sleep for 48 hours before and then I’ve emerged with just the migraine hangover to deal with.
Pain relief for migraines is a tricky one, as what works for one person might not work for the next. At the moment, I’m awaiting a review with the GP because the pain relief I’ve been taking seems to be aggravating the sickness. Although I’m not sure whether the sickness would still be there as well as the headache if I didn’t take the medication!
Paracetamol don’t touch a migraine for me. But I have found that if I take a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen as soon as I feel a headache come on, then the headache starts to subside. I’ve no way of knowing whether that headache would have developed into migraine though!
White tiger balm really helps to ease the pain for me. It smells a little like vicks vaborub, and feels a little like a deep heat. I rub it on the area where the pain is (usually just above my eyebrow) and sometimes in my temple. It’s definitely worth a try. Just avoid rubbing your eyes when you’ve used it as it doesn’t half make them water!
Dehydration is definitely a migraine trigger for me. I tend to drink plenty of fluids anyway, but on days where I slack, I generally know about it. Avoid too many caffeinated drinks and drink alcohol in moderation.
Ear plugs & sleep mask.
As long as there’s somebody here to help with the children, I find lying down in complete silence and complete darkness can help. I swear by using ear plugs and a sleep mask. Some sleep masks can be a little uncomfortable, I don’t like them to be pressed tight against my eyelashes! I’ve found this one really great:
It feels extremely comfortable, and the actual mask sits away from your eyes slightly meaning it doesn’t press against your eyes. It comes with a carry case and a pair of ear plugs too – win win!
Talk to your employer
I have had to take time off sick because of migraine. Recently, I managed to work the morning shift but by the afternoon I knew there was simply no way I’d be able to look at the computer screen without being ill. I’m very fortunate because generally I can cope at home and work around being ill, and I also have a very understanding boss! If you can, explain that you’re a migraine sufferer and perhaps try to fit extra work in when you’re feeling well to compensate for the bad days. Be careful though that you don’t overdo it on the good days as that could then trigger a migraine!
Try to avoid putting things off until tomorrow. I’ve found that a migraine always hits when we’re about to run out of milk or there’s nothing in for tea. Try to make sure that you’re always one step ahead. Have emergency tins of soup, baked beans etc in the cupboard, and extra bread in the freezer so that there’s always something quick and easy you can cobble together for the children.