So you’ve filled in your diary logs religiously over months and noted patterns. You’ve adjusted your diet and you have your abortive or prophylactic medication at the optimum level for you, with the help of your doctor. So what do you do now? You still have migraines – although they might not be as often. Your life is still interrupted and affected, making any strides forward hard.
The Migraine Brain
To move forward, we need to understand a little about the migraine brain. It is a sensitive organ that craves sameness. Any deviation from the norm and it will revolt. At first, the experts thought migraine was simply an illness to do with the vascular system (blood vessels and circulatory system) where blood vessels expand and press on sensitive areas of the brain. Nowadays, it is thought to be a complex neurological disease that affects the central nervous system, neurotransmitters and certain chemicals to the brain. For me, the most poignant discovery, has been the super-exitability of the migraine brain – the dramatic wave of excitation that precedes an episode. That would explain the success of certain drugs traditionally used for other illness on migraine, such as epilepsy and depression. They are very different drugs but work by making the brain less excitable.
Even when i’m not in pain i’m exhausted or low
Feeling low and exhausted is common for the migraine brain too, and hinders us moving on with our lives. When you suffer migraine there is an abnormal flow of certain brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Little wonder we’re prone to depression. These are all chemicals that affect our happiness. Serotonin is particularly is low in migraineurs, which not only affects our mood but pain regulation as well.
You are in great company
Migraine has been around as long as history has been recorded. It was recorded in medical documents in ancient Egypt, and even Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, wrote about migraines.
Many fellow sufferers have gone on to do great things with their lives. High achievers are Julius Caesar, Charles Darwin, Claud Monet, Vincent Van Gogh,Virginia Wolf, Lewis Carol, Frederick Chopan, and Peter Tchaikovsky. There are many modern day actors and artists who are migraineurs too.
Working with such an unusual brain
In order to move on you will need to work with your brain’s idiosyncrasies and adjust your lifestyle accordingly to accommodate it. This will differ from person to person and what age you are at. Abortive drugs might work for you okay now, if you have less than three episodes a month, but you may reach a stage in life where that escalates into a frequency where preventative drugs are necessary. Some, you may take just before ovulation or a period. Others of you may have to take preventative medicine every day. The latter is the one that suits me.
Eight steps to Migraine Wellness and Wholeness
In order for you to have any sort of life, you need to accept the type of brain you have and adhere to the eight steps. They are:
- Exercise daily
- Sleep regularly
- Eat healthily
- Stay hydrated
- Reduce stress
- Stay connected with people (Relationships)
- Help others
- Dont ignore spirituality and purpose
Spirituality and Purpose
I’m going to assume that you have come this far and are working hard already on steps 1-7. I am going to focus on step 8, because that will help you like nothing else with all the other steps. Spirituality and purpose gives you energy and enthusiasm, and those things will help you get up and exercise, get tired enough to sleep, to have an appetite, to remember to look after yourself and drink and rest, to be bothered to meet up with friends, and above all to pass on what you have gained to other people. So you can see, number 8 is the most important step of all to keeping everything else up.
Migraineurs have a far higher rate of depression and anxiety than other people. This is where our calling or purpose comes in.
It’s impossible for me to work
For a migraineur, work creates its own stress. You keep having time off, your boss gets the hump, and before you know it you’ve been laid off for ill health.
Can you manage a part time job? It works for me. When i worked full-time my record was peppered with constant days off. The only way I escaped losing the job, was getting out and into a part-time job while i still could. It was a gamble that paid off. It allows me to rest if I need to on the days I don’t work, and if I get a migraine it is highly likely to fall on one of my ‘off’ days. I can cover my basic living costs, and with the rest of the time, if i feel well enough, i can devote myself to my writing.
My migraine brain likes to work in spurts. It’s not suited to 9-5 five days a week. I get hyper brain activity leading up to a migraine, then i get the light/sound/smell, sensitivity, nausea and pain, and then the depression and exhaustion straight after. Is this familiar to you? I would say it probably is.
The idea is to use the hyper phase to your advantage. This is when i do my larger more creative projects. Then when i get the pain phase, i allow my mind and body to relax by resting. Then when i am in the exhaustion phase, i use my sense of purpose to force myself to do the steps 1-7.
I have a pet dog. Dogs need walking. It makes me get up if for nothing else. I am fortunate to have my own horse. There are times when i can’t bear the thought of leaving the house to go and see her, but i force myself because i know that however hard it is, i will feel better afterwards – and i always do. I am not skipping yet, but my brain is back on track enough to work, and i can think clearly again.
My advice to you is to find a form of exercise that you like enough to continue to do to get that serotonin production going.
Migraineurs are the Thinkers, the Entrepreneurs and the Artists
I don’t think it is any accident that we belong to a group of truly creative people. We get the ideas. I believe strongly that we are gifted in that hyper phase of our migraine. But like most things, there is a price. For us it is a migraine followed by a period of depression. It is the yin and the yang, the high and the low, and the light and the dark. It is the payoff for your flashes of brilliance.
I run my life by seizing those periods of light to be creative and productive. Then i give way to the dark by allowing my mind and body to recover afterwards.
What about you?
I know what i need to do, and that’s write. I like to draw and paint and sometimes restore old furniture, but for me, my way of expression is to tell stories (www.tstedman.com). What do you have deep down that you have always wanted to do, or explore about yourself? Was it to make jewellery, start a blog, or make your own greetings cards. What is the thing in side of you that you love so much that it would fire you up on the well days?
Please let me know what that is, i’d love to hear.
What is stopping you really? If you can’t work all the time, what do you have to lose? Working at something from home could be the answer for you. Is there something that’s stopping you? Maybe you don’t know where to start? Perhaps the thought of getting a website, or using social media scares the life out of you? It did me. It is amazing what a bit of determination and a teenage daughter can help you with. I’m living proof of that. Trust me, if i can do it with my technical abilities, anyone can.
It is my aim to help other migraineurs get the start to have their own little home business. I would like to start a small community where we can all help each other with our different expertise. Is that something that would interest you? Please leave a comment if it does. I’d love to know what excites you.
In the meantime, I’m working on a new book to accompany this site and what i’ve been talking about. It goes more deeply into al the subjects i’ve covered, and i’m open to suggestions.
To help you with everything you can sign up to my free email course.
Or if you are raring to go, i’m happy to mentor you to give you a push start.