I can still remember back in April this past year when I woke up at 1:22 A.M. The pain was excruciating, more than I’d ever felt in a long time. This was after my headache had been going on a week prior. I’d been to the doctor twice already, but walked away with nothing helpful besides a shot in the bum that worked for about an hour.
This wake up call was different. I launched the cats off the bed and barely made it to the bathroom in time before I threw up. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the floor because I don’t remember anything until 2:27 A.M. when I puked again. Somehow, I had enough clarity at 4:40 A.M. to drive myself to the ER.
I threw up over thirteen times that day and not once did I get any relief from my head. I missed the first two games I had ever missed in 9 years of college softball. I couldn’t stand up without needing to throw up so I just slept on the bath mat.
Lucky for me, that was the worst migraine I’ve ever experienced. I’ve had several since, and several before, but nothing to that extent. But every time a headache pops up, I remember all the things I take for granted when I’m healthy.
Take advantage of the good times
You know when you get sick and one or both nostrils are stuffy or running and you realize how much you breathe out of your nose? Yeah, it’s like that. You swear you’re never going to take for granted your clear, snot free nose ever again.
It’s same for migraines. As painful as it is to think, you remember all the things you used to be able to do. You worry about the things you’re missing. You know work is piling up without you, but there’s nothing you can do.
Time management is a savior here. I work diligently during the headache-free days so that if something does come up, I am not going to fall so far behind that I get in trouble. After all, we can’t predict our sick days.
It’s okay to step away
In the past, I used to fight through my headaches. I’d still try to get to work, coach, complete schoolwork, do other tasks, etc. but the quality of my work was terrible. Not only was I suffering through it, my work and the people around me suffered too.
For the first time in April, I physically could not do anything. Literally standing made me toss my cookies. If I had been on a bus for an hour, I wouldn’t have made it. The strange thing was the world kept turning and things still got accomplished. I slept and came back healthier than I would have if I had kept going.
Time away from electronics and Internet
Disconnecting from the world has done wonders. When you have a migraine, the last thing you want to look at is a screen. Of course, we all stress about missing things and not getting back to a work email that very well could be answered tomorrow and no one would care. By turning off the world, we can stop our anxious minds from spinning when all we need is to be still.
A walk outside can refresh you
Now, in April this was not an option. However, when I feel a migraine starting (my ‘aura’ is actually fidgeting uncontrollably or a mild anxiety attack), I do my best to get outside in the fresh air. This isn’t always a cure, but sometimes I can let some of that tension release. I’ve found that in comparison with my migraines where I don’t get outside or move, the ones after I walk or run are milder.
You aren’t disappointing anyone
I’ve always had a hard time saying ‘no’ to people. That’s why I’ve always tried to work through headaches and migraines. Being present, to me, was always priority, even if I wasn’t able to give quality work. I was afraid that taking a day to recover would make others question my work ethic.
But people take sick days all the time. A migraine is no different, even if the pain is not visible. In fact, I’ve found that the more I open up and talk about migraines, the more people empathize with the pain. Often it’s because they also suffer. That connection makes it much easier to be honest when you aren’t feeling well and need to take a day to recover.
Managing headaches and migraines are vital, and a lot of it comes down to self care. You are a priority, and therefore your health should be taken seriously. Give yourself time to recover so you can be your best self.