Migraine Symptoms And Solutions

A migraine is far from “just a headache” and it’s even far from “just a really bad headache.” A migraine is a collection of symptoms, each of which can be debilitating and difficult on their own, never mind a combination of them. However, there are ways you can deal with each symptom.

Sensitivity to Light: Photophobia

While photophobia literally means “fear of light,” it is actually a sensitivity to light. It can often be to bright lights, the sun, the light emitted from your phone or TV, and especially to fluorescent lights If you have difficulty looking at a computer, try getting a red-shift extension such as Melatonin, or a webpage color inverter Chrome extension such as Dark Reader.

Google docs without Dark Reader
Google Docs With Dark Reader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This makes it easier to look at the computer and can decrease your photophobia. As Mentioned in the Migraine Survival Pack, I use a pair of FL-41 tinted glasses. These are glasses with a special tint (see picture below) that blocks out the wavelengths of fluorescent lights that often trigger photophobia. While they are an upfront investment, I do not know how I ever lived without them. I have Axon Optics but you can also use Theraspecs.

Selfie with Axon Optics FL-41 tinted glasses on

Sensitivity to sound: Noise Sensitivity

Loud noises can make migraines a lot worse for some people, myself included. This is sometimes difficult to deal with because you never know when you might be in a loud environment, and you can’t always avoid it. For example, I went to the Cheesecake factory last week with my friend, expecting it to be a normal dinner. However, when we walked in it was extremely loud, and I didn’t bring my earplugs for once, not thinking it would be too loud. I regretted not thinking to bring them immediately, and I will not be making that mistake again: Earplugs are a must. As mentioned in the Migraine Survival Pack, always carrying around earplugs is vital. I use concert earplugs, which block out loud noises but allow conversational noises which I found to be the best type.

Sensitivity to Smells

For some people, certain smells may make a migraine worse. Perfume is a common culprit and can be extremely problematic as you cannot control it.  I also personally find that any strong odor and cigarettes is a trigger for me. I have not found any great solutions for this but if you have any solutions please comment them below and I will add them to this article with credit.

Nausea

Nausea can be with or without vomiting. While you may often feel too sick to eat, it is important to stay hydrated and have some food in your system or your migraine could get worse from dehydration or from lack of food. Movement often makes the nausea worse, while lying down or staying still could make it better.

Aura

About 25% of all migraines are with an aura. There are countless auras including:

  • Vision auras like spots in vision and blurred vision
  • Numbness
  • “Foggy brain” and a difficulty to form thoughts
  • Fatigue and excessive yawning
  • Food cravings
  • Stiffness (especially neck stiffness)

The most important thing to do regarding auras is to recognize your own auras and take medication at the onset of one. The sooner you take a migraine abortive medication, the greater the chance of it working, so take it at the onset of an aura.

Please feel free to comment what migraine symptoms you have and how you cope with them or questions you want me to answer in a future Q and A post.  Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

Comment Policy

I moderate my comments and will delete any which are abusive. I am the final say on what I think that is. So if you are polite, please comment whether you agree with me or not, or agree or disagree with another commenter. Regardless of your viewpoint, if you get abusive, I will delete your comments.

Citations

https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/photophobia-facts#1

https://migraine.com/migraine-symptoms/nausea-with-or-without-vomit

ttps://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/what-is-a-migraine-with-aura#1

Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

Great Ways to Cope With Stress, Anxiety, and Chronic Illness

Anxiety can be a serious problem for anyone, but the risk of suffering from anxiety increases 18% if you have coronary artery disease. Patients with chronic pain also experience anxiety at higher rates than the general population (National Center for Biotechnology Information). I also know this firsthand, as my anxiety and stress increased drastically as my migraines increased in intensity.

The Reason for the Anxiety

Your anxiety can be for any reason: from the big test you have tomorrow to the drama that just occurred in your life. However, chronic illness and anxiety feed upon one another. You can be anxious because of your condition, which then worsens your condition, which creates more anxiety, and so on. This is called a feedback loop. For example, I get anxious when my migraine reaches 10 out of 10 in intensity. This can be for a variety of reasons including worrying I won’t be able to function or won’t be able to go to school. This  makes the migraine worse, which increases my level of anxiety, which worsens the migraine, and so on. This loop if difficult, or sometimes even impossible, to end.

How to Decrease Your Anxiety on Your Own

Just stop and breathe

It may sound obvious, but just do it. When you are anxious, your muscles stiffen and breathing can help to loosen your body and decrease some of your anxiety. This is always the first step. In addition there are other things you can do to help lessen your stress and anxiety:

  • Listen to music: Listen to your favorite, relaxing soundtrack. Put on spotify and just rock out to your favorite jams.
  • Play with your pet: It has been shown that pets help lower your blood pressure. So play with your cat or dog, or even take your dog on a walk while listening to your favorite music. Anything to do with your pet can help.
  • Talk to a friend: You can talk about anything. Whether it is is about what is making you anxious and maybe they can help, or about something else, it can help to distract you.
  • Use a fidget cube: Using a fidget cube, or something similar, can provide a tactile distraction. And besides, they are also really fun to use.
  • Talk to your family: They know you and they love you. They want to help. And you can tell your family members to just listen if that’s what you need.

How to Decrease Your Anxiety With The Help of a Professional

If you find your anxiety is starting to have a large effect on you, it may be best to see a professional who can help you. If your anxiety is primarily due to your illness or disability, going for cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, may be a good idea. 30-60% of all patients who try CBT experience fewer migraines (American Migraine Foundation). CBT is a short term psychotherapy treatment that tries to change the patient’s pattern of thinking or behavior that is behind the difficulties (Psych Central). In the case of a disability or chronic illness, the goal would be to try to change the way you think about the difficulties you face so that they have less of a negative effect on you. This treatment can be tried instead of medication, or in conjunction with medication (like I am doing). Conventional talk therapy can also be effective for trying to navigate through life with a disability.

Please feel free to comment below tips you have found to deal with your anxiety or questions you want me to answer in a future Q and A post.  Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

Comment Policy

I moderate my comments and will delete any which are abusive. I am the final say on what I think that is. So if you are polite, please comment whether you agree with me or not, or agree or disagree with another commenter. Regardless of your viewpoint, if you get abusive, I will delete your comments.

Citations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4768533/

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/behavioral-treatment-of-headache-and-migraine-patients-making-referrals/

https://psychcentral.com/lib/in-depth-cognitive-behavioral-therapy/

Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider

About Me

Hi! I am Sam and am 16 years old and live with chronic migraines. I have had a headache every single day of my life for as long as I can remember. The pain fluctuates in intensity, and my old normal used to be a 2 out of 10 every day. However, since February my life has been flipped upside down. I have been to the emergency room eight times and inpatient in the hospital three times, for a total of 15 days inpatient. My pain has been at least a 7 out of 10 every second of my life since May, with the pain spiking to a 10 out of 10 at any moment. I know that sounds crazy, and it is. I have had to re-adjust most of my life, make sacrifices I haven’t wanted to make, and learn to cope with my new medical situation at every level of my life. I am starting this blog to help others who are going through a similar situation, so they don’t have to struggle as much as I am. In this blog, I plan on writing survival guides, how to navigate through life (and especially school and accommodations), maintaining friendships, product reviews, and weekly updates in the hope  of giving you a glimpse into my life.

While this blog will focus on dealing with severe migraines and having a disability while being a student, I will also be talking about the rest of my life and how it relates to my condition. I am a huge nerd, and love robotics and computer science. As you can imagine, those two things (loud machines and looking at a computer for a long time) are not really conducive to migraines. However, they are my passion and have been for over half of my life so I have found ways to cope. I am a member of FIRST Robotics Team 353, the POBots, know 7 programming languages, love to read books – especially re-reading Harry Potter – and volunteer at my temple weekly. I have tried to maintain as much of this as I can despite my condition, and have found ways to adapt – which I am so excited to share with all of you through this blog. One of the hardest things I am doing is trying to maintain my high grades in my rigorous course load – 3 AP classes, 1 honors class, and rigorous electives. I refuse to let my migraines limit my achievement in school, and it is extremely hard but I have found a way to navigate with success. That will be talked about more in future posts.

Please feel free to comment below about posts you want me to do, about yourself, or questions you want me to answer in a future Q and A post.  Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

Comment Policy

I moderate my comments and will delete any which are abusive. I am the final say on what I think that is. So if you are polite, please comment whether you agree with me or not, or agree or disagree with another commenter. Regardless of your viewpoint, if you get abusive, I will delete your comments.

Migraine Survival Pack

Migraines can be extremely difficult to live with. In the midst of a migraine, any noise or light or external stimuli can exasperate your condition. Therefore, it is important to have all the tools necessary on hand to cope with the condition. I have gathered what I consider my migraine survival pack below:

The Ultimate Survival Pack

  1. Your medications. This may seem obvious, but always have your abortive medications with you at all times. You never know when a migraine is going to hit and you are going to be in need of your medication. It would suck to feel it coming on but not have your medications, and the window for the medication being effective passes, leaving you in more pain for a longer amount of time.
  2. Sunglasses. Always have sunglasses. A common symptom of migraines is photophobia, or sensitivity to light. Sunglasses can be useful whether inside or outside to help block out the light and decrease the effect of the lights on the migraine.
  3. Earplugs. You never know where you are going to be and whether or not it will be too loud for you. I highly recommend investing in a good pair of earplugs, not the cheap ones from the drugstore. I use concert earplugs, which blocks out loud noises but allows you to hear conversational noises.
  4. Water. Water is a necessity of life, and it is really easy to get dehydrated when you have a migraine. This will make the migraine worse, which is counterproductive. Get a good stainless steel water bottle, and make sure always have it with you.
  5. Extra snack. Not eating will make a migraine worse. Make sure you always have some snack on you. This will often make the migraine a little better, or if you have know you haven’t eaten in a while it can prevent one. I usually have fruit snacks on me, because I found the help the most.
  6. Pill organizer. If you are taking multiple medications a day, put them all in a pill organizer to keep at home. I just started doing this, and it makes everything so much easier. Setting it up at the beginning of each week can be annoying, but it is completely worth it for the ease of the week.
  7. Optional investment: FL-41 tinted glasses. These are special glasses that block out the wavelengths of fluorescent lights, some light from the TV, and light from your phone and computer. There are extremely helpful for people with photophobia, and have extremely helped me, especially in school. They are a little pricey, going from about $125-$175 depending on the style and company. I use axon optics and love them, and will do a review in the future. It is a hefty cost up front, but I believe it is definitely worth it and I don’t know how I loved without them.

Please feel free to comment below what you keep for your migraines or questions you want me to answer in a future Q and A post.  Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

Comment Policy

I moderate my comments and will delete any which are abusive. I am the final say on what I think that is. So if you are polite, please comment whether you agree with me or not, or agree or disagree with another commenter. Regardless of your viewpoint, if you get abusive, I will delete your comments.

How To Choose Classes When You Have a Disability

School and everything that comes with it can be difficult for anyone. But that challenge increases when you live everyday in pain. School becomes an uphill battle: Do you drop classes you don’t want to for medical reasons? What difficulty of classes do you take (regular, honors, or APs)? These are all factors that play into choosing classes with a disability.

Workload

I am a junior, and have a pretty intense workload: pre calculus honors, engineering by design (a technology class), US history, AP Language and Composition, Aeronautics, AP Computer Science A, and AP Physics 1. These classes are rigorous and difficult, but I learn a lot. Prior to the beginning of the school year, I also had AP US History. However, I made the decision to drop that classes for the regular level social studies because of my migraines and the condition not improving during the summer. I really didn’t want to drop that class, however with about 2 hours of textbook reading and outlining a night, it wasn’t feasible for me. And that is an important skill and lesson to learn: you sometimes have to make sacrifices and decisions you don’t want to regarding your disability. How did I come to that final decision? I prioritized everything and that class came in low.

Prioritizing Classes

You always need to prioritize your classes and weigh the pros and cons, but it is even more important if you are living with a disability. One of the first questions to ask is what fits in with what your aspirations are? For me, that is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math classes). Prioritize those classes as higher difficulty ones to stay in. That may mean taking regular English in order to take honors or AP science, or regular social studies in order to take honors math, or vice versa. This is a crucial step in assessing what classes to take. However, you also need to think about if there are any classes that worsen your disability. Is a lot of reading difficult? Then it may not be worth taking AP English.

Possible Triggers

If you suffer from migraines, you have to think about the triggers in each class. Is the class really loud? Is it a lot of computer work? Is there something else that is problematic? Is that class high enough in your priorities that it is worth staying in it, or is it okay to drop? I was also in independent research at the beginning of the school year. It is a class where you work on research papers, enter competitions, and write a lot of essays. I loved the class, however, it was a lot on the computer with strict deadlines. I decided it wasn’t worth it to stay in the class because it was detracting from my other classes and the rest of my life. You need to decide if a class is academically, physically, and just overall worth it.

None of this has a simple answer. It takes a lot of thinking and talking it through with other people including your parents and guidance counselor. You won’t be happy with any choice to drop a class but remember it is for the best sometimes. I have experienced that multiple times throughout high school, especially this year.

Please feel free to comment below what courses you are in or what you had to drop and how you came to those decisions, posts to do in the future, or questions for a future Q and A. Keep on fighting migraine and disability warriors, you got this!

~Sam

Comment Policy

I moderate my comments and will delete any which are abusive. I am the final say on what I think that is. So if you are polite, please comment whether you agree with me or not, or agree or disagree with another commenter. Regardless of your viewpoint, if you get abusive, I will delete your comments.