If you are lucky enough not to suffer from migraines, you won’t know the exquisite agony. I have suffered from migraines and cluster headaches since I was a teenager. Sometimes the attacks last for days and usually they happen when I have booked time off. Or a long weekend is on the horizon. Joy.
For me it starts with a dull throbbing in the back of my head, this then intensifies to feeling like a blacksmith has set up shop at the base of my skull, using it as an anvil. Then comes the nausea, and the sensation of lights exploding behind my eyes. All the good stuff.
I’ve had a few stressful weeks, so of course I should have known that an attack was imminent. I can usually tell when I’m about to have a visit from the migraine fairy – I get ridiculously thirsty and a craving for salty, greasy, junk food. I was on preventative medication, but this just made me feel really out of it, and didn’t stop me from experiencing the attacks, so I stopped taking it after discussing this with my doctor.
So, this weekend, when the sun was out and it felt like spring for the first time this year, I was lying on the settee taking naps and groaning like an extra from The Walking Dead.
I have come up with a few coping techniques to get me through migraines:
- Sleep – if I can sleep, I try and just sleep through the worst of the pain.
- Hydrate – I try to drink a pint of water every hour when I’m suffering an attack, and that usually helps. I’m not sure if there is a link between the thirst and the onset of the migraine, but it seems to help alleviate the symptoms.
- Give in to cravings – I usually try to stick to a healthy diet, and am mostly vegan, but when I have a migraine, if I have a craving for fries or chocolate, I will do my best to satisfy those cravings. My justification is that If my body wants grease it’s probably for a good reason.
- Painkillers – I have found that a combination of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol is the only thing that will help relieve the horrible throbbing pain that comes with a migraine. I am not a doctor or medical expert, so please consult with your doctor.
- Sunglasses – I know, it sounds silly, but I get extremely sensitive to light. If I have to work through a migraine, the only way I can cope is to draw the curtains/ dim the lights and wear sunglasses. This has gotten me a lot of funny looks in the office.
- Rest – it’s a no brainer; the best thing to do is rest, try to relax and let your body heal.
I know that sometimes it isn’t possible to rest because of work or childcare commitments, but trust me, sometimes the best thing to do is take a sick day; trying to work with a migraine means that you are not going to be able to concentrate fully on the job at hand, and it will delay your recovery. If your work has a zero tolerance policy towards illness (and believe me, I’ve been there) you will have to decide which is more important, your health or your attendance record.
After an attack, I feel weak, disoriented, and like I’m getting over the flu. It can take me a few days to feel back to normal, and strong enough to get back to my regular activities. When I’m feeling well, I just want to get out and do things, but after a migraine I am quite listless, and usually only interested in activities as strenuous as boxset marathons.
If you suffer from migraines, let me know if you have any tips on how to cope with them.