This week we’ve decided to discuss what to do when you sick. What works. What doesn’t. And the first thing that came to mind was migraines. I have some strong views on this topic and batten down the hatches because I plan to write about it.
Jessica Headache Level aka the For Fucks Sake Scale:
FFS-1: A mildly annoying heachache. Can be easily distracted from and forget it is occurring. Over the counter meds can assist.
FFS-2: An annoying heachache. A dillhole variety. Distraction is successful if it is distracting you from caring but it’s still there. Abuse of over the counter meds may assist. You know “take two” but you say screw it and take four.
FFS – 3: The schedule changer. “I can’t do :insert activity: because I have a headache.” You then order food instead of cook and watch Netflix. You whine a lot. Nothing works but you still maintain some energy and a small sense of humor.
FFS – 4: You’re not dead yet. But all of the above has happened with no relief and you wish you were. Glasses are off, eyes are closed, lightening strikes of pain when you roll over in your bed. The neighbor mowing the lawn outside has a death wish.
FFS – 5: Vomit happens and the bathroom floor is relaxingly cool.
And my personal opinion: Migraines change your life, not your schedule.
Migraines rob you of freedom. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cried to my husband because I don’t want my children to remember me for having headaches. Not being able to sit at the dinner table, forcing them to tip-toe around the house quietly, and why I was not there to read the bedtime story and tuck them in.
Time and time again I hear people refer to having migraines and are still functional. Either they continue to work, play, socialize – and just whine – or lay down for a bit and become their normal chipper selves the next day.
If you do this, you are full of horse shit and those who actually suffer from real migraines are taken less seriously because you’ve help set the example that migraines are not as severe as they actually are.
Severe headaches happen.
Don’t call it a migraine unless it’s actually a migraine.
But what do you do if you actually have a headache in the severe or migraine category, we’re talking FFS-4 and FFS-5? Well, there isn’t actually much help unfortunately. Not joking. There is no magic pill or shot in the ass (seriously, they do give shots and they are a little stingy) that cures a migraine. In my road to migraine management I’ll share with you what worked for me and what didn’t:
Triggers: Stress and hormones i.e. birth control (pill form).
Stress creates tension, tension can trigger headaches of varying degrees including migraines. I’m one of those tension headache to migraine people and this was discovered with help from regularly seeing my doctor and concluding pain medication had no effect on my headaches and there had to be something else going on. I went an entire month with a headache that varied in intensity but never went away. I suggested we take a stab and try a certain treatment method (get to that later) which worked and took a note that stress tension was the #1 trigger.
Birth control pills usually have an off week of sugar pills which allow menstruation. The sudden drop off of hormones can trigger headaches which isn’t unknown. It’s almost always listed somewhere in the side effects. But if you are sensitive to headaches to begin with, this can be a big deal. Luckily, there are ways around this and several forms of birth control pills and other methods that do not have a drop on hormones. Yay!
Headache prevention: When I first started actively pursuing something to solve my headaches I was given pain medication. Then more pain medication. And more. Finally a shot at one point. None of it worked. Not even a little. I was honest with my doctor(s) (I was going so frequently for check ups I did not always see my own and had a little team helping me.) Until one day one of the doctors did a physical exam where she inspected my neck, shoulders, and back. She concluded my muscles were extremely tight and the headache was a tension headache. I am already active in yoga and use meditation techniques. I tried to take it a step further and find other ways to stretch, walk away from work, be more mindful of my posture, etc. These things do help in the short term but not enough for me. The end result was less pain medication and more tension/anxiety treatment which meant antidepressants.
Headache prevention end result: Antidepressants didn’t work either. Rather, they made me feel very groggy and I still had headaches. Less severe but more frequent. Finally, I had enough and suggested we treat my muscles rather than stress and pain when we came up with a winning combination. A low dose muscle relaxer taken at night when I feel excessive amounts of tension. This option worked the best. I take it only as needed and does not give me a morning groggy feeling but rather I feel well rested. It’s not a cure all, severe headaches and migraines do still happen but it is by far the most successful method of prevention I have encountered.
Headache management: Now, there are still medications out there when a severe or migraine headache occur. I do have a prescription to help when a headache of this magnitude is present. I find it doesn’t cure the headache but does help lessen the severity, shorten time span, and assist with what I call the “headache hangover” the next day. Headache hangover: All life is drained from you and while you are still in pain you’re just happy to be alive.
Ways I make my self comfortable when I’m down and out include the following:
– Cold beverage: Ice water, slurpee, ice cold glass of coke, really anything cold.
– Dimly lit room: A dimly lit room creates a “light pollution” in a sense. Flashes of light from passing cars through the window, people milling about the house outside the bedroom, or having to leave the room for one reason or another, like say, go to the bathroom. My eyes are already adjusted to some level of light and I don’t feel that light-shock pain from going from a dark area to a lighted area.
– Sleep mask with cold wet wash cloth combo: I take a wash cloth soaked in cold water, fold it, and sandwich between my eyes and a sleep mask. This helps so if I lay on my side or toss and turn, the cool cloth stays in place. I’ve tried chilled masks, ice packs, ice packs wrapped in a towels, etc. This is the one that works for me.
– Heated rice bag: You can buy these or make your own. They are fabric bags filled with rice designed to place in the microwave, warmed up to your liking, and placed over sore muscles. I will place one of these on my shoulders and neck to help tension. I don’t know if it actually helps that much but it does feel nice and I like to think it does.
I don’t wish this on anyone. Headaches suck balls. But most of all, if you are like me, seek help. Talk to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to be an active part in your treatment and tell your doctor what does and doesn’t work for you. I know I’ve spent time talking to people and scouring the internet to try and find answers. There are no simple answers or solutions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a solution for yourself simply by knowing yourself.
Please visit the other girls pages and see what solutions they may have on when they are sick!