Mom with a Migraine: How to Cope


migraneLet me start by saying that a migraine is so much more than just a bad headache. Migraines are particular types of headaches that include a myriad of symptoms such as light flashes, blindness, vomiting, paralysis, sweating, and of course, searing pain on one side of the head. For those of us diagnosed with these little gems, hearing people say that they have a “migraine” to describe a severe headache makes us cringe just a little bit.

I have been a migraine sufferer since I was in elementary school, although at the time, I didn’t realize it. Until I reached puberty, I would often sit on the couch with a cool cloth and ride out the pain and nausea. My mother often thought it was a reaction to the excessive heat. By the time I was in high school, the headaches drastically changed. I became aware of a visual disturbance preceding the headache. I’ve learned this is typically the sign that a migraine is on its awful way.

As an adult, I’ve had MRIs, CT scans and attempted a host of elimination diets and supplements, but to no avail. My migraines continue to haunt me in their arbitrary and cruel manner. As a teacher, I would drag myself through classes, hoping the students wouldn’t be too loud for my sensitive ears and pray for last period. As a mother, riding these headaches out has become even more challenging to say the least.

Here are some helpful ways I have learned to cope.

If there’s one thing I try to do, it’s to prevent the migraine. One of the single most important preventative measures I have found is the ability to maintain hydration. At the start of my day, I fill up a giant smart water container (64 oz) which is the minimum daily recommendation for water. If I drink more than that (which I often do), that’s just bonus points for me. I know that by midday, I should see that container half full. If it isn’t, I have to start drinking. Whenever possible, I try to avoid salty foods and caffeine, as they both tend to dehydrate the body. Moms, don’t fret if you can’t live without your coffee or glass of wine! Factor in an additional minimum glass of water for each glass of wine or cup of coffee you drink.

Although each migraine is different, mine are always preceded by a very large visual disruption and temporary blindness in one eye. Very often these migraines occur while I’m at home alone with my daughter, so I try to keep medication close by and easily accessible. Because I have temporary blindness, I often steer clear of driving, going up and downstairs, or walking through the playroom. (LEGO hazards, anyone?) If I haven’t already, I start drinking water right away. I also keep ice packs in the freezer to keep one on my head as I attempt to go about my daily activities. It’s really important to make sure that your medication is stocked so that you don’t run out when a migraine strikes. Trust me, that is NOT fun.

If you find that your pain is unbearable or you have symptoms that cause the inability to speak normally or form sentences, it’s important to have an emergency number around. I like to make my family aware that I have a migraine to be aware and stay in touch throughout the day. If you feel your symptoms increasing rapidly or have symptoms you haven’t experienced before, it’s best to contact someone to come and help with your child. I’ve found that a great group of mommy friends is always willing to help out whenever possible.

The hardest thing for me was to help my daughter to understand what was happening. Because my migraines are so severe, I often sprint to get medication so that my pain will be somewhat lessened. Since we are both so active, having a migraine often causes me to change our plans to something a bit more low key. I always keep lots of new paints and art supplies in the house if we have to rework our plans because of a headache. Most times, my daughter knows when I have a headache because of my facial appearance and notable head-rubbing. She is always willing to give my head a kiss to make it feel better.

Since migraine treatment varies widely by doctor and by migraine type, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The good news is that there are tons of options out there, and your best bet is to talk to your doctor to see what works for you. Since stress is one of the causes of chronic migraines, reducing it is one of the best ways to reduce a migraine attack.

While stress is nearly impossible to eliminate, finding ways to reduce it can be helpful. 

Activities like yoga and running really help me de-stress when there is a lot going on. Some find mediation or acupuncture helpful as well. Ask friends and family what they use to help with their migraines, and I’m sure you will get a wide variety of responses.

Migraines tend to interrupt life at the most inconvenient times, but with a great headache emergency plan and support system, they don’t have to wreck your days.

What are some ways that you cope with your migraines as a mom?


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