Coping, Favorites, Triggers


For the last few years, we’ve gotten season tickets to the theater. They are less expensive than tickets for individual shows and with them, we always have at least one date night a month. Unfortunately, I’m filled with anxiety in the days before each show. What if my headache is bad? What if I’m stuck next to someone wearing too much perfume? What if…?

Last night was our final play for the season and all my fears were realized. My headache was between a 5 and a 6 before we left, but I wanted to go anyway. The theater was small and our seats were right in the center in the second row of the balcony.

This was exciting on the one hand, terrifying on the other. The show was 90 minutes long without an intermission. If I had to leave, I’d be stepping on the 10 people in my row, blocking the view for the two rows behind them and cause enough of a stir to irritate everyone in the balcony.

While Hart and I were chatting before the show, the smell of cinnamon stopped me in mid-sentence. Four women in the row in front of us had popped cinnamon Altoids in their mouths.

During the play, my headache only got a little worse. The Altoids dissolved and the container wasn’t opened again. No one near me had bathed in perfume. But I still spent the entire show worrying about how I would escape if I had to. I wondered if we should get season tickets again and if I could request seats at the end of an aisle.

I listed off every scenario that could put me in a similar situation — airplanes, concerts, movies — and it became clear that worrying was useless. Headache or not, I’m still going to fly and go to the concerts and movies that I really want to see. If I become too miserable, I move to another seat or leave.

Even though it often feels like it, my body isn’t in total control of me. I’ll do well to remember this as long as I also remember that the comfort of other people doesn’t always take precedence over my needs.

4 thoughts on “Trapped”

  1. I know what you mean about the fragrances. I carry with me at all times a personal air purifier. They’re spendy (about $100) but help somewhat. When I fly, I also carry the big face masks with elastic in the back. I look rather like a bug (scared a little kid), but it helps. I’m getting a little better taking care of myself…removing myself from the situation. When I worked (which I can’t do anymore because of the migraines), I emailed my colleagues about my sensitivity to scented products. That was tough to do; I hate asking people to accommodate me. However,, Most people were very kind about it. Only one guy would keep insisting that “the small amount of cologne I wear couldn’t possibly make you sick!” So I would only work on projects with him via email or phone. He was irritated, but it was better than working through yet one more terrible headache.

    Thanks for the suggestions on coping with uncontrollable triggers. It’s great that your co-workers were understanding. I need to get up the guts to ask my family to not wear perfume around me. I’m sure they’ll understand, but I still hate to ask.


  2. Wow, I definitely relate to this. I have a sense of anxiety when making big committments (choir, family, whatever). Or the flip side, when I have a headache, I have to decide if it’s bad enough to treat, since the meds can knock me out.

    I wish more people were more considerate about perfumes!!

  3. Kerrie, I recently went through this same worrying process for a Train (one of my favorite bands) concert I had planned on going to with some friends. I had already missed a Coldplay concert with these same friends several months ago. In addition to disappointing them, I lost the $65 I paid for the ticket. I told myself that I was going unless I was vomiting- ha!

    But then I was like, what if the pain gets worse while I’m there? What if the music is too loud? What if I need to leave early?

    It turned out fine (well kind of) but I was exhausted for two days afterwards.


  4. YES! I love this! In a way, it is as if your headaches are serving a greater purpose for you in this regard.

    This is not to say that the agony, pain, and frustration that accompany your condition are worth the gift of knowing that you are in control of your life, but it is just to say that this lesson is a happy by-product of this miserable situation.

    And all of the amazing research and writing that you are doing to understand and share your learning about this condition is also an amazing, positive aspect of what you are having to endure.

    I just wish you did not have to go through it in the first place.

    Thanks, Amanda. 😉


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