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Obsessing Over Headache or Migraine Triggers

Most articles on migraines focus on what patients can do to avoid headaches. This is great for getting us involved with our own care, but it’s also one more reason to feel guilty or at fault. You know, when your head is screaming and you’ve got the running commentary going:

“What did I eat today? Was it the chocolate chip cookie, the garlic bread, the grapefruit juice . . .? Oh, I bet it was the hot dog at the baseball game. I can’t go to a game without getting a hot dog. That’s un-American. Did I eat enough today? Maybe I went too long between meals. Or didn’t drink enough water. Was that latte really decaf? Could it be that something in the decaffeinating process triggered my headache? I thought they used Swiss Water Process. Did I stay up too late talking with friends? Spending time with people I love reduces my stress. Don’t I get credit for trying?”

Headache sufferers spend so much time, well, suffering. It’s silly to waste what energy we do have hating ourselves for bringing on our headaches. Because we don’t bring them on ourselves. We can’t expect our families, friends or co-workers to understand this if we constantly blame ourselves for our pain.

You can control parts of your environment. It’s probably not a good idea to eat a particular food when you’re 99% sure it’s a trigger. But you’re not to blame for wanting to enjoy your life when you can. Maybe you could have avoided the headache, maybe not. Once in a while happiness has to outweigh pain.

When I’m in the grip of horrendous pain and furious with myself because I ate the wrong thing or did the wrong thing, I try to remember that I don’t have headaches because I’m bad. OK, maybe this particular headache was triggered by lack of sleep, but this illness isn’t my fault.

It’s stressful to be angry with yourself. That’s a migraine trigger all on its own.

I wrote this in August 2005 and am not sure why I never posted it. I found it, so here it is.

9 Responses to Obsessing Over Headache or Migraine Triggers

  1. Migraineur says:

    Yes! A thousand times yes! I struggle to walk this line all the time, not just with migraines, but with my weight and apparent insulin resistance and all the related health problems that have a clear lifestyle component.

  2. Marie says:

    This is so true!!! Thanks for putting it in words.

  3. Sandra says:

    In the middle of yet another episode of pain and despair I happended on your website and am very grateful for your honesty – I hope you know what it means to sufferers be able to read such helpful words – bless you.

  4. Julie says:

    OK, Kerrie, have you been reading my mind? That little inner dialogue is almost exactly what I say to myself when my headache pain flares. Sometimes I think I know too much about triggers – I’m going to drive myself crazy!

  5. Christy says:

    I used to keep a notebook wherein I recorded everything I ate, trying to find a pattern (or was that just my obsessive, controlling, “migraine personality” run amuck? 🙂 ) I swear to you, there was no pattern. The only thing I have ever noticed is that if I go too long without food, I usually get a headache. That is not the only cause of my headaches ( I wish), but it’s the only consistent trigger I have ever found. And yet I still can feel guilty and defensive when I look at yet another new book or website with a long list of “possible” migraine triggers . . .In my case, I need to more, not less!

  6. James says:

    I agree! We all need to look for balance, and constant obsession over every molecule of food is NOT balance. Give-and-take is another good phrase for this. Kind of like, if you eat healthy 90% of the time, a cupcake really isn’t so unhealthy.

    I used to have a link to an article – a debate about whether avoiding triggers is helpful, or if it makes things worse. The article isn’t where it used to be – if you find it let me know! 🙂

  7. kate says:

    Oh my god Kerrie – your running commentary is hysterical. How would we survive this craziness without a sense of humor?

    It’s such a fine line between taking care of ourselves and blaming ourselves. I run through all of those questions too, wondering what did I do THIS TIME??? But then I think: I can drive myself crazy or I can say screw it – I’ve got to just LIVE once in a while!

  8. Thanks for the comments and kind words. I love the theme that keeps coming up – taking care of yourself shouldn’t take all the fun out of your life. After all, what’s the point if there’s no joy? Too bad that doesn’t stop my obsessive thoughts. . .

    Kerrie

  9. ellesa says:

    oh my goodeness it’s like you’ve been listening in on me…however…i know this is a bit silly but its working for me for the last year. No tomatoes, no msg (that’s just common sense!) no nitrates! (hot dogs, packaged deli meats etc) and no aspartame…
    I eat milk chocolate but stay away from dark chocolate and no alchohol (i think that’s just me though-i used to be able to drink like a fiend in the university years!)of course when i use oil paints there’s no chance and boom there’s a migraine. Weather yup that’s another one, pms…ditto-I find sleep when i get a migraine is the biggest cure. (I don’t take drugs/tylenol or otherwise-i did take triptan once prescibed by my dr. and i wound up in hospital for a tia…so that didn’t work for me!)

    Good luck finding things that work for you and hopefully you’ll get better!

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