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Don’t Miss This Headache Diary

Guest Post by How to Cope With Pain Blogger

One of the great things about blogs is sharing helpful, cool sites and gadgets you find. Sharing with others makes all our journeys easier and no one has to “reinvent the wheel” on her own. In that light, I came across this headache diary, which looks great for tracking headaches, including details like date, time, location of pain, type of pain, etc.

Have you ever used it? Do you use something else? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

The writer of this post blogs anonymously as she is a practicing psychiatrist. Her practice focuses mostly on patients with chronic pain. Having had chronic pain herself, her practice and blog reflect a deep understanding of its challenges.

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Optimism or Self-Deception?

How is it that I’m always surprised when I get a bad all-day migraine? Every migraine eases up eventually, so my optimism isn’t unfounded. But am I expecting the best or just denying reality?

Is self-deception always bad? I don’t keep a headache diary because it’s easier to revise history for the better without a written record. Hiding how I feel from friends often lets me conceal it from myself too. Shouldn’t I latch onto any method that makes my migraines and headaches better, mentally or otherwise? Or does burying the severity keep me from seeking adequate treatment or taking care of myself.

I’m asking a lot of questions with no idea how to respond. Have you found answers to any of these questions for yourself? Please help me out!

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Why I Don’t Keep a Headache Diary

Compared to the ratings in a person’s headache or pain diary — if it’s kept faithfully — most people who rate their pain retroactively recall it as worse than it actually was. I too have a recall bias, but it’s the opposite effect. I think of the pain and other symptoms of my chronic daily headaches and migraines as much less than it really was.

When someone asked me on Monday how I’d felt in the past week, I said that it had been a pretty good week. I thought that was right, until I reflected on the week. My pain and other symptoms were severe at that moment. Saturday and Sunday were terrible — until I took a nap and drugged myself up so I could enjoy myself each night. Friday I was pretty sure my migraine was going to kill me. I didn’t post on Thursday, which only happens when I’m miserable and can’t think.

It wasn’t because I wanted to hide the severity of my migraines from this person, who is a health care provider that I’m currently seeing. I was protecting myself from the truth: I had a horrendous headache for at least a few hours every day that week.

A headache diary makes me confront reality. It’s too sad to think about.

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Stealth Attack

It sneaks up, so quiet that I don’t know it’s there. It bullies my body until I awaken, dizzy, nauseated and gasping in pain. My only choice is to go back to sleep, but it’s never a restful sleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll wake in the morning slightly out of sorts, but without much pain. More often, I have to sleep at least an extra two hours and the rest of my day will be mediocre at best.

These were my thoughts when I was awoken by a migraine for the fourth time in the last five nights. (Yes, I do mentally blog in the middle of the night!) This happened a few months ago too, but I’m not sure when it was or how many days the night migraines lasted.

If only I kept a headache diary I might see if there was a pattern. I get so sad when I can look back at the month and see just how bad the pain was. Without a diary, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking the pain wasn’t so bad.

While I insist my migraines aren’t linked to my menstrual cycle, I did start my period on Thursday night and have had a migraine every night since then except for Friday. Hmm…

I really like the headache journal on Migraine Survival. Maybe today’s the day to try charting them again.

Do you chart your headaches? Is it helpful for you or just frustrating?

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Terrific New Headache Website

The Canadian Headache Society and Headache Network Canada have joined forces to create an awesome headache website. It’s full of information to people who are new to researching headache and has great resources for the seasoned veteran. Topics include diagnosis, tests, how frequency of headache affects treatment options, and drug and non-drug treatments.

My favorite part is the headache diary that can be printed or filled out in Excel. The form is thorough and easy to complete. This terrific tool can help you track if your headaches are better or worse and how debilitating they are, how the pain varies throughout the day, and which meds work for you.