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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?