Worried emails come in whenever I’m quiet for long, so here’s a brief update. My mood is pretty good and my migraines have been a bit better (though I have an ugly one right now). Wellbutrin is still making me dizzy when I work on the computer, so I’m not writing much. I’ve chugged a Tolerex with breakfast the last two days, which seems to have kept the dizziness at bay. My fingers are crossed that I’ll be fully functional again soon.
I’m now 38 and had a lovely, low-migraine birthday (though Hart had a migraine that day!). I decided to indulge in dinner out and homemade yellow cake with buttercream frosting. A migraine followed, but it was mild and worth it.
If you’re looking for new writing from me, Migraine.com is a good place to check. They have a backlog of articles from me that they publish as needed and usually post one new one from me each week. Here are some recently published posts:
I apologize for letting your comments languish; I hope to reply this week. And I hope to get at least one new post up this week. I hope you’re doing as well as possible!
I have an irrational fear of prison. It’s irrational because I’m not doing anything that could get me incarcerated; it persists because the idea of having chronic migraine while living in prison is my idea of hell.
That’s not an exaggeration. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the crowds… not having easy access to medication (and perhaps not having any access to an effective treatment)… none of the comforts that keep me sane… Having even a single migraine attack in that environment would be horrible, having chronic migraine there is exactly how I envision hell.
Every episode I watched of “Orange is the New Black,” I imagined what it would be like to have a migraine there. Eventually, I stepped outside myself and realized that there have to be many people in prison who have migraine. The thought of anyone enduring even one migraine in such harsh conditions brings tears to my eyes. The idea that someone could have chronic migraine there breaks my heart.
Read more in Prisoners With Migraine on Migraine.com.
When the general media got hold of the study results about the efficacy of a placebo versus that of the triptan Maxalt, the reporting — and comments — inevitably became about thinking one’s way out of a migraine. Readers, and even some reporters, pointed out that of course a placebo works for migraine, but it wouldn’t work for a legitimate illness, like cancer or heart disease. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Starting from when we learn about it in grade school, the placebo effect gets oversimiplifed to: if you think a sugar pill is effective medicine, it will provide relief. The phenomenon is far more complicated than that. The placebo effect may have a positive-thinking element to it, but it also involves complex brain activity — in the physical brain, not the thinking mind — that’s only now starting to be understood. And it has shown to have an effect for all sorts of ailments, not just those that involve subjective reporting.
The placebo effect also involves information and patient empowerment, as Diana Lee explains in Placebo Effect & Migraine: What Does the Research Mean? It’s worth reading the entire insightful piece yourself, but here’s an excerpt:
Rather than demonstrating you can think your way out of experiencing the symptoms of a migraine attack, the results support the idea that how we talk about a treatment can increase the effectiveness of that treatment by 50 percent or more…. If we know a particular medication is likely to be effective for a migraine patient and couple that knowledge with a physician/patient discussion that empowers the patient with the same knowledge, this can only benefit patients.
If your headache disorder tends to flare up during the holidays or you get so stressed about getting everything done that you wind up harming your health, it may be time to rethink your holiday traditions. Start planning now to scale back the stress and fatigue of holidays while still honoring your most important traditions so you can join in the revelry instead of curling up alone in a dark room.
Read my suggestions in Holiday Traditions on Migraine.com.
Self-compassion is something I’ve been trying to develop for a while. I’ve definitely made progress — Toni Bernhard’s suggestion to imagine what you would say for a friend in your situation has been invaluable — but I still slip back into self-criticism.
When a friend was sidelined by severe back pain this summer, pain that wouldn’t let up no matter how faithfully she went to physical therapy, did her exercises, used her TENS unit, or applied ice, I got an interesting perspective on Toni Bernhard’s advice. Instead of criticizing my friend, thinking she needed to exercise or rest more or work harder to feel better, my immediate response was to think how unfair it was that she wasn’t getting better even though she was following all the rules.
Based on my experience with migraine, if I’d have had that same back pain, I would have been overwhelmed by self-criticism, wondering what I’d done wrong, thinking I’d be able to overcome it if I tried hard enough, thinking I was lazy and weak. Why is it so much easier to have compassion for others than for oneself?
Read more in Compassion for a Friend Far Exceeds Compassion for Myself on Migraine.com.