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Sensory Overload: When Migraine Overwhelms the Senses

Though it is actually about sensory overload in autism, this short animation depicts perfectly what I feel when a migraine heightens my senses so that sights, sounds, smells or touch are overwhelming. I become as irritable as a hungry three-year-old and want to curl up in the fetal position and shut down.

This video shows why I carry earplugs (in a metal box with engraving that says “My cure for everything”!) and calming the constant visual barrage with TheraSpecs is so helpful for me. In fact, a woman who tried TheraSpecs for migraine relief said they were wonderful for her ADD — she felt like they gave her brain a rest. It is exciting to have a product that provides real, noticeable relief in people’s daily lives.

via Krulwich Wonders

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Migraine Awareness Month #1: Your First for the First

National Migraine Awareness Month Blog Challenge, Day 1: Share the story of your first Migraine, what it was like, if you knew what it was, what you did, how you felt.

Though I’ve had headaches all my life, they weren’t diagnosed as migraine until 2002 and it took me a few years to believe that headaches that weren’t one-sided, didn’t have a visual aura, and didn’t make me throw up were actually migraine. I don’t remember my first migraine — either it happened before I’m able to remember or it blends in with all the rest of the headaches — but I do remember the first migraine that was obviously triggered by an odor.

My fifth grade teacher left the door to the workroom open one afternoon and the smell or rose-scented potpourri wafted into the classroom. That smell is so vivid that even now, as I remember how much my head hurt and how nauseated I was, I’m convinced artificial rose scent is wafting in the air around me. I can clearly picture the classroom and where I was sitting. I went to the nurse, who let me lie down for a bit, then sent me back to class. To her it was, after all, “just a headache.”

I wish I could tell her it was one of many debilitating migraine attacks that I’ve had in my lifetime with this chronic neurological disorder. I sometimes wonder if I would be so disabled today if anyone had a clue about my “headaches” when I was young. While I don’t dwell on this — its not like migraine treatment 25 years ago was particularly effective — I beg parents, teachers, school nurses and doctors to take a child’s complaint of headache seriously. Anyone who spends time with children should know that “migraine” is not synonymous with “bad headache,” that headaches aren’t just an excuse not to go to class, and that painkillers don’t always do the trick.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by Fighting Headache Disorders.

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The Curse of a Nose Made Sensitive By Migraine

A sensitive sniffer comes in handy to search the basement for presents left behind by the neighborhood cat, who must have slipped in while Hart was taking out the trash. Since one of my migraine symptoms is sensitivity to smell, I’m a natural for the task. Ew.

The cat had to leave more than one gift in the 18 hours he spent there. Right? I’m trolling around our disaster of a basement, trying to find where it might be. The nooks and crannies and junk piled high make the space a cat’s dream. They also prevent me from getting close enough to sniff out the remaining presents.

Some believe that migraineurs always have a keen sense of smell, whether they have a migraine or not. It seems that this belief is held more by patients than researchers. More common is that right before or during a migraine, people have a heightened sense of smell. This could be related to smells being a migraine trigger for many of us. Olfactory hallucinations right before or during a migraine is the idea best supported by research. These tend to be bad smells, like garbage or dog messes.

(An interesting aside: Migraineurs and other people with headache, particularly those who have odor triggers may develop a fear of or aversion to certain smells, called osmophobia.)

Unfortunately, my migraine has worsened. It will be difficult to tell if I smell real odors better or am hallucinating them. In any case, my scent-sleuthing skills will ensure that I experience all the smells a basement has to offer.

I can’t find good online resources about migraine and smell. If you have any information or want to share your experience with smell, please leave a comment.

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Jackhammers, Diesel Fumes, Tar and a Headache

Jackhammering. I awoke to jackhammering at 7 a.m. Not the metaphorical kind — no, my head feels more like someone is drilling for oil in my brain — but the dig-up-your-entire-neighborhood kind. Road construction complete with idling diesel engines and, the creme de la creme, tar.

Don’t these people know that I need at least eight hours of sleep and my alarm goes off at 8 a.m.? That their smells trigger bad headaches or migraines? That the cacophony of heavy equipment makes it all worse? That the beeping of the walkie talkie-like cell phones, a staple of the industry, is enough to make me tear my hair out?

Like it matters to me if the neighborhood has better water pressure and streets. Harumph.

If I were writing this yesterday, I would have reminded myself that I can’t move the roadwork, but I can make myself not unhappy. Some days grumbling is a prerequisite to finding a solution. Especially when I’m tired (because a jackhammer woke me up at 7 a.m. . . .).