When I first connected with other migraineurs on a forum in 2004, I was horrified to learn that reading exacerbated migraine attacks for many people. I was so grateful it wasn’t a problem for me and often thought how horrible such a restriction would be. I couldn’t imagine how I’d get through a migraine when I typically read a book a day when bedridden. It never occurred to me that I one day might have trouble reading.
Skip to late 2007, after years of the migraine attacks steadily worsening in severity. I gave up reading because it was just too physically painful and hoped doing so would improve the migraines. Instead, they continued to worsen until I also had to give up being on the computer and, thus, blogging. Before then I’d never considered that I might have to give up reading; suddenly I was pretty sure I’d never read again. (I enjoyed a brief period of reading using Hart’s Kindle with the font in the largest size, but that only lasted a few books before it began exacerbating the migraines again.)
I’m thrilled to share that I’ve been reading novels again since March! Having the severity of my migraines reduced with magnesium and wearing TheraSpecs while reading the Kindle, I’m able to read with no problem. Migraine attacks have become much easier to bear and I’m so thankful that I can distract myself from the particularly painful ones with a book.
Until now, chronic migraine had felt progressive: the attacks worsened in severity and duration and the debility increased as time went on. The losses mounted. To regain the ability to read is to regain some of the hope that fell away as my health worsened. I have migraine; migraine does not have me.
I held a printed copy of a book and read the entire thing. Although I triggered a migraine every time I read, reading felt so good. Was it worth it, especially considering most books I want to read are available as audiobooks?
I used to believe audiobooks were a good replacement. Then I tried to listen to them regularly and discovered how inadequate they are. Reading a book captures me in a way listening can’t. I don’t get distracted by every little thing. I don’t have to get up and pause for interruptions, nor do I have to rewind to find what I missed. I don’t get bored.
Most importantly, I get absorbed reading a book. I imagine the characters, identify with them and let my imagination go. I just don’t do that with audiobooks. Listening doesn’t engage me in the same way. Turns out getting absorbed is a primary reason I love to read.
After the great pleasure of reading that book, I’ve returned to listening. Turns out holding and reading a book isn’t worth the pain. This makes me so sad. How will I ever write a novel if I can’t read books (or look at the computer!)?
Reading, working on the computer and watching TV have become major migraine triggers for me. I’ve suspected a connection for a while, but had a revelation after not blogging for three months: One reason I feel better on vacation is that I rarely read or use the computer when I’m away from home.
I tried to read a book on Sunday. My head hurt within 10 minutes. I had a full blown within 30 minutes. The migraine finally broke while I slept last night. Then I had to get on the computer this morning and it came right back. I am so frustrated and upset.
Finding a clear trigger implies a problem that can be fixed. I know my eyes have deteriorated since my last exam, so adjusting my prescription might be the solution. I have an eye exam tomorrow and hope we can make some progress. Without reading or using the computer, I have no idea what to do with my life.
Working on the computer and reading have been triggering bad migraines for the last week. I can handle the head pain, but the extreme nausea and dizziness are nearly intolerable. The combination of the three obliterated my weekend. I feel OK now and am going to try to save that feeling so I can have fun with my sweet husband tonight. Maybe we can even go out to dinner. I only need to make it seven more hours, so I’m done with the computer for the day.
Reading has long been an escape from my migraines. I’ve been lucky because many people say their eyes are too sensitive (photophobia) or have migraines or headache triggered by reading. Since my photophobia is generally manageable — and I usually read when I already have a migraine — I thought I was free. Apparently not.
It started when my massage therapist mentioned that her physical therapist relieved her migraine (a true migraine, not a bad headache) by working on muscles in the back of her head. The idea is that moving your eyes causes these muscles to move, which can trigger migraines or headaches.
Having felt better during Christmas week, when I had no time to read, I experimented. Friday morning I spent 30 minutes on the computer and barely looked at it again until this morning. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were low pain.
Yesterday started out well, but was interrupted with a nasty migraine. One so bad that abortives were entirely ineffective. It continued through the night, but let up by morning. I’m back at the computer with frequent breaks. Today’s fate is too early to tell. My head pain seems to be increasing only a bit.
The experiment has already had good outcomes. I know to rest my eyes regularly. I’ve rekindled my love for NPR. I can exercise, cook or clean even exercise while “reading.”