Chronic Migraine, Coping

A Mental Leave From the Reality of Chronic Illness

A dear friend from high school has generously offered me the guest room at her apartment in a Seattle suburb so I can escape the heat and storms of Phoenix in July and August. I’m so excited to spend time with her and to be in my favorite part of the country in its most beautiful season. I’m making all sorts of plans, sending her recipes for delicious food I want to make, imagining drinking gin and tonics while devouring the amazing summer produce of Western Washington, having picnics and going to concerts, taking hikes.

I’ve entered the land of magical thinking, somehow convincing myself that I will be able to savor all the pleasures of the Pacific Northwest as if I were in perfect health. Reality check: I may be able to cook for my friend, but I can’t eat anything I plan to make. Alcohol is out of the question. If the weather is unexpectedly rainy, being laid up with migraines is practically guaranteed.

I was in a good migraine spell when I made the plans to go. Everything seemed possible. Now I’m not even sure how I’m going to get there. I’ll need a car and money is tight, so I planned to drive and crash on friends’ couches along the way. Really? I’ve managed a seven-hour road trip by myself with chronic migraine, but it is 24 hours of driving time between Phoenix and Seattle. I can’t handle that by myself, especially if I’m not guaranteed a long, restful sleep each night. I can’t eat road food. Even if I recruit another driver, I’m not sure I can handle that much time on the road.

Every single day I am faced with the fact that I am not healthy and robust. How could I take mental leave of this reality when making summer plans?

I want out of chronic migraine.

5 thoughts on “A Mental Leave From the Reality of Chronic Illness”

  1. Yup, I can completely relate. To be able to make it up for one of my friend’s weddings in New England this summer I’m flying up to Boston, renting a car and then have to drive three hours to the wedding site. I had to run the itinerary by my husband to make sure I gave myself enough time between landing in Boston and plenty of time to just drive myself the three hours with stops if needed. I’ll be spending the weekend with family and friends but I needed to make sure I gave myself enough migraine bugger space to be able to drive up and back to the airport in case anything happened since I will have to make the trip by myself. There is very little road food I can eat and bringing food on the plane is pretty much out of the question.

    Is there any way you can fly to your friend’s place?

  2. I also wanted to say that the minutiae associated with migraine is so daunting. Trips are difficult for me too. Sunday I ate herb salad instead of my usual, more plain “Spring Mix” or “Mixed Baby Leaf” lettuces. I ate several very strong tasting leaves, felt a shift or quick pressure change in my head, and then about an hour or so later felt the migraine come on. The trigger was histamine I believe. I took a triptan and all was OK but later the next day, a migraine on the other side of my head started so I had to take another triptan. It is common for me to two distinct headaches from the same trigger. Maybe it is rebound, hard to say. I find that I am “free” from more migraines as long as I avoid triggers. Gluten may have been the mother of all triggers for me but these others are very real.

  3. Dr Charles Matthews (Comprehensive Headache Clinic of North Carolina) has some very good blog posts about Botox. I have become less skeptical about Botox after reading them. From what I understand, the brain ‘relearns’ to have relaxed neck muscles with continued paralysis. Modalities like massage are only temporarily effective because the effects are more localized and the brain has not been retrained. He does a much better job explaining of course.

  4. It’s me again!

    A small update… I thought I felt myself in the midst of a prodromal phase. I was not sure. Now I am sure. The migraine has landed.
    Now all the usual questions come into my head (along with the migraine)… How bad will it get? Should I treat with a triptan or wait it out? Should I use another abortive medication? How am I doing with rebound risk (overuse of abortive medications)? and on and on…
    I really do want out of this horrible “ride” that is chronic migraine!!!!!

  5. Ah, making plans and then breaking plans. I know this pattern all too well. In fact, I would say it pretty much is my life.
    I cannot tell you how many times I have broken or canceled plans due to chronic migraine. To be honest, over the years I have simply stopped making plans. My life has shrank down to a migraine singularity.
    I am trying to break this pattern (with help from Botox). I managed to actually get out and do some work in the yard this past holiday weekend. Such a simple thing for most people is truly a great achievement for me! And better yet, I managed to make it to work this morning. Usually the day following such efforts is spent in the grip of a terrible migraine.
    Is Botox helping me turn a corner in my life? I truly hope so for I too want out of chronic migraine!!!!

    I feel for you. I know your pain and your struggle. It is definitely not an easy journey!!!

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