Coping, Exercise, Favorites, Mental Health

Making Room for Restorative Activities

Baking. Attending yoga classes. Dancing to live music. Traveling with Hart. These disparate activities have a vital common thread: they restore me. How bad the migraines are, money, time, concert schedules, and even which migraine diet I’m on influence how often I do each thing, but at least one of these activities has to be a constant in my life for me to remain emotionally stable. They’re so crucial that I prioritize them unwittingly. Until this summer.

After I went off antidepressants, I was feeling off-kilter. I kept trying to pinpoint why. Was it because I’d stopped the drugs? Was it the weather? Was I homesick? Missing Hart? Bored? Lonely? Grieving my migraine losses? I finally figured it out this past week when, after returning home from Seattle, I went back to yoga for the first time since April and felt a deep calm that’s been elusive: I’ve barely engaged in any of my restorative activities in months.

How I Got Off-Kilter
In April, my yoga studio moved to a newly remodeled building. Even though they used eco-friendly materials to create the beautiful new space, the outgassing was too overwhelming for this sensitive migraineur. I looked for other studios, but couldn’t find another within a 30-minute drive that had frequent gentle classes.

Part of the reason I love to bake is that I love to eat baked goods. There are no “safe” baked goods on my current diet, so I haven’t been baking much. I still bake for others occasionally, but instead of being a relaxing endeavor, it feels fraught with danger.

Funk, world music, and jam bands are pretty rare occurrences in the Phoenix area. Having a band in town on a night I feel up to dancing and playing early enough it won’t wreck my migraine-dictated sleep schedule is even rarer. Hart and I have traveled to shows and festivals in the past, but that’s on hold while we’re launching TheraSpecs.

In fact, all travel is on hold while we’re living on an entrepreneur’s shoestring budget and dedicating all our time to TheraSpecs. Hart did spend a great week with me in Seattle, which was our first vacation in a couple years. Yay for frequent flier miles and friends who let us stay at their houses!

Prioritizing Rejuvenation
When I was desperately ill, I managed to work at least one of my necessary activities into my life. Now that I’m feeling better and more functional in years, I let them slide. This seemed ironic at first, though it makes sense upon further reflection — I’m no longer constantly craving rejuvenation. But, whether I’m aware of it or not, I still desperately need it. In fact, it may be even more important now that I no longer focus all my energy and attention on taking care of myself.

Unless tickets for this weekend’s Phish shows in Colorado fall out of the sky, yoga will be my revitalizer for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping to rejuvenate and get back into shape. Thankfully, the yoga studio has aired out enough to no longer be a migraine trigger.

What About You?
What activities restore you? Does your headache disorder interfere with them? Do you have to make time for them or do you do so without even realizing it?

Coping, Mental Health

Managing Migraine With Music & Dance

I want music to be like food. A water or wine.” Chinese opera singer Shenyang (whose voice is amazing) describes music as a necessity. It certainly has been in my tangles with migraine. I honestly don’t know how I could have coped, particularly in the last eight years, without the joy music brings. (And I’m not alone in this.)

I’ve found that listening to music I love is more important than choosing a genre typically thought of as relaxing. My all-time comfort album is the first disc of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds playing a live acoustic show. That’s when the migraines are really bad. Most of the time I listen to hippie jam bands and afrobeat/funk/soul − anything that gets my head bobbing or hips swaying.

This may sound crazy considering that a primary characteristic of migraine is that movement worsens pain. Sometimes “dancing” is almost imperceptible foot tapping, other times even that is impossible. When I dance, especially at live shows, I let go of myself and my self-consciousness completely. That release is therapeutic even in memory. When I dance at home, in the car or in my mind during a migraine, my body remembers that freedom and loosens up.

Dancing with Pain blogger Loolwa Khazzoom believes so strongly in the power of dance as a chronic pain therapy that she teaches classes in it. What about you? Have you found dancing or listening to music to be effective in managing migraine?

I was going to include a photo of me dancing at a Phish show last summer. I share so much on this blog, but the picture of me lost in music is just too intimate.