Coping, Mental Health, Triggers

Obsessing Over Headache or Migraine Triggers

Most articles on migraines focus on what patients can do to avoid headaches. This is great for getting us involved with our own care, but it’s also one more reason to feel guilty or at fault. You know, when your head is screaming and you’ve got the running commentary going:

“What did I eat today? Was it the chocolate chip cookie, the garlic bread, the grapefruit juice . . .? Oh, I bet it was the hot dog at the baseball game. I can’t go to a game without getting a hot dog. That’s un-American. Did I eat enough today? Maybe I went too long between meals. Or didn’t drink enough water. Was that latte really decaf? Could it be that something in the decaffeinating process triggered my headache? I thought they used Swiss Water Process. Did I stay up too late talking with friends? Spending time with people I love reduces my stress. Don’t I get credit for trying?”

Headache sufferers spend so much time, well, suffering. It’s silly to waste what energy we do have hating ourselves for bringing on our headaches. Because we don’t bring them on ourselves. We can’t expect our families, friends or co-workers to understand this if we constantly blame ourselves for our pain.

You can control parts of your environment. It’s probably not a good idea to eat a particular food when you’re 99% sure it’s a trigger. But you’re not to blame for wanting to enjoy your life when you can. Maybe you could have avoided the headache, maybe not. Once in a while happiness has to outweigh pain.

When I’m in the grip of horrendous pain and furious with myself because I ate the wrong thing or did the wrong thing, I try to remember that I don’t have headaches because I’m bad. OK, maybe this particular headache was triggered by lack of sleep, but this illness isn’t my fault.

It’s stressful to be angry with yourself. That’s a migraine trigger all on its own.

I wrote this in August 2005 and am not sure why I never posted it. I found it, so here it is.