Monday, October 12, 2009


I've been meaning to write something about my headaches & migraines on here for a while, then last night, when reading an old New Yorker, I came across this article in Talk of the Town. It's a brief (1 page) story about Cindy McCain's struggle with migraines and rings quite true for me. So true that I figured it covers almost everything I was going to write about, so we'll start from there. READ ME.

"McCain has decided to become an advocate for the disorder, which, in her view, is a disability. “I’ve missed part of my life. I’ve missed my children in many ways,” she said. “I’ve made every important event, but there’re times I’ve been throwing up out the car window.”"

I haven't thrown up in a while, thanks in great part to the wonder drug ondansetron (zofran), an anti nausea medication that makes my nausea manageable. I used to be skeptical of choir members who were frequently submitting excuses for absenses because they had migraines, but that was before I got them. Now, I understand. If they come early in the day, they usually start mildly. Today I took some excedrin (I was too late to start with sumatriptan) and am working from home. By working from home, I ensure that if I need to sleep it off later in the day, or need an extended break from a computer or words, I can take one. I also don't have to worry about nausea as much as in the office. In contrast, though, if I decide I need to go to urgent care, it will take me 45 minutes to get there instead of 5. Recently though, I've been much better able to manage my headaches, a fact I am quite proud of. If a headache/migraine strikes later in the day, it's usually too late to take anything that will help. Usually I just have to try my best to sleep it off.

I, too, have triggers, some of which I understand better than others. Caffeine, alcohol, and aspartame are some of my strong dietary triggers. I also think that I have some triggers outside my control, including hormonal triggers and changes in barometric pressure. Like McCain, I have some olfactory triggers that I don't understand as well. Strobe lights and loud sounds (including driving for extended periods of time with rolled down windows) seem to be triggers as well.

To keep it in check I take 10 pills a day, mostly supplements (lots of riboflavin and magnesium gluconate) and an anti-seizure medication that has been FDA approved to reduce migraines. I also try to minimize triggers from my environment. Right now I'm also lucky in that, for the most part, I can work from home when I need to. So while I feel that I occasionally miss days of my life, at least I can miss them. Now I just need to work to get them even more under control so that by the time I'm out of grad school my days missed goes from 5% to .5%, so that I don't have to miss days teaching.

So that's a snippet of my life with headaches. There are some more aspects of this as well, but I won't go into that now. Please feel free to ask questions or share comments. I realize that this is an issue that isn't well understood and I'm obviously in a unique position to talk about it. (Reminder that I'm not a medical person, so I'm just sharing my personal experience, not any advice for others.)

State Fair Art is coming up next (should be within a day or so...have to finish writing about butter heads.)

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