Even the word makes me cringe.
I’ve suffered from migraine headaches since I was a teenager. When they hit me the hardest, I am in so much pain that I can’t see straight. I’m extremely nauseous and unable to keep any foods or fluids down. My hands are cold and clammy. I have no energy. I can hardly move.
Over the years I’ve learned that certain things definitely trigger my headaches, some of them are things I can control and others I can’t. As much as I love them, I have come to accept the fact that I cannot drink red wine or eat dark chocolate without risking a major migraine episode. Hydration is a really important thing for every runner, but especially a runner like me who is prone to migraines. When I am dehydrated I always get a migraine – I have to be extra careful to rehydrate after a long run otherwise the next day I will surely have a headache.
My headaches are also triggered by those lovely things we call hormones. There is no question that my hormonal cycle and the occurrence of my migraine headaches coincide like clockwork. Lucky me, right!? Every time that I was pregnant, my headaches skyrocketed from occurring on a monthly basis to happening so regularly that it was ridiculous. When I was pregnant with baby Gus, my headaches were so horrible and frequent that my doctor had to prescribe a medication that would dissolve on my tongue (because if I drank anything it would come right back up) just to calm my stomach so that I could then take a pain medication that would stay in my stomach long enough to actually work. I was violently ill all too frequently, and it was awful.
Since I’ve had a lot of practice with these headaches, I’ve learned to recognize certain telltale signs of when one is on the way. Anywhere from a whole day to just hours before my headache hits, I will see spots or trails in my vision (called the “aura” before the migraine). My nose will get extremely itchy and there will be a strange feeling behind the sockets of my eyes. It is never good when I notice these things.
A few years ago my doctor prescribed a drug called Immitrex, that I can take as soon as I start to notice the aura. I don’t know why, but the times I took it I never felt that it worked (frustrating, but true). I was unable to take it when I was pregnant with Gus and am not able to take it while nursing him now either. For the past several years, my “kill the headache” routine involves the following:
+ As soon as I notice any symptoms at all, or possible symptoms – kick operation hydration into overdrive. Drink as much water (and nuun) as I possibly can.
+ Take three Advil, and say a prayer that they stay in my stomach (Tylenol never ever ever ever works for me). I am really funny about taking medication, but when it comes to my headaches it is simply a necessity.
+ Take a hot shower (as hot as I can possibly stand it) and sit on the shower floor with the lights dim or out if it is daytime. Breathe deeply and relax as much as possible in the shower. When I am in the shower my headache completely disappears. It is amazing how therapeutic the water is with managing my pain. As soon as I turn the water off, the pain shoots right back into full throttle.
+ After my shower, lie down in my bed with an ice pack over my eyes/forehead. Try to relax and fall asleep.
If this works, I usually wake up feeling much better, but in a haze. My sister Jodi (who gets similar headaches – it’s in the genes) and I call it the “headache hangover.” I feel like I am walking around in a fog for hours and sometimes days after a really bad migraine. Headaches are no fun.
The tricky thing about this routine though is that as a mom of three who stays home with my kids, I am not able to call in sick when one of these headaches strikes. I have to manage my pain and deal with feeling awful while caring for my three kids.
Today was one of **those** days.
Caring for an 11 month old is not so easy while you have a migraine. It is especially not easy when this 11 month old has a cold, is getting four new teeth at one time, and refuses to nap. Yep. That was my day today.
|he sure is cute though
Gus was a very good sport today. He sat on the shower floor with me as I let the hot water beat down on my head. It was the first time I had ever tried to bring him in the shower (I was really unsure how that was going to go), but I honestly think it helped him as much as it helped me. That steamy steamy-ness cleared his clogged nose and when we were done he was relaxed, happy and ready for a nap.
I cuddled with him for a bit and he fell fast asleep in my arms, so I put him in his crib and then laid down for a little nap of my own. Thankfully when I woke up my head felt much better, better enough anyway.
Needless to say, today was an unplanned rest day. When the day began I actually put my running clothes on, thinking I would get 8 treadmill miles hammered out during the baby’s morning nap. That was SO not going to work out for me.
Things like this happen – life happens – and we have to move forward. Readjust. Adapt. Tomorrow night is track night, Thursday and Friday will be easy run days and then Saturday will be my long run. I just have to move things around since I took today as a rest day. My body did not need a run today, it needed rest.
What about you — do you get migraines? If so, how do you deal with them? How do you feel when life throws you curve balls and you have to take an unplanned rest day? Do you roll with it and move things around, or just run less mileage for the week?