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Beyond Pain: How I Cope with Other Migraine Symptoms

Reading time | 4 mins

In my experience, every migraine attack is so much more than just the pain. This is something I have written about extensively in my memoir. There are a lot of other symptoms we have to battle, in addition to the physical pain.

I wish all of the elements of my migraine attacks had easy “solves” when they hit. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here’s a look at how I combat the various elements of my migraine attacks and what I tell myself to cope.

Fogginess

Doctors rarely mention the hardship of dealing with “fogginess” resulting from migraine. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Your thinking feels clouded and confused. Everything is just a little “off,” like you can’t find your footing.

Mentally and emotionally, this is a huge challenge for anyone in pain. The fog constantly clouds my thinking and often makes me say things that don’t make any sense.

My mantras:

  • You are not dumb. This is the migraine, not you.
  • Don’t tackle any “to dos” that are too complicated or require a lot of thought. They can wait until tomorrow. Try to tackle some easier things on your list in the meantime.
  • This is a temporary feeling; it will dissipate at some point.

Exhaustion

Migraine causes me to feel like there’s a weighted blanket over my head and shoulders at all times. Even after a perfect night’s rest, I will desperately crave my bed.

Unfortunately, this type of exhaustion is just part of my everyday life and spending all of my time in bed is not an option, so I have to do my best to power through.

My mantras:

  • Get as much sleep and rest as possible. Your body requires more breaks than others.
  • I know this is incredibly hard but try to accept that you can’t do it all.

Nausea

I’m lucky that nausea is a rare symptom of my migraines. However, when it does happen, I have a hard time finding anything that will work to combat the queasiness. When nausea sets in, I ask myself a few questions and always have a couple of combative tactics on hand.

My questions:

  • Is a trash can or toilet nearby?
  • (When in public) Who can be an advocate for me? Do I need to excuse myself or alert someone that I’m feeling this way?

My reactionary tactics: 

  • Hold the pressure points on my wrists.
  • Make ginger tea (something that I always have on hand).

Aura

Migraine aura involves a lot of spinning and flashing colors that take over my sight. When it happens, it happens quickly. Although there’s little that I can do in these moments, I always ask myself key questions.

My questions:

  • Is there a dark room nearby?
  • Is there enough time for me to go home, or do I need to stay put?
  • Who can I alert that I will be missing in action for a short amount of time? Or, can someone pick me up?

My mantras:

  • This is a temporary symptom. It will be better soon.
  • There’s nothing you can do but try to relax until it passes.

Pain

When I read about migraine, I often find that people neglect to mention the unbearable pain that goes along with the migraine. In my opinion, the pain itself is the most difficult to combat.

It’s even harder when the pain neglects to let up, and you’re stuck living in constant pain for hours, days, and even years, like me.

Because I can’t take certain medications, I am stuck bearing through the pain on my own. The only thing that I have in these instances is my own coaching.

My mantras:

  • Although your pain is constant, it won’t always be this bad.
  • I know this sucks, but you’ve had bad migraine days like this before. If you could handle those days, then you can also handle this one.

My tips:

  • Most of the time it’s too difficult to call someone when you’re in an extreme amount of pain. However, I find that this is the best time to call my other friends who  have chronic migraine. Knowing that someone out there understands my pain and can help to coach me through it helps immensely.

The takeaway

I wish there were easy solves to my migraine symptoms. I wish that I could say that when the migraine pain starts that I can take something, and the pain magically disappears. However, that’s not how many of us migraine sufferers live.

Instead, we’re forced to come up with our own tactics to survive migraine attacks as best as we can. Sometimes that means doing nothing at all. Other times it means coaching ourselves through the pain.

Regardless, with much experience with my migraine attacks, I’ve learned that my mantras and little solves (however basic they may be), have been a huge help. Maybe they can even help you, too.

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

MIG-US-NP-00132 MAY 2019