The steps I took to control debilitating migraines
I was nine years old the first time I had a migraine, and I didn’t know what it was at the time. I had headaches before, but this one rendered me powerless, so I sat crying in the bathroom until my sister found me. I had nausea the night before and woke the next morning to a jackhammer pounding on the inside of my head.
After that initial migraine, I continued to have one almost weekly for months. My parents took me to the doctor, and I was tested for tumors. When the tests came back clear of any physical cause for the onset of migraines, the doctors determined they were due to puberty. For many years afterwards, I continued to suffer through the migraines and eventually just slept the day away with the aid of pain medication.
How I manage migraines as an adult
As I grew older, the migraines decreased a bit. I still got them several times a month, but I started to notice patterns. Certain things triggered them, such as stress, lack of sleep, and different types of food. I became aware of some of the early symptoms leading up to the onset of the full migraine and learned to treat them. Once I entered the workforce and started a family, I pretty much had the migraines under control, but when I became a work-at-home mom, control disappeared out the window.
Motherhood definitely puts stress on the body as well as the mind, but I love being a mom and appreciate that I have the opportunity to work from home and spend time with my boys. However, as my workload increased, my work-life balance started to falter. I left my nine-to-five job because I wanted to spend more quality time with my sons, but I also needed to work, so I spent the days taking care of the boys and the nights staying up late to finish my work. Then I had to wake up early with the kids and do it all again. I was more exhausted than ever.
Needless to say, the migraines came back. I was having one almost daily. I compensated by taking more pain medications and drinking a lot of coffee, but it got to the point that even the strongest painkillers made no difference. Finally, I reached my breaking point. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even take care of my kids. I needed help.
Managing migraines for good
My first step to surviving my migraine pain was realizing that I couldn’t do it all; there was no way I could work a full-time job and be a supermom. My pride kept pushing me beyond my capabilities, and my body finally let me know it was time to slow down. If I kept getting killer migraines that incapacitated me, how was I supposed to care for my kids and work? There needed to be a change. I needed to take care of myself first.
“Me time” became my second step to recovery. If I’m not healthy, I am of no use to myself or my family. After quitting my nine-to-five, I stopped exercising and ate horribly, so I made it a point to walk daily. Also, I would feed my kids first then rush around to get chores done while they were busy, only eating on the go, so I began to sit down and have breakfast with them. Making exercise and breakfast a first priority before I worried about any house chores helped.
The third step was to find help. I thought I could keep up my hectic
pace of caring for my kids and working in the off-hours. This was not
the case. I relented and hired a part-time babysitter and signed up my
older son for art classes. I do this once a week for half a day to
get most of my serious writing done, which I cannot do when the kids are
around. I found that in that half day, I was way more productive than I
had ever been when trying to stay up late at night to meet a deadline.
The third step was to find help. I thought I could keep up my hectic pace of caring for my kids and working in the off-hours. This was not the case. I relented and hired a part-time babysitter and signed up my older son for art classes. I do this once a week for half a day to get most of my serious writing done, which I cannot do when the kids are around. I found that in that half day, I was way more productive than I had ever been when trying to stay up late at night to meet a deadline.
The fourth step was to eat properly again. For years I knew which foods triggered my migraine, but after I began working from home, I just ate whatever I wanted. I went back to avoiding my known food triggers. I started cooking more and eating better, and soon I could tell my body and family were grateful.
For the final step, I set a time in the evening to stop. Yes, stop work, chores, or whatever pressing issue that could wait. After that point, I would not think about it until the next day. Everyone needs a point in the day at which to stop. For me, my stopping point was the half hour before my kid’s bedtime. For those 30 minutes, my boys and I would relax and recap the day. I found I was getting to bed earlier and getting more sleep.
Living with the pain
Did all of this end my migraine pain? Not all of it. I still get them on occasion, but it doesn’t catch me off guard. If I have one during the day, I don’t overmedicate myself in order to push through it; I take the day off and take it easy. My boys and I cuddle and look at books or watch a movie. I stopped feeling guilty over the “lost” day of work. I am entitled to a sick day every once in a while, even though I am the primary caretaker for my kids.
My first year working from home and taking care of my kids was a valuable learning experience. I learned that I am not invincible and that it’s OK to admit you need help. It’s made me better at multitasking and taught me the key to a happy home is a happy mom. My family is happier, and I’m healthier—and that’s all I need.
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