Tag Archives: migraines

Losing the battle, but winning the war (I think)

Monday: Today was the beginning…

Get up early and walk, then to work, meditation & yoga for lunch, and then home for more yoga and 2-4 hours on the novel.

Like that was going to happen.

More people came into the office during my 20 minutes of yoga and meditation than were in all morning (so much for that idea) and the allergy meds are making me yearn for bed, or a couch, or heck a piece of floor would do.

Losing ground fast… so tired. I’m sure the allergy meds are not helping. I can’t take Claritin because of the odd headaches, I can’t take Zyrtec because it makes my nose bleed, so I’m taking benydril (sp?) and feel like curling up on the floor and sleeping.

At times I hate being me.


Friday: And I thought Monday was bad…

It was a week. A week that took me by the throat and shook me proving once again that I have no control over my environment – interior or exterior.

So, it is Friday and I’m sitting here, sipping the last of the scotch, and licking my wounds. Migraines, a day on Vicodin for pain beyond the migraines, our server going down and the exhaustion of a 11.5 hour day yesterday, but I am still here and still staring at the plot on my wall.

’tis time to kill one of my darlings.

I adore Emmett and his family. He is one of the few remaining characters from the first draft of the novel, but he must go. Talked it over with a friend last night. Gave her the plot and she immediately focused in on the Emmett scene and asked, “Why?” I couldn’t defend the scene, I slowed the pace of the plot and distracted the reader from the business at hand. Leave it to AL to figure that out in 30 seconds…. and I’ve been trying to figure out what was wrong all week. (that would be a statement about the value of outside opinions)

So, back to the drawing board – or the post it map.

The story will be better for this. I truly believe it.

A crazy weekend filled with odds and ends of commitment (and taxes) which I usually don’t let happen because I worry I’ll have to cancel. But one event turned into two, and then three…. and well the sky is darkening with rain as much as dusk and it is time to pack for the weekend.

Happy writing,

~ Tess


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In Search of… trigger foods

The Desperate Man, Gustave Courbet Source: WikiMedia Commons

Pay no attention to me, I’m just whining.

Ah, the joy’s of a migraine brain.

The one thing I’ve truly discovered from my first few months on the anti-inflammation diet is I have a strong reaction to corn starch. For the first time in my life I experienced a classic food derived migraine. I had a sauce on my chicken and less than two hours later I had a migraine. (I find sporadic cheating on the diet to be informative – corn is a no-no but tomatoes are fine.)

It was perfect – and now I know corn starch is problematic, but it is in everything.

No really, it is in everything including my allergy meds. So, three bottles of allergy pills were put on notice and I had to go to the store and figure out what I could and couldn’t take.

Many hours and dollars later I discovered that corn starch is an ingredient in almost everything that is a pill – but capsules and gel caps have different stabilizers and so had better luck picking up those – but generics almost always have corn starch so I’m back to Brand Names. Not good for the bottom line but I am grateful they are still making them, not sure what I would do if I couldn’t take the allergy drugs.

Really migraines should be enough…

And yet (several days later) I found out I was reacting to the allergy meds themselves. So, onward with drippy nose punctuated by sneezes. Sigh!

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Last Thoughts – Here’s the rub…

I’ve spent all day working, exercising, and even had a migraine… and yet I don’t feel successful because I haven’t achieved either my word count, time allotment, or finished the final rewrite of this damn short story.

On the plus side, I did answer emails, write, do 40 minutes of yoga, write, take phone calls, write, research, write, do 45 minutes of cardio, and now I’m writing some more. All this after the nastiness of last night’s insomnia.

So, really – not too shabby – right?

It’s only 9 pm so the night is young… so I guess I’ll get back to work.  

On a different note – knowledge I could have done without.

Apparently it will take 1 hour of moderate exercise to ½ hour of intense exercise a day for me to stay in my current shape. According to my Harvard Medical Newsletter – exercise limits weight gain in normal-weight women but it’s a lot of exercise.

Really you don’t want to know what it says… it will just make you sad. Okay – so if you want all the information check the link I don’t want to be the messenger – you’ll shoot me.

A day! That is the crucial part. And my two favorite forms of exercise probably don’t get my heart rate up high enough to count as intense. Walking and Yoga. So I can continue to do more of what I love or head back to the gym and do less work but like it less. I’ll probably head for some middle ground.


Okay, back to work…

~ Tess

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I’ll take a Migraine, Please.

To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,

This is my second day without much of a migraine.

I won’t say that it is gone, that would be lying, but it has slipped into the realm of <1 most of the day, which is close enough. It is there, but it isn’t having as much negative impact and apparently my mind and body are thrilled.

So, thrilled in fact that I was blessed last night with not one, but two forms of insomnia. 

  1. Can’t get to sleep.

That was fun, and very fruitful, went to bed early (9:45 pm), read a few chapters of a light mystery that I’d picked, curled up and…. Didn’t sleep. The brain wouldn’t stop working and the body started tossing and turning. Sometimes when I read poetry it makes me sleepy – you have to work so hard to make all the connections – so I went out and found The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot and read that…

It didn’t help.

So, read some more poems. Then went to find History of Witchcraft in England by Wallace Notestein – originally published at the turn of the last century ca. 1900. Unfortunately it wasn’t as dry as I thought… and it was after midnight when I finally tried to sleep again.

Not sure when I got to sleep, but I know when I woke up.

  1. Can’t stay asleep

I don’t really mind the first form of insomnia. Once you get to sleep it is over. But the second one gets me every time. Usually I don’t have a specific time that I need to get up at so when this happens I tend to sleep in, late. But I’m tired of losing the whole morning. No matter how much I try and convince myself that it doesn’t matter as long as I get the hours in – it still does. So from 4:00 am on I woke and dozed, had wild dreams, dozed, had more wild dreams… and so on and so forth until my alarm went off at 7:00 am.

Did I mention I was tired of losing the morning?

I am, so all week I’ve been working on getting back to a more normal sleep pattern… it hasn’t worked and I’m wondering if I should just give up. I have lots of research to do and late at night is a good time to read, surf the net, and correlate data since I just can’t seem to get up early to save my life.

This morning the dreams were so vivid, and I would jump right back into them after a period of waking. Sadly after being up for an hour I absolutely no memory of them…

That is another side effect I’ve experienced before. When I really start to get into a story my subconscious wants to come out and play all the time. Some mornings, like this one, it is too good to miss… so I didn’t get up until almost 10:00 am.

What a slouch.

Maybe this guilt is a holdover from my childhood.

My Dad is a morning person. Up by 6:00 am and busy busy busy. He isn’t restless in his busyness and rarely commented out loud on my teenage tendency to sleep till noon… but the reproof was felt nonetheless – whether it was real or imagined I don’t know.

Oh, well… I’ll probably keep trying since it feels wrong and probably keep failing because 2:00 am to 10:00 am seems to work well for me.

Besides, I really can’t complain can I? The whole reason all of this is happening is because my migraines have lessened and my productivity has increased.


~ Tess

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Shattered Head Source: iStock Photo

I had a theory.

As many of you know I went into a heavy duty migraine spiral in the summer of 2008. I hit bottom in October 2008 when I had a migraine that lasted 31 days. For 6 hours I rejoiced that the migraine was gone and then cried when the next one started.

It was not a good year.

We had lots of theories of what might have contributed to this upswing of migraine activity. The doctors looked at stress, hormones, and other triggers – red wine, wheat, dairy etc. But none of those changes provided relief so we went to drugs.

The funny thing is, all this time I’ve had theory but I’ve never had the respite from the migraines to see if I’m right.

Until now.

We have to go back one year the fall of 2007. I was 38 and looking at turning 40 at the heaviest I’d been in my life. I had a good job and disposable income so I hired a personal trainer. Not the kind you get at your local gym – but the kind you would hire if you were in Hollywood.

It was amazing.

6 months later I was in the best shape of my life. I was happy, I felt strong and competent, like I could succeed at anything I set my mind to. I felt like me – for the first time in a very long time.  

Then came stress, travel, work changes and romantic disasters. My exercise began to decrease. As it decreased the migraines reappeared, and on and on until I couldn’t exercise because I was in too much pain.

Two weeks ago I started abusing my Imitrex – doing what they tell you not to do – using it daily as needed to have a normal life. Granted that is my definition of normal. The caveat I gave myself was that I had to go to the gym and start back on working out like I had 2 years before.

I did, and it is working.

I won’t say that the migraines are gone or that I won’t still be abusing my Initrex for the foreseeable future, but I will say that I feel better than I have for months – possibly even years – and I am not willing to give this up.

So my theory?

My theory, in my case, my migraines are linked to hormone production. Not the kind that comes with your cycle but the changes that are caused based on percent body fat.

Scientifically we know that the more body fat a woman carries the greater her hormone production. So… the less body fat I have the more my hormone production will go back to what it used to be. I also think that all of the hormones and chemicals that my body produces when it exercises are a part of the picture too. My brain got addicted to them.

No one would ever tell you to do what I’m doing…. But this was the biggest change that happened that summer except for the stress. I went from exercising almost daily to not doing anything at all.

Now that I’m back to the almost daily routine I feel amazing again.

And some days I don’t even need the Imitrex.

~ Tess

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The Power of…

Me with my favorite Scotch! St. Pat's 2009

As you all know I have migraines.

I also love scotch and wine, artisan cheeses and newly baked bread, Chinese food and pickles.  

I’ve wiped out cheeses, bread and MSG from my diet (and probably a lot of things that I can’t remember because they were easy and I didn’t miss them). Pickles are new for me as a possible trigger so they will need to go.

My diet is so bland at times and the only thing I use as a reward system is scotch and wine. I don’t eat sweets much and I don’t like chocolate.

I need to give up wine.

The problem is that wine does not equal migraine every time which makes it like playing roulette. Actually the same things that happen in the brain of a gambler happens in mine. Inconsistent stimulus is actually more powerful than consistent. Ask anyone who likes to play the slots.

Unfortunately this is keeping me thinking that the wine is not hurting me – but as a friend pointed out this morning it is, and I need to give it up. I also know that he isn’t going to let me off the hook so I need to really let it go.

The scotch is fine in moderation but I’m starting to have problems with moderation. I don’t tend to an addictive personality so this is new to me and I’ve been trying to sort out the “why” behind the behavior.

Last night, at a party, a friend of mine may have stumbled upon a clue as to why I love scotch so much. And it may also help me go back to moderation. Information, after all, is the beginning of change.

My friend at the party connected my love of the smell of scotch with the fact that I don’t tolerate most scents well. Almost everything that I can smell makes me ill from headaches and sneezing, or my ears will itch and my throat will close. But not scotch. I’ve been known to pour a little bit of scotch into a glass and just have it next to me while I read or write because the smell makes me so happy. I don’t even drink it.

When I had a job, scotch was the thing I did to move from the work day into the evening. The ritual of pouring a glass and sipping it while I wandered the house getting ready for whatever I was planning for the evening kept me sane.

In the Fall of 2007 I hired a personal trainer.

Not only did he put me on an amazing physical regiment but he also provided me with some dietary guidelines that my body responded well to. I was allowed one glass – 1.5 ounces – of scotch per day. I became obsessed with the exercise and the eating pattern and allowed myself my one scotch per night.

I don’t think there was a time when I was happier.

There is nothing I want more than to get back to that. It was after that, that the migraines started, as everything fell apart. Migraines make me crave carbs, bad carbs, things like goldfish crackers and bread that also qualify in my book as comfort food. I felt crummy, I ate carbs, the carbs added to my body fat, migraines would sideline me for days or weeks, and I would start the cycle all over again.

But like I said – moderation is a problem for me right now.

I’ve always said that the best thing about living alone is the control you have over your environment. The next best thing is not having someone around to criticize your choices – but that is another story. The answer for now is to not have it in the house just like I don’t have soups with MSG, cheese, or bread.

I also noticed a positive shift in my behavior now that I’ve started focusing on exercise and diet again. I make better choices. One of the interesting things that occurred when I was working with my trainer was my unwillingness to work as hard as I was and blow the benefits by poor food choices.

Last night was an example – when I was training I would have left before I poured myself the second drink or ate anything that I didn’t bring. But it was late and I was having fun so I cheated a little. The farther I get into my training the more I know I will be unwilling to cheat.

This morning started the daily weighting portion of the exercise.

From here on out I weigh every day. Cardio is 4+ times a week either 45 minutes on the elliptical or my ~ 4 mile walk. Weights and Yoga start out as twice a week. I eat every three hours and my diet is high in protein and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. I will stay away from bread, white rice, and cheese… and alcohol. If you want to make it hard to lose weight… keep drinking.

I have a theory that as my fitness level rises my migraines will become fewer.

I’ll let you know.

~ Tess

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My Last Vice

Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass

Sometime last week I realized I was my own worst enemy.

I’ve been suffering from insomnia and migraines but I haven’t stopped drinking. Any idiot knows that those three don’t play well together.

The problem was that until recently I couldn’t see the affect the alcohol was having on the migraines because it was so slight. It bumps an existing migraine about 0.5 on the pain scale. You know that scale. The one the doctor always asks you. “On a scale of 0 to 10 how much pain are you in?” When you are having daily migraines in the 7-9 category the increase in magnitude of a 0.5 just isn’t enough to register.  

My daily migraines are closer to a 1 so now I’m noticing.

It is the insomnia that is the real kicker. Some days a single drink will cause me to wake up every hour or so. But wine and scotch are part of my lifestyle. They are part of how I view myself.

Funny – I’m sure that is similar to how smokers feel.

We have so many hang-ups around drinking in our culture I have a feeling many of you are out there labeling me. Label away. I’ve been referring to myself as the “family alcoholic” for some time now. I’m one of the only ones who drinks.

At least I’ve discovered that I’m not addicted, but I don’t have an addictive personality so that wasn’t a surprise. I can stop and I can limit. I just like to drink. I love the adventure of tasting new wines and visiting old scotches. Only now I need to make the decision about when and when.

It’s all about health.

Health is one of those things that I like to manage myself. Now I know that for me to sleep well and limit that minor bump on the migraine, I have to limit my consumption. Sometimes one drink is too much but often I don’t know until the next day if I’ve caused a negative impact.

Logic says that I should be saying good bye…

The thing is I’ve changed my diet, my exercise program, where I go and who I go out with, all to limit my need for drugs to manage my health. Alcohol is my last food related vice. I never had many but they are all gone. The fried egg sandwiches, nachos, soft drinks, aged cheese, fresh baked bread, and goldfish crackers are all things of the past. There is nothing left to comfort myself with or use as a reward system.

That was what the scotch was for.

Scotch is the ritual that allows me to relax. It was what helped me handle the stress when everything in my life was falling apart. Just the smell of a good island scotch makes me smile. There is enormous power in the wafting scent of peat and seaweed, a strange sort of something that my brain responds to with pleasure.

My scotch brought me happiness when few things in my life did. Often it was less than a glass. Sometimes when I had a migraine I would simply pour enough in so that I could smell it.

I need sleep, but I love my scotch. I wonder if there is any way I can keep my vice and still provide my brain with its much needed downtime?

Moderation in all things I suppose.

We shall see.

~ Tess

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Tired of taking care of myself!

Last year, about this time, I simply got tired of taking care of myself.

I was seeing a Naturopath, an Acupuncturist, a Massage Therapist, a Chiropractor, and a Neurologist in an attempt to get my migraines under control. I wanted to have some level of quality of life. I also wanted to feel like I was “doing” something and not just giving into the migraines.

Those who know me well know that I fight.

So I fought.

Not only was I spending a small fortune on my healthcare providers I was also on drugs, supplements, and vitamins.

I started to wonder what was working and what was window dressing? But I had been in such bad shape and I wanted, so badly, to feel better. At the time I was keeping a migraine journal – the migraines, what I ate, the drugs/supplements/vitamins I took and when, and any exercise I was able to do.

I keep my appointments but I stopped writing in my journal. That was the first sign. I was exhausted. Taking care of myself had become a full time job.  

Then I was laid off – and anyone who has been surviving on unemployment insurance knows that there was no way I was going to continue my healthcare lifestyle on what I was receiving weekly.    

So I had to prioritize.

What was the most bang-for-the-buck and what was really required and what could go away. I don’t want to think about the money I’d been spending. Several of the things I was taking cost upwards of $90 a month. Trust me, I could do the math but it would make me cry.

Now don’t think that anyone was taking advantage of me – they weren’t. I made all the decisions with my eyes open. Granted the decision was to throw everything at the migraines, but that was my decision, and it did help.

It also helped knowing that they cared and wanted to help. I have great doctors!

But now I was facing financial disaster at the same time as I was becoming tired of working so hard just to make it through another day.

My decision was very unscientific. I kept taking everything until the supply ran out. Then if I got worse I put it back in and if I didn’t notice it was gone I left it. As the months went by the migraines ebbed and flowed with no real rhyme or reason. Except, as the months passed, the daily ones became less severe and the sever ones less frequent.

For years one of my doctor’s was of the opinion that my job was killing me.

I think she was right.

The farther I got away from the job, the more I went back to my old habits of scrimping and saving. The more control I had over my life, my time. Going back to working hard only for myself rather than being a tiny cog in the huge mechanism that is business in the US the better I felt.

I still have migraines. But I’m getting better at controlling them through diet and exercise.

I still take drugs and supplements – but I’ve pared them down to the essentials and got lucky. Two of the drugs I’ve been on in the last 12 months have gone generic.

And I wonder…

One of the things that has always bothered me is when I take a drug and it has an unacceptable side effect, so I take another drug for the side effect.

What if the root of my problem was the job, the migraine was the side effect, and the drugs I was taking to control the side effect?

We so rarely look at our lifestyle.

All of our lifestyle.

Just before the migraines hit my exercise program started to fall apart. It was a gradual thing but as my exercise decreased my migraines increased. As long as I had the migraines on a daily basis I couldn’t exercise.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this ramble.

Today I woke up without a migraine. It’s happening more and more often.

I’m grateful for everything my doctors did for me – they kept me sane and productive when my world was falling apart.

I think my doctor who said my job was killing me was right. I’m not really built to work in corporate America.

I’m even more grateful to the recession since it caused my company to have to shrink by 10% – and so glad I was one of the causalities. As brave as I usually am I was terrified to lose the paycheck.

I’m exercising more, my migraines are less, I am productive and I’m content.   

~ Tess

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