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A migraine runs in my family on both sides, so when I first got mine, it was no surprise to anyone. I can still remember that day – I was 18, and with friends went barbecuing to the forest. A headache hit me so hard, I had to leave early. I knew right then what it was, also because my father, who is a doctor, recognized the symptoms. But that, unfortunately, didn’t keep me from making huge mistakes with this disease later in life. So many things I did wrong… if only I’d known better, but nobody did, so no one advised me, and I only wanted to lead a ‘normal‘ life, just like everyone else of my age.
I smoked, I had occasional drinks, I worked long hours, I would go to bed late, my sleep was either too short all week, or too long on weekends, and I never felt rested. There weren’t many options with medications, so I had to simply suffer through most of the migraine attacks, and I would just go back to doing what I was doing.
Read more: My Migraine and Health Story
I did turn to doctors, a few of them. Neither of them really asked me questions deeper than “how strong are your pains” and “where are they located.” No warnings, no details. I tried their treatments, but nothing changed, It only got worse.
When I was 24, and I was traveling abroad with my friend, I had a terrible headache right before the trip. And instead of doing the smart thing, I drank with her on our long way to the airport, and by the time we had to fly, I was in my worst pain ever. Basically, I don’t remember that flight, because I was pretty much down with a migraine. But then, as we arrived, my local friend introduced me to Zomig – it was new back then, a triptan. It helped marvelously, and of course, I found it at home in Ukraine later.
No one told me that smoking or drinking were triggering migraine even more, and I didn’t realize that at once, because I was busy living my young and adventurous life. Just like nobody let me know, that Zomig and similar drugs may cause rebound pain and lead to chronic headaches. And of course, who cares about instructions to the drugs and reads every single detail? Not me back then, definitely not…
Read more: How Migraines Stole Christmas
Long story short, I would carry on triggering migraines, taking triptans every time it hurt, and eventually, I would get a migraine on a daily basis.
And that was really difficult to bear. Especially when I had a baby, who of course demanded lots of energy and attention from me, day and night. I was not only worn out with constant pain but also depressed over it. It was getting harder and harder to deal with my daily routine and stay in good cheers.
Finally, I came across one neurologist, who owned a clinic in Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine). She was researching headaches and treating them, and as a favor to my father, she agreed to treat me as well. By then I would already figure out by myself, that smoking and drinking were not an option, as well as stress, physical exhaustion or hormones (oral contraceptives per se), and quiet most of the things (obviously not the stress factor).
However, after a series of tests, scans and conversations I was not only medicated, but she also explained to me the importance of a healthy lifestyle. That meant quality sleep that starts before midnight and lasts no less than 8 hours, no tobacco, alcohol, hormones or caffeine. Sounds easy, but not for someone who absolutely loves chocolate and privacy of late nights.
Read more: Migraines – The Ultimate Raincheck
The doctor also spoke to me about taking triptans and other analgesics that must be rare and controlled. I didn’t take in all of the rules easily, but I did change my diet and tried my best to rest at every occasion. Her other advice was to deal with my anxieties as part of my personality. And she also was recommending strongly against me having any more children. Well…I’m not exactly a calm person, and I did have my second baby. The latter, from her words, could cause me becoming disabled because of pain syndrome, and that is still my worst nightmare. But nonetheless, I’m trying to be in control of my headaches now, as much as I can.
I haven’t had an alcoholic drink for years, the same goes for tobacco. I mostly have decaf coffee and mint tea instead of black or green, and I sometimes allow myself ‘normal’ coffee or tea. I didn’t quit chocolate, only reduced the quantities I eat. I try to rest more and avoid stress and physical tiresome. Of course, the last two are almost impossible to achieve, but at least the goal is clear. I also keep a migraine diary (tried many times and quit, but started over two months ago). I don’t have chronic pain, not just yet. And I want to believe, that I never will. At times when I am not in pain, I’m ready to take on the world. So, my only hope is to stay stable and fulfill my ambitions in life.