As much as I hate my migraines, I have learned in some ways they are a blessing. A cruel and obnoxious blessing, but a blessing nonetheless. Why would I say such a crazy thing? Because I’ve learned that migraines are my body’s way of telling me something is “off” and it needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY. I wish my body and I had a better way of communicating, but I guess you can’t control these things.
Here are four times my migraines were telling me something was wrong:
1. When I needed Eyeglasses – As a kid I would have regular eye exams and never had anything abnormal come up. But as got older, eye exams became infrequent and eventually were phased out of my annual check-up routine. When I was in my mid-twenties and working long hours in front of computer screens, I started to notice my eyes would be exhausted at the end of the day. I finally woke up to the major clue after I watched a movie at home, which triggered such a horrible episode that I ended up in the ER.
I decided to go to the eye doctor the next day and get checked out. Turns out I was straining ever so slightly to be able to see things at a distance. This strain was putting a lot of pressure on the muscles around my eyes and would eventually become so tired that they would trigger a migraine. A pair of glasses (and eventually contacts) with a low-level prescription was enough to stop the strain and eliminate migraines caused by my blurry vision.
2. When I need to improve my sleep hygiene – I’ve never been a great sleeper. Even when I was a teenager, I would have a lot of trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. This led to developing some really bad habits because I told myself I could function perfectly fine on little sleep. Boy was I wrong.
Eventually, my bad habits of sleeping too little, oversleeping on the weekends, inconsistent bedtimes, and waiting too long to wind down at the end of the day became a reliable migraine trigger. I tried for years to solve my sleep problem with prescribed sleep aids but that only made the problem worse.
It wasn’t until I took a real hard look at my sleep habits and started to clean them up, that I was able to minimize this potent migraine trigger. Now I know I have to prioritize getting enough and good quality sleep. It’s easier said than done these days with a young baby, but I just have to work that much harder to make it happen!
3. When I needed to better manage my stress – Chronic stress is one of the most common things that plague my fellow New Yorkers. Everything is so fast-paced here: we’re always over-scheduled, working long hours and not spending enough time relaxing. Things were particularly stressful for me when I first moved to New York and started my first job, as I would stress over every project I did at work and constantly worry that things wouldn’t be perfect.
Turns out my migraines were telling me that I needed to chill out. Anytime I would stress out for a long period of time, my migraines would knock me out, forcing me to take day-long breaks from the unnecessary insanity I was putting myself through. Nowadays, I still have periods where I’m stressed out. But I think I’m much better at putting things in perspective, letting go of everything needing to be perfect, and being action-oriented on the things I can control.
4. When I needed to heal my gut – When your gut is screaming for help it is not always obvious. As a child growing up in Mexico, I mostly ate delicious, whole foods cooked at home. But when I moved to the US at the age of 11, my diet changed drastically and I became a huge fan of the usual demons in most American children’s diets: processed foods, sugary snacks, and fast food. For years I dealt with constipation, bloating and gas, but I was so used to these symptoms that they became part of my “norm”.
It wasn’t until a particularly horrific six months of non-stop migraines that someone recommended I look at my diet as the culprit of my migraine misery. At that point, I had cleaned up my diet substantially and thought I was fairly healthy eater. But I worked with a nutritionist who diagnosed me as having a “leaky gut.” As she explained, I had been putting things in my body that were causing damage to the lining of my gut, which allowed particles to leak into my body and cause chronic inflammation. I eagerly went on an allergy elimination diet and within 2.5 months, my symptoms disappeared. It was an incredible transformation and didn’t regret having to say goodbye to gluten and soy for good.
Even though I still struggle with migraine episodes, I try to look at the bright side and know that I have to introduce a positive change to help keep them at bay. Do you feel like your migraines are trying to tell you something? If so, I would love to hear what you have learned!