Living with Migraines

Migraines and Sensory Issues

October 12, 2017

One thing that I have learned to live with as a migraineur is extreme sensitivity, In both the physical and emotional sense. Today I will talk about the physical sensitivity.

For me, the slightest touch always has the chance of giving me a migraine, as well as the wrong lighting or too loud of a noise. This is, of course, a stereotype of migraineurs, especially the loudness of noise. But it is true. For a long time, especially when I was in High School and early college and lacked the necessary independence to be able to fully protect myself, I avoided many social activities because in our time ‘fun’ means sensory overload. Anything less is boring spelled with umlauts. Music blasting, lights strobing, you know what I am talking about.

This did effectively stunt my social life, and I will admit sometimes I am bitter. But I found ways to enjoy myself in the comfort, and dimly lit quiet, of my own home.

Things like sports games, especially my favorite hockey, are virtually impossible for me to attend, as the loudness multiplies and becomes deafening. Ok, for some reason around 2010 some deal was signed between photographers and the LA Kings that made my favorite sport literally impossible for me to attend without vomiting. Well, I know the reason (Green drawings of George Washington). They did this thing where the photographers could sync their flash to the strobe lights in the stadium. This made the entire stadium a non-stop camera flash. I don’t know why nobody has talked about this, but it is one of the great laments in my life, because I really liked going to hockey games. So if you are a migraineur and cannot attend indoor sports games because of camera flashes, let me know. To use a meme, I am still salty after seven years.

This segues into the greatest pain when it comes to migraine prevention: light. Light is everywhere, and it hurts. Especially unnatural light, which also happens to be everywhere. Lightbulbs where the glass is unclouded, spotlights hung from a roof in lieu of normal lights because it is cheap, stage lights, and any bulb that is slightly broken and flickers. The flickering is the worst. It’s a less fun strobelight.

And forget about attending concerts, and movie theaters are generally places I like to avoid, unless the movie is really worth it, as in, worth a migraine the next day. Last movie I saw was Pirates of the Caribbean V. Yeah, that was an especially bitter migraine, since I got it because I saw a terrible movie. I see about one to two movies per year in theaters. It very much limits possible dates.

Beyond things that I can go out with a mind to avoid, there is always a chance that something might happen that will give me a migraine. Today I hit my head going into my car, which I have found either triggers a migraine or a really bad headache (and really, beyond sitting in a neurologist’s office, does it matter?). A sound guy accidently or otherwise turns the volume up too much, a lightbulb is flickering in a room I absolutely cannot leave, there is a very fun looking event that you know will hurt so you have to skip. All these make migraines worse.

But I am not saying that life with migraines is impossible, or even shallow. A very easy fix for most of these is to drop out of college.

Ok that was a joke. What I did in high school and college was to always wear a hat and keep a pair of earplugs on my person at all time. And, I got very good at sneaking. There were a lot of mandatory events that I managed to leave early, if you catch my meaning. The crew from Ocean’s Eleven could have used me…if they could have found me.

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

A large part of surviving with migraines is self-sufficiency. I got very good at enjoying things on my own, where I could control the volume and lighting and if it got too much I could stop it. Netflix was a great discovery, as were books, toy soldiers, and single player video games, and just being a total nerd. Fun fact: I have logged 446 hours in the video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. 

Essentially, the question about any life, whether or not you have migraines, is what you fill it with, and whether what you fill it with makes your life worthwhile. Some people greatly enjoy work. Props to them, I am not amongst them. I personally really enjoy fantasy video games, books, and music, and of course blogging. What you have to do, migraines or not, is find what you enjoy in life and hold fast to them. Don’t let them consume you (that 446 hours pretending to be a magical elf-man is spread over six years), but don’t let grim seriousness overwhelm you to the point that you are a scowling Puritan. There is so much more to life than that.

Migraines definitely add a foul bend to the mix, but there are methods and ways of dealing with them. It takes a little bit of planning, some resourcefulness, and sometimes sneaking around. But it is far, far from impossible. So if you have migraines, keep trying until you find a way to make it work. It is possible. And if you don’t have migraines, please, turn down the volume.


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