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In the beginning of the year, everyone were hitting the gym, starting a new fad diet, or posting photos with the caption, “New Year, New Me.” However, for parents with migraine, just getting through the day feels like a resolution all on its own. Joining a gym feels like an impossibility when there are lunches to pack, a job to do, a house to clean, errands to run, after-school activities that require a chauffeur, and all the tasks that make up a busy parent’s day. Then add chronic migraine disorder to the list, and it feels impossible to get through it all – all you want to do is rest. But that’s why this list is not about resolutions and it does not have the gym anywhere on it, because when you live with a chronic illness, our goals and priorities look different.
Here are some achievable, health-focused goals for people with migraine that will help you start your year off right:
1. Find a Migraine Support Group
A sense of relief comes from feeling that you are not alone. Chronic migraine is so isolating. It is often hard for those without migraine to understand what we are going through. Even worse, people are often dismissive of how difficult it is, treating it as “just a typical headache” and ignoring the myriad of symptoms that comes with it. If you are lucky enough to have sympathetic family members, friends, or a partner, they may still not understand your pain and day-to-day struggles.
Here is your first goal: find a migraine support group. You’ll be able to connect with others who know exactly how you feel. Members are in different stages of their healing journey and are an excellent resource for migraine-related information. Plus, there is such comfort in connecting with those who understand you. My Parenting With Migraine Facebook Support Group is a great place to start. It is a fantastic place to gain knowledge and connect with other parents with migraine.
2. Take Control of Migraine
So now that you have access to support and information let’s do something about it! If you have not yet seen a neurologist or a headache specialist and received a diagnosis, this is your sign to make that appointment! A diagnosis is vital in getting access to the proper medications, obtaining insurance coverage for treatments, having a doctor’s support for missed work, and feeling validated that your pain is real. If you are unhappy with your current doctor, get a second (or even third or fourth) opinion until you feel you have found someone you can trust with your health. A treatment plan with a doctor you trust will put you on the path to having some control over your health, more symptom-free days, and more time with your family.
In November, I signed up for the Neura Health membership. If you do not have a headache specialist in your area, your symptoms make it difficult to drive to appointments, your co-pays are too high, you are not making progress with your current care, or you do not have insurance, I encourage you to consider signing up with Neura Health. It is a virtual neurology clinic that connects people with top neurologists in headache medicine. Neura Heath can help you get started on a treatment plan and are now in-network with many insurance providers.
Their membership includes access to neurologists and headache specialists, unlimited personal care coaching through video, 24/7 care team access through messaging, prescriptions for medications, referrals for scans, labs, or local treatments your doctor will deem necessary, such as Botox or nerve blocks, etc.
I have been working with my care coach, Cary, to increase my hydration intake for the past few months. He is so sympathetic to my chronic migraine journey. He never judges and always has helpful suggestions to help me create smart goals that I would be able to achieve. Also, his kindness and non-judgmental attitude help me not feel pressured if I do not meet my goals because I know he will help me devise another plan. Having someone like a care coach help me with my lifestyle changes to manage migraine has been so helpful in keeping me moving forward.
I also had a great experience with Neura’s headache specialist, Dr. Berk, who is not only knowledgeable about migraine, but also very compassionate. Explore Neura Health’s pricing plans and get $15 off your initial membership fee with code: parenting15. You can pay as low as $22 per month!
3. Use Proper Migraine Language
First, it is very important to use proper migraine language when we speak and write. According to Coalition for Headache and Migraine Patients (CHAMP), language and images about migraine tend to disparage and belittle people living with this condition. The language and images label them as weak, lazy, helpless, or victims and create shame and stigma that justifies the notion that they should be ignored or marginalized. This, in turn, affects the resources society makes available to support their pain and disability.
By changing our language surrounding migraine, we can change how migraine is perceived and treated.
- Instead of “migraines,” try saying “migraine attack.”
- Instead of “I have a migraine,” try saying, “I’m having a migraine attack.”
- Instead of “I get migraines,” try saying, “I live with migraine disease.”
The biggest stigma that comes with migraine disease is that people think it is a typical headache. Referring to migraine as a headache or “a migraine” perpetuates the stigma that migraine is like a typical headache. This only minimizes the severity of the disease and its impact on our daily lives. Cue a well-meaning aunt telling you to drink lots of water and take Excedrin for the pain.
Saying “I get migraines” implies that migraine disease is an acute condition. However, we live with and manage our migraine disease daily. Even if we do not experience symptoms every day, we try to avoid our triggers on a daily basis. Many of us take preventive medications and experience symptoms in between migraine attacks, such as light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, dizziness, or anticipatory anxiety.
CHAMP recommends replacing “migraines” with migraine, migraine disease, migraine attack, living with migraine, and having migraine. Here’s CHAMP’s complete list of migraine language that will make you sound like a migraine advocate.
4. Stop the Migraine Guilt
Ok, here is a hard one. Stop with the migraine guilt. Repeat this mantra as often as you need before you believe it: “Migraine is not my fault.” Migraine is a hereditary neurological disorder. It is not your fault if your migraine disease was brought on by trauma or an accident. Many of us were born with a predisposition to migraine, and certain events or environmental triggers contribute to our attacks. None of it is your fault.
While there may not be a cure, there are many things you can do to prevent and minimize migraine attacks. Imagine if you spoke to a loved one with the same harshness or cruelty you often reserve for yourself. Try to have the same compassion and kindness for yourself as you have for your loved ones. It will be one less obstacle you have to overcome.
5. Keep a Migraine Diary
One way to help you identify your triggers and patterns is by keeping a migraine diary. You can use Migraine Buddy app, a paper journal, a calendar printout, or a notes app on your phone.
The Migraine Buddy app is free and easy to use. It includes migraine-necessary features like medication intake, symptoms, and migraine trigger tracking. You can tap to record a migraine attack when you first experience it and add the details when it ends. In fact, Migraine Buddy will send you a reminder if you didn’t finalize the attack to make sure you didn’t forget because we all know that brain fog is a common migraine symptom.
Traffic Light System for Migraine Tracking
However, if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of a migraine diary and are inconsistent with migraine tracking, one straightforward way to track migraine attacks is to use the Traffic Light System. On the calendar printout, color code your attacks by severity: red for days you are debilitated by a migraine attack; yellow for days when you have a migraine attack and your daily tasks are limited due to symptoms; green for days when your migraine symptoms are present but do not prevent your day-to-day tasks; and leave the days blank if you are 100% symptom-free. Depending on your goals, you may also choose to track your migraine triggers, significant weather shifts, menstrual periods, and medication intake. The migraine diary should give you and your medical team insight into your migraine triggers and help your team devise a plan to manage them better.
6. Try a New Migraine Treatment
My 93-year-old Ukrainian grandmother had a migraine disorder her whole life. When she was young, her mother’s friend rubbed cow dung and molasses on her forehead to cure her. My grandmother still suffers from migraine today, so I guess I won’t be trying that natural migraine remedy. Thankfully, in 2023 we have much better options and new migraine treatments.
I encourage you to make this the year you try a new migraine treatment! Unfortunately, migraine remedies are not one size fits all solution, so what works for some does not work for others. Inversely, even if a treatment does not work for your friend, it does not mean it will not work for you! (Unless it’s the Ukrainian natural migraine remedy. In which case, I would skip that one either way.) When trying new things, try one treatment at a time and give it a chance to work. This is where a migraine diary can come in handy to see if your treatments are working for you.
The one natural migraine treatment I always reach for is CEFALY. It’s an FDA-approved, non-prescription, and drug-free treatment for migraine. It has allowed me to significantly reduce my intake of abortive medication and end my rebound headaches cycle, also known as medication adaptation headaches.
CEFALY helps to abort and prevent migraine attacks. It is a non-invasive medical device placed on the forehead to modify pain sensation in the trigeminal nerve. The device offers two distinct treatment options: a 60-minute ACUTE setting that serves as an abortive treatment and a 20-minute PREVENT setting for daily use to help prevent future attacks. You no longer need a prescription to purchase the CEFALY device, which makes it more accessible. There is a 60-Day Satisfaction Guarantee which will provide you ample time to determine if this device works for you.
The most recent device is the New CEFALY Connected! It is Bluetooth-enabled for real-time treatment tracking in the CeCe app. You can also use the CeCe app, created by CEFALY, to track migraine attacks. CEFALY often offers great promotions for the device, and you can stack them with my 15% discount code: parentingwithmigraine!
This year I am excited to try Lin Health as a part of my goal to try new things. Even though it is out of my comfort zone, I am glad I am a part of this program. I signed up in December, had my appointment with the pain psychologist and founder of Lin, and have four live virtual sessions with a certified pain recovery coach per month and unlimited messaging with my pain coach. Through Lin, I am learning psychology-based tools to reduce chronic pain.
Lin’s brain-based approach helps you reset the volume of your pain-signaling system to teach your brain new ways to process and respond to pain. I am excited for those of you who have also signed up for Lin and started this journey.
My readers are eligible for a significant and limited discount with code: parentingwithmigraine, which will give you the first month for $100.
You can explore other natural migraine remedies in my Favorite Products. Let me know if you need help choosing one!
So “New Year, New Me?” Probably not. How about this year we try, “New Year, more in control of my health me.” I hope these tips will help set you on a path to taking charge of your migraine disease. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram and Facebook, where I am always happy to chat, answer questions, and connect.
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