Mixing Migraine with Friends

It’s summer.  It’s warm.  The sun is shining, and we may all be social distancing, but it doesn’t mean we don’t go out with friends.  There you are, sitting on a hillside on a picnic blanket, basking in the sun, when you start to feel dizzy.  Then a pain begins forming behind your eyes.  You try to look away, but everywhere you look hurts because it’s so bright.  If you have migraine, you know what comes next:  You making a mad dash to throw up in the bushes as another killer migraine comes on.  Picnic over and day gone to hell (if not the next 2 or 3).

Does this sound familiar?  If you suffer from migraine, you have more than COVID 19 to give you pause before you go out.  If you have migraine, before you accept an invitation, you need to assess:

  • How do I feel right now?
  • Have I been drinking enough water today?
  • Did I already go drinking the night before?
  • Did I get enough sleep last night?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how is my stress level?
But just because you suffer from migraine doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life.

People who suffer from migraine benefit from accurately evaluating their current health status before they go out.  You have to know yourself (your typical migraine attack pattern) and your triggers to effectively manage your social life when you have migraine.   You have to know how do you really feel in the moment.  If you’re already sporting a headache, you may already know that going out that night is a migraine waiting to happen.  In that case, the best course of action is to hunker down, take your meds, and stay at home.  But if you are just feeling off, and there is the potential for migraine, but you still want to go out with your friends, what do you do?

Be honest with your friends and family.

Your family probably already knows you suffer from migraine and what that means, but do your friends?  The best course of action is to be transparent with them. 

  • How does your  migraine manifest itself and and what are your triggers?
  • How do you accommodate your social life when living with migraine?
  • What is the best thing they can do for you once a migraine hits?

Explain to your friends what a migraine is and what that means to you.  Do you get very sick to your stomach with  migraine?  Does it affect your vision so that it’s hard for you to see?   Is  your migraine triggered or worsened  by lights, smells, or sounds?  Are stress or allergies a factor for you?  Let them know what to look for in you when a migraine is coming on.  For example, maybe you get irritable or foggy.  Sometimes your friends may be able to see the migraine coming on before you do yourself.  And let them know if you say you’re “not ok” or you have a headache, what you need in response – even and especially if that means you need to get home as soon as possible. 

If you have migraine, keeping a social calendar can be challenging.  That’s why it’s important to be honest with friends and family about your condition: 

  • That having migraine sometimes means cancelling a long-term plan because you get a migraine the day of the event. 
  • That having migraine sometimes means you may need to decline a last minute invitation to go to the drive-in to see the re-release of “Die Hard”. 

But there are some days you will still want to go out.  Let your friends know what they can do for you if a migraine hits.  It can only help – and having a contingency plan up front, may also alleviate any stress that you may feel about going out with migraine in the first place.  If stress is a trigger, how many times have you ended up with a migraine just thinking about having to try to squeeze in whatever you wanted to do between what you needed to do?   Letting go of that pressure to join in may just get you out and about more often.

Help yourself!  Be prepared!

Whenever you go out, remember to take a “go bag” with you.  It doesn’t have to be large, just the essentials:

  • Sunglasses Mixing Migraine with Friends
  • Ear plugs
  • Water
  • Reactive meds
  • Crackers to take with your meds or settle your stomach
  • Hard candy
  • A tube of instant coffee (to mix in your water for the caffeine)
  • Whatever else can help you mitigate oncoming symptoms

Remember to drink lots of water the day of and during your outing.  If you’re not driving, close your eyes to avoid oncoming headlights at night or the sun glare during the day.  If you’re not feeling 100%, limit your drinking.  And make sure you have a personal exit strategy.  You don’t want to be caught with a full blown migraine and your only ride is unable or unwilling to get you home.  When you have migraine, going out can be challenging but not impossible with the right level of advocacy and self-care. 

If you think you have migraine but have never been diagnosed, or you already have migraine and need additional supports, the Boston Headache Institute can help!  The Boston Headache Institute is accepting new patients (even now during the COVID 19 pandemic).  Please call for an appointment at (781) 895-7940. 

If you are already diagnosed with migraine, please take note of our upcoming clinical trials

Or call us at (617) 875-0962 and ask for Dr. Counihan.