summertime with chronic migraine ☀️

I’ve felt such a shift recently. And it’s got its highs and lows that’s for dang sure.

Probably around February/March of this year (a whole year since starting treatment, whoop whoop) I started to feel like a normal person again who could go out with friends at night (!), make it through a whole work week unscathed, and even begin to pursue hobbies and just remember what makes Cristina, Cristina.

So this has been awesome! But – also tough for many reasons. I talked a bit on my Instagram about navigating healthy life while still carrying invisible pain and I also wrote about identity after ED here. What I wanna talk about today is: the migraines. I get a lot of questions about my migraines – what started them, what helps, etc. and I do want to start diving into that on my blog and Instagram because now that I’ve maintained being healthy for a few months, I know these three things:

  • I have chronic migraines 🧠
  • My migraines are triggered by low blood sugar 🚨 (and a few other things, like stress, poor sleep, and allergies, but mostly blood sugar)
  • I dealt with constant, horrible migraines when I was struggling with anorexia because my blood sugar was consistently, dangerously low

So yes, my ED = migraines for me, but I also just….get migraines. You know? Does that make sense? I can have migraines in the absence of any ED behaviors because my body is susceptible to them. (However, I will forever by hyper-vigilant about rejecting diet culture and giving my body what it needs because any amount of restriction does still result in an immediate headache for me – thanks body and Jesus!)

 

A couple things have happened recently that really opened me up to the idea of embracing my diagnosis and co-existing with my migraines:

(ONE) I saw my Med ED doctor. I explained to her that really the only thing lingering from my ED days that still keeps me in constant panic is the overwhelming fear that I will run out of rescue medication for my migraines. (The insurance agency only gives you 9 pills per month. I cut them in half to try to save them, thus forcing myself to use a lower dose in times of high pain, but I still sometimes run out. You can buy them outright – but one pill is about $24 and that might not even take away the current migraine.)

She told me that a lot of my fears surrounding running out of medicine and just getting a migraine in the first place were PTSD reactions due to all of my horrible migraine days that I suffered when I was sick. For reference, I went from late October 2017 to about November 2018 of having a migraine of some severity every. single. day.

We decided that I’d go to the other half of my treatment team, my therapist, to discuss ways in which I could approach migraine differently and work through my trauma, and then perhaps eventually try out different forms of medication and treatment for them.

(TWO) It got HOT 😅 in Houston. You may be thinking, what does that have to do with anything? Well – it really irritates my symptoms and can kick up a migraine for me if I am not careful.

I used to love a run on Sunday mornings, but a couple weekends ago, I went on one and just got wayyy too hot and dehydrated. (I went out after 9 am and forgot to war a cap.)

I came back early from the run and Cam made me drink some Gatorade, but by the afternoon, I felt the migraine come on 😣 Not fun at all, and I’m not beating myself up about it, but I did take it as a lesson learned. It wasn’t fun to spend the rest of the day curled up and in pain. My migraine broke overnight with Imitrex and plenty of food and fluids, but yeah. Heat + exertion = my head not happy.

I’ve known this for a while. When I think back, it’s really not surprising. I used to get really bad headaches (and bad asthma, lol) when I would run around a lot outside with my neighborhood friends as a kid. I used to come off the bus every day in Kindergarten with a headache. We had recess right before going on the buses and I would always be hot and dehydrated. I got one of my first true migraines one summer when I was at my friend’s lake house. We had spent hours jet skiing on the lake and then I got hit with the worst pain ever and had to take several rounds of Tylenol + drink like 12 water bottles before I felt normal again.

Truly, no one does well in the heat. Everyone gets dehydrated or sun burnt or just plain fussy because it’s humid and gross here. But I know I used to have a higher tolerance and could bake myself outside for a few hours without getting a migraine or spend all afternoon in a pool with friends, and that just isn’t the case now. (And I guess that’s good because I am much more responsible in taking care of my skin, too!)

But I also love the sun. I love swimming. I love the outdoors.

I just realized – hey, I can still run outside. I can still go to the pool. I can still take Wex on walks.

I just have to be smart about it. 💭

So – I’m declaring it summer in Houston now. We’ve hit our 90 degree days and things will only get hotter from here. I’ve had one heat-exhaustion-induced migraine and I’m ready to fight back!

The first step in managing heat sensitivity and migraine during the summer is to accept your reality. It’s going to be different from the likes of your friends. I am a 23 year old, so I know for a fact that other 23 year olds are getting margs on steamy patios and spending weekends tanning at their apartment pools or heading to other parts of the state to float the river or hang at a lake house for a while. These things are not regular activities for me.

I can modify some of these things to help me cope better, but there are going to be instances where I have to say no, thanks.

So here’s my plan of attack. Maybe you can adopt some of these tactics, too if you suffer from migraine and find that being out in the heat (running, swimming, tanning, boating, day drinking lol) affects you, too:

No runs outside after 8 am: I’ve adopted this rule for a couple of years after a few, terrifying almost-fainting incidents. If my body really craves a run, I’ll try to make it out before 7 am, so that I am 100% home by 8 am. Even with a cap and short sleeves, I can’t push my body in heat like that once the sun is fully up and a’blazing.

Lots of water and fluids always: I already bring my water bottle with me everywhere, but now it’s really attached to me. I won’t leave it in the car during a walk around Target and I will bring it to bible studies, friend’s houses, meetings, etc. I continue to drink it throughout the day to ensure I don’t get dehydrated. I don’t have any kind of water goal because I honestly don’t struggle to drink it! I joke that water is literally my favorite drink. 😂💦

Gatorade or a drink with some sugar when out in the sun for prolonged periods of time: 🍹 Let’s say friends invite me to an outdoor brewery. We can sit in the shade and there will be fans (because no one in their right mind in HTX wants to sit outside on a 90+ day if they’re not in a body of water), but we’ll still be outdoors for a bit. 1) I will make sure to have a drink with some sugar. A soft drink, a juice, a mocktail, lemonade, etc. If I’m hanging out in someone’s backyard for a grill out, I’ll try to have something like that or bring it with me. (We always buy G2 Gatorade and apple juice at the store.)

I do this often for my blood sugar – even when not out in the heat. Example: A long meeting? I’ll have a coffee to-go cup that is actually filled with some type of juice. Or I can do Glucose gel or tablets, but that’s more hardcore.

Sunglasses, always: 🕶 Squinting is a no from me. Sunglasses, always. I’m on the hunt for the perfect, dark pair!

Swimming, walks outside, and general hanging out can happen before the sun is up and blazing (like 10 am) or when the sun goes down. #VampireLife: This doesn’t mean I hide in my house all day! I still run errands, meet friends for coffee, go shopping, visit with family, etc. I just am not trying to hang outside! On a hot summer day in the afternoon, I wouldn’t suggest that a friend and I go do an outdoor yoga class in the park, rather – walk an indoor museum or see a movie. Walks are still there for me in the evenings and if I feel like swimming, I’ll go before it gets too hot. It’s all about adapting 😉

Wear a cap! One of my favorite bloggers, The Mindful Migraine, posted about this hat and then I found a dupe at Walmart! I’m going to wear this when walking Wex outside the apartment and tending to my plants.

Do you have any tips for staying at optimal health in the heat?

X,

Cristina