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23 July 2017

Summer Migraines

Summertime is the season where most people enjoy the warm weather, spending the day outdoors, going to the beach or pool, or just lounging out in the sun.  These are things I would like to partake in, but summer for me means intense, long, drawn-out days of pain. There have been two heat waves in two weeks in my neck of the woods with temperatures feeling well over 100°.  Last week I had a migraine attack that lasted three days.  I'm now on day six of the most recent one that started this Tuesday.  As the heat index rises, so does my pain.

Having weather as a trigger makes summer one of the most uncomfortable and painful seasons for me.  Between the heat, humidity, changes in barometric pressure, and the many thunderstorms we get, my head does not have a fighting chance.  I do my best not to venture outside of my air conditioned home when the temperature is above 90°.  That being said, I spend a lot of time at home because most days are 90°+.  It can be a very boring and depressing existence.

With this almost week-long migraine I have been feeling rather depressed and anxious.  My pain levels range from a four at the lowest to an eight at the highest daily. There isn't much for me to do other than stay in my dark bedroom, watch Netflix, ice my head, and take my meds.  Housework falls to the wayside and laundry piles up.  Dinner doesn't get made and the kids are eating hamburgers and hot dogs for days at a time.

Needless to say I feel useless and guilty that my kids are stuck at home playing video games or watching YouTube instead of enjoying their summer vacation.  About two weeks ago I managed to make a trip to Virginia Beach, which is about 2 1/2 hours south of me.  I packed lunches, water, gatorade, towels,  and sunscreen and drove my three kids and my daughter's friend to the beach.  It was extremely hot that day.  I believe the high was 98°. We left around 8 a.m. and got there just before 10:30 a.m.

I was able to find parking directly across from the boardwalk and beach so walking in the heat wasn't too much of an issue.  I rented an umbrella as to keep out of the sun and I had on my favorite outdoor Axon Optics migraine glasses (which were claimed by the Atlantic Ocean by a rogue wave that knocked them right off of my face. 😠😭) We stayed for three hours and I was able to enjoy the water, even though it was really cold.  I could stay in the water forever.  I love the ocean. Pools trigger my migraines because of the chlorine so I stay away from them.  I would have stayed longer but the traffic going back looked horrible driving down there, plus my youngest son didn't want to stay.

So we packed everything up, loaded up the car and prepared for the long ride home.  The traffic was horrible and it took us 3 1/2 hours to get home.  I was exhausted from being up so early in the morning, the drive there, and from being in the heat.  Needless to say, a migraine started on the drive home.  We kept hitting pockets of standstill traffic.  It felt like we were never going to get back home but we finally did at 5 p.m.  All I could manage by then was a shower and then I crawled in bed.

I knew that taking this trip would risk triggering a migraine attack but I was willing to make that sacrifice so that my kids did something fun.  I plan on going again but with my husband this time so that he could do the driving.  People who do not live with migraine do not understand how much it affects the choices we make and determines whether or not we can fully participate in life.  Planning and executing that trip to the beach took days of preparation mentally and physically.  I had to make sure to not overdo it the whole week prior to ensure that I didn't bring on an attack that would ruin my chances of going.

Living that way brings a lot of anxiety because I am constantly worrying about the possibility of a migraine attack.  Everything I do dictates whether or not I will be in pain.  This is magnified during the summer because just stepping outside will trigger an attack. Therefore, I have to be extra careful about the choices I make in how I am going to expend my energy. 

For instance, we would like to take the kids to Kings Dominion, an amusement park not too far from us.  Unlike most people, I can't just jump up and go.  I have to plan everything out. First, I have to check the weather forecast and choose a day where it's not going to be too hot and possibly be partly to mostly cloudy.  The less sun beaming down on me the better. Second, I have to find breathable and comfortable clothing so that I don't overheat and wear comfortable and supportive footwear to protect my arthritic feet.  

Third, I have to make sure that I have my abortive medication with me.  That means making pill packets that are easily transportable so I don't have to bring my prescription bottles. Fourth, I must bring a washcloth so that I can wet it and keep it on my neck to keep me cool.  And last but not least, I must be sure to be well hydrated every day leading up to and including the day we go so as to not risk dehydration.

I have to mentally prepare for a day like that well in advance because I know it will take a toll on me.  I want to enjoy myself as much as I can before the migraine hits (because I know that it will at some point).  We plan in advance which rides we will go to and in which order the day before we arrive and set up blocks of time in which we will do it.  We always get the premium parking where you can park closer to the entrance of the park so I don't have to walk as far. 

We like to go on a weekday and get to the park right when it opens.  We go to the popular rides first when the lines aren't as long making it easier on my feet and legs.  I always make sure to sit and rest as much as possible so that I don't overdo it. I take a lot of breaks and drink lots of water.  Everything is paced out.  I even have to watch what I eat because there are food triggers everywhere in amusement parks.

On top of all that I have to ensure that my kids are having a good time and that their needs are being met.  It's exhausting just writing about it.  Actually doing it is another story.  I'd love to just fly somewhere and stay at an all-inclusive resort and just lay on the beach but due to financial constraints we don't have the luxury of going on vacation.  So I want to make sure that they have a good time when we are able to take them places, even if it means I suffer.

Summers are hard with managing the ongoing migraine attacks and the burden of making sure my children are happy, entertained, and enjoying their break.  It's a tough road to navigate and I sometimes fail at both making me feel like total and complete crap.  Even though I enjoy the break from the school year, I long for the fall when temperatures are cooler and the need to occupy my children is no longer there.

Until that time arrives, I will do my best to keep myself comfortable while making sure this is a fun summer for the kids.  It isn't always easy to do but as a person living with migraine disease, I do as much as I can to make it a summer of fun despite my limitations. Managing migraine during the summer is hard with there being so many obstacles.  It's a special sort of dance or balancing act each time the season comes around.  Finding that sweet spot is tricky but possible if I plan accordingly.  It is definitely anxiety inducing but it's par for the course in this life of chronic pain.

As long as I remember to take care of myself first, use my self-care tools, and utilize all the tools in my migraine toolkit I can find some middle ground and have some fun too this summer. 🌞

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