Back in your cave, you migraine monster!

This week we are featuring a guest post by Igor who shares some thoughts about the balancing act involved in dealing with migraines. This post originally appeared here:

My latest migraine attack was two weeks ago. I was in Ostend, on the Belgian coast, in the apartment my parents had rented for the week. After a fantastic day full of walking in the outdoors, I slept like hell and woke up at 8 am with a terrible headache. I went to the toilet, threw up and went back to bed. Until I had to run to the toilet to throw up again, after which I went … back to bed. Ten hours later, I felt strong enough to have a little sip of water. At 7 pm I ate a piece of bread. Another hour later, I felt the headache slowly leaving my body.


                                            Image: Medium/ Igor Daems

Actually, leaving is not the right word. The migraine slowly crawled back in its cave, that’s how I experience it. The migraine is in me. And I can keep the monster in its cave by:

  • staying fit
  • eating healthy food
  • having the exact amount of sleep I need
  • drinking lots of water
  • breathing lots of fresh air

On the other hand, I can piss the monster off by:

  • drinking alcohol (especially red wine)
  • having too much caffeine
  • sleeping too little
  • sleeping too much
  • having a cold
  • exposing myself to too much light
  • being jet-lagged

It’s like a balance: the more bad points I score, the bigger the chance the monster breaks loose and fills my head with pains.

At the seaside, I breathed a lot of fresh air. So I thought, why not have a glass of red wine during dinner?

  • the balance is even (fresh air <-> red wine)
  • I like red wine
  • on many occasions I’ve had red wine without having a headache afterwards

But I forgot that I also had a cold and that the window of my bedroom couldn’t be opened (no fresh air during the night). Clearly more negative points than positive, the result: an ruthless attack by the migraine monster.

Strangely enough, on the eve of the attack, my parents and I discussed my migraine. I asked my mother to tell me the story again of how it all began. She explained that after a family dinner in 1979 (I was two and a half years old), half of the family, including me, turned ill. It turned out to be hepatitis A, probably after eating contaminated food. After a while, I got better (as most people do) but started to have migraine attacks, approximately one each month. No doctor ever confirmed that there is a link. But my mother seems to believe there is.

My biggest frustration is not that I have migraine (it has always been a part of me + a lot of people are worse off than me) but that I’m, at age 37, clearly still not able to control it.

I’m considering getting a tattoo on my forearm. A picture of a balance and all the things I can and cannot do to keep the migraine monster in its cave. I really need to be stronger than the monster.

You can read more on Igor’s blog here: