Early Second Trimester Migraines

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about chronic migraines and pregnancy in which I expressed my hopes that my migraines would get better as I entered the second trimester. So far, those hopes have not been realized. In fact, my migraines have been worse in the past two weeks than over the past two months combined. And, it seems I’m not alone.

Many of the pregnant women on the Whattoexpect.com forums who are (like me) due in October report suffering from debilitating migraines. Often reported statistics indicate that 50 to 90% of women with migraines experience an improvement in their migraine frequency and pain levels during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Apparently, neither I nor the other women in my forum group are included in this majority.

I have not had the chance to ask the other women who are reporting problems if they suffer from migraine with or without aura. Evidence seems to suggest that women without aura tend to do better in pregnancy than women with aura. Based on this findings, I (a chronic migraineur with aura) had expected to see little to no improvement in my condition over the course of my pregnancy. But, of course, that didn’t keep me from hoping.

Now that I’m in the fourth month of pregnancy and the early part of my second trimester, that hope is starting to wane.

Known as the “planning trimester,” months four through six are supposed to be the best months of pregnancy. The months in which you have the most energy and can really prepare for the baby’s arrival. The months in which you finish up any outstanding projects (like the book I’m supposed to be writing and the thesis that’s due in just a few weeks). The second trimester is when you’re supposed to do all the prepping and planning that you were too sick to do in the first trimester and that you’ll be too tired and too big to do in the third.

While I have managed to put together our baby registry and figure out what baby proofing items we need to buy from my bed, I certainly don’t feel up to finishing my projects, renewing my exercise routine, or preparing a nursery. (Heck, I can’t even clean my bathroom, despite that fact that every venture beyond the bathroom door leaves me in a slight state of disgust.) In short, I’m so tired and suffering from so much pain that most days all I want to do is bang my head against the wall, sleep, and cry.

To the other women out there who are suffering from the same thing: my heart goes out to you. Hopefully, better weeks and months are yet to come. For now, I’ll be crossing my fingers and hoping that the energy boost I’ve been promised will come by month five at the latest.

Why I Write About Migraines

Migraine disease is largely invisible. Yes, my husband can (usually) tell if I’m getting one by the pained expression on my face and the irritable tone in my voice, but by and large it is an invisible illness. This means that most of the time I suffer from it – and through it – alone. Writing this blog helps.

Before getting involved with the online chronic illness, invisible illness, and migraine communities, I often felt desperately and terrifyingly alone. No one I knew understood the intense and long-lasting agony I was experiencing every day, all day. Sure, I had a few friends who experienced occasional migraines, but even they were unsure how to relate to what was happening to me. By writing about my migraines, I gained access to the people who could (and did) understand.

I get a lot out of writing this blog. I get to vent, and I get to be heard. But, most importantly I get to share with people who “get” me and what I’m going through. I gain comfort from my readers. And, I think (I hope) I offer comfort in return.

It isn’t easy to handle being chronically ill. (In fact, I still find it difficult to even consider myself as a chronically ill person.) You all help me with that. Knowing we are not alone is perhaps the biggest gift we can give each other, and I thank you for giving that gift to me.

Those of you out there who also are suffering with health issues, do you write about them? If so, why?

The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge 2012: Quotation Inspiration

This is my first writing prompt for the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. The first post was technically due yesterday, but as some of my readers may have realized, I’ve been rather absent these last six to eight weeks. So, I’m jumping in with Prompt #2 as my Prompt #1. (And, as has been the case so often of late, using one of my very limited “get out of post free” cards for yesterday.)

Today’s prompt asked us to write about a quote that inspires us. Mine is from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This always feels exceptionally relevant to me. I have written before about feeling less than able to accomplish my goals and dreams because of my migraines. When I get to feeling down and thinking about all of the things I cannot do, it is easy to forget that there are so many things I can do – especially if I figure out how to adapt in order to accomplish more of what I want to accomplish.

When I first became very ill, back in 2008, I was worried I would have to quit my full-time, high-pressure position as a Controller for a group of health clinics. Most days, I could barely stand to get out of bed. How, I thought, was I supposed to work 8 to 10 hours a day at the office?

The answer: I adapted.

I switched offices so that I could be far away from everyone else, and I began shutting my office door, in order to keep out any noise. I brought in a small lamp for my desk, and turned off my overhead lights. I also spoke to my boss, informed her of my situation, and began taking work home with me, so that if I really couldn’t get out of bed the next day, I could work from home. Eventually, I began working two to three days from home, where I could lay down while I worked. It wasn’t easy, and it did have its drawbacks, but it was better than it could have been.

Over time, I realized that the high-pressure world of accounting and finance management wasn’t where I wanted to be. And, with my ever-increasing migraines, it wasn’t what was best for me either. I had always been a writer, and had even worked as a part-time freelancer for about five years, so finally I decided to make the break and go full-time. I knew I would have control over my hours, my working environment, and the projects I accepted. The pay would be less – especially at first – and would also be sporadic, but it would give me what I needed and seemed to have so little of – control over my life.

It has now been almost three-and-a-half years since I made the switch, and I couldn’t be happier with the situation. There are trade-offs, of course, (feeling isolated, for instance) but overall I’m very happy with my decision. Not only do I have more power over my health, I also am able to do what I love every single day. By adapting in the face of tough odds, I feel I actually improved the quality of my life, despite the toll the disease has taken.

For those of you out there who are struggling with migraines or any other chronic illness, I encourage you to review your own situation for places where you may be able to introduce some change to bring about an improved quality of life. Change is always hard, and a little scary, at first, but it really does work. I wish you all the best.

Feeling Less Than Able

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my life and the impact I want to have on the world. And, as I consider the list of things I’d like to accomplish, I’ve realized a disturbing fact – there are some things that I now doubt my ability to do.

These include the ability to:

  • Commit to any high-stress job that requires long days in a typical office environment. This means many things I would love to do – such as going to law school and working as a PD,  going to grad school and finishing up my neuropsychology degree,  or opening my own financial management consulting firm for small businesses – are potentially out of the question forever. Fluorescent lighting, varied sleep schedules, and long, long hours all mean increased migraine.
  • Make promises to my daughter about future events. Some days the migraine comes on full force, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It doesn’t matter if she’s in a play, or has an award ceremony, or wants me to attend a field trip. I can’t do it. And, knowing this can happen, that I can be completely disabled at a moment’s notice, I don’t promise it. But, I wish I could.
  • Pack my calendar. I can get a lot of stuff done in one day. I can write five articles, edit three chapters of a book, read two newspapers and two trade journals, research a big project, enter two poetry contests, help my daughter with homework, go to dance class, make dinner, balance our budget, pay bills, and spend quality time with my husband, all in one day. IF, it’s a good day. But, if it’s a bad day, if the migraine kicks in by 7 a.m. and ramps up to a level 7 or 8 by noon, I’m lucky if I get even one of those things done – let alone all of them. So, while I can crowd a lot of stuff into one day, I have to leave room for the bad days. And, this means planning for less than I feel I can accomplish, just in case some (or all) of tomorrow’s scheduled work has to be pushed off until the next day. And, I hate that.

There are, of course, more things that could be added to this list, but these are the big things. The things that make me feel less than able even when I don’t feel dis-abled. These are the things that remind me, on a near constant basis, that I am, in fact, chronically ill. And, on some days, I really, really resent that.

What about you? I know I’m not alone. What has migraine disease left you feeling less than able to do or accomplish?