The Migraine Carnival prompt: Tell us about your favorite tool(s) for coping with the challenges of living with migraine or another headache disorder.
When I first I first think of a migraine toolkit, I think that mine is mostly mental these days, although there are a few very real and physical items in my basket. The more I think about it, the more balanced in physical and mental it becomes. So what are some of the items?
My Physical Toolkit -
1. I'll get the most obvious out of the way first: Medications. This is actually not as a big part of my migraine toolkit as you might think. Part of that is because, when I was in middle school and just beginning with status migranous, I took so many OTC painkillers that I now get rebounds from all the basics, save Naproxen Sodium (Aleve). So painkillers don't really hit the spot with me anymore. In fact, I don't take many abortive/relieving medications in general.
2. The next that comes to mind is the most important: my Laptop/Internet. I got my first personal laptop in 9th grade when I was getting such that I couldn't get off the couch even enough to sit at the desk to do my homework for weeks and weeks at a time. I had been able to fudge it when I was in mid-school, but now I was a freshman in high school, so my parents got me a laptop for homework.
Well, it started out that way, but pretty soon I was getting online with it as I hadn't enough brain for the homework I was supposed to be doing. I could, however, start to network and find out that I wasn't the total lone, freak of nature when it came to chronic migraines that I had thought I was before then. I made friends with some wonderful people who helped me learn how to smile despite, or rather, through the pain. I'm friends with some of those people still, and we've watched each others' conditions shift and change, but our friendships are solid because they were forged with something so basic as a desire to survive.
Some of the things that my laptops and the Internet have helped me with are key in the next section.
My Digital Toolkit -
1. The Spoon Theory was one thing for which I will always be indebted to the Internet and whomever it was who pointed me in it's direction. When I went to ButYouDontLookSick.com for the first time and clicked on the Spoon Theory's link, I found I was suddenly finding a new way to look at myself and my life. It was a revelation I'll not forget anytime soon. The "spoons" gave me something I could use to communicate with the rest of the world. I've shared Spoon Theory with many sufferers of chronic pain since then, and it's made me pleased that I can help them get the help from Christine's Theory that I did.
I actually got a planned for years, and finally got a small spoon tattooed just behind my right ear, as a reminder that, on my worst part of my body, I'll still always have another spoon to draw strength from.
2. Another thing in my digital Toolkit I've already mentioned, but I'll bring up again. Friends, most of The moral support that they give me is just incredible and I honestly do not think I could have gotten as far as I have without them. And I know that friendship isn't a one-way street; it takes two. I do my best to treat everybody as on as an equal footing and level of understanding as possible, because I know that I don't want to be judged by any physical part of me, but rather "the content of my character." Thus I get to know many people in a way that others don't, and I feel all the luckier for it. I've learned so much, and, in my turn, tried to help as much as possible/appropriate to help, cheer on, or just be there and listen to those I come across.
Knowing that I have the capability, and have utilized that capability to make the world a little more tolerable or even better for somebody else makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I'm contributing to the World, not as I had intended as a child, but contributing none the less.
My Mental Toolkit
1. One of the most important things in my mental toolkit comes from the years of my SE therapy. SE (Somatic Experiencing) therapy helps an individual who's been exposed to trauma, which in my case is chronic pain, learn how to deal with the activation that that trauma can cause. It's actually very much more detailed than all that, but I've never successfully been able to explain how SE works. The Somatic Experiencing website explains some of it better than I could.
What I can tell you is that I've learned to pendulate my focus away from the pain to more neutral or even positive sensations, but not deny the existence of the pain. I tried to deny the pain for too many years, by basically shutting down my entire brain on an emotional level so that I wouldn't have to deal. It was ugly and didn't work to help, but rather made the situation much worse. That's when I got into SE therapy.
2. The way that IListen to Music I listen to a very wide variety of genres of music. I'll listen to Top-40, Classic Rock, Symphonic Metal, Opera, you name it. I love music and am incredibly blessed that I don't get too auditory sensitive to all sounds when I get a migraine spike. Instead, deep, driving bass and hyper-frequent sounds trigger, but middle range is fine. I find that I can create playlists that will fit different kinds of moods or even different types of migraine pain, and I can listen to those songs and get some relief.
Sometimes I need to listen intently to the music, and other times, it's basically white noise to block out, and, when I block out the music's sound, I succeed in blocking out some of the pain. It can work either way, depending on the type of migraine.
So those are just two of each idea of what I keep in my migraine toolkit.
Well, all save one, because it goes in all of the categories: Books.
There are the physical books that I read when I can. "Beach books" Mom will call them when explaining what I read to others. I can't handle books that take too terribly much thinking, but I do like to escape into worlds where people are almost guaranteed that the Good will win a happy ending. Sometimes a happy ending is called for when times get thick in real life.
Then there are the mental books. The ones that I start to, or do try and write. I loved writing when I was younger. English was my favorite subject until I reached Great Books and Humanities, and then it was a draw. Keeping myself thinking about how a book could be written, when I have the spoons enough to "brain" like that, make me feel like I'm still a part of that person that I had been before the migraines overwhelmed me.
Lastly, there's my digital book. It's the best way I can describe it, although it's also physical. I'm talking about My Secret's website for the children's book that I wrote. I've tried very hard to make it a good website, and a good book, for kids with chronic pain who are struggling to learn how to deal. Knowing that I've put it out there, and that I've actually got a couple of people contacting me, saying that it had helped them/their child... it makes me feel that my childhood of feeling alone and freakish might have been worth it if I can make another NOT feel that way.
There, now you have some idea of what I keep around me in my toolkit/s to deal with the migraines.