on TWM (travelling with migraine)

travelling carpet bag

Oh, hello Brain Storm readers. I haven’t been posting much lately because I’ve been on vacation. And for the most part, it has actually felt like a vacation and not an extension of some never-ending, sucky sick leave! Hooray!

The stuff I’ve been able to do over the past couple of months feels incredible. While gallivanting around the province of my birth to see friends and family and the ocean, I’ve been able to drive longer distances, eat ice cream cones back to back, swim in freeeezing cold water, listen to loud music, and even root through bins of glorious second-hand clothing while throwing up dust and the harsh stench of cheap laundry detergent!  Without interruption!

It’s exciting to be able to do more and feel strong again, and the temptation to run with that feeling, using all the energy I have (and sneaking tiny tastes of peanut butter and sweets along the way), is simply irresistible! So of course my body has reached a breaking point and slowed me down with three consecutive nights of pain, paired with three days of wonky speech, nausea, and general dizzy weirdness (I knew something was up when I dropped an egg on the floor followed by a bucket of berries, and kept mixing up the words to, for, and from).

Even with so many great-grand-wonderful days stacked up, attacks still feel awful. There’s a general sense of disappointment that makes perfect sense, but even when I imagine that the pain on its own could be totally manageable, the migraine stirs up this stupid (chemical? hormonal? alien disease from outer space?) acute depression thing that’s like the intensity of a dozen sad and lonely PMS hours all rolled into one potent blow to the psyche, and before I know it I’ve used up all of my host’s lovely 3 ply tissues.

So what can be done? Travelling and changes of habit/routine are well-known migraine triggers, and there’s endless advice out there about how to prepare. Aside from the inevitable increased exposure to triggers and missing out on the regular massage, chiro, and acupuncture treatments from specialists who know my condition inside and out, I’ve actually been able to take pretty good care of myself on the go. My bottomless TWM carpet bag of magic already includes peppermint oil, tiger balm, castor oil, ear plugs, heating pads, ice packs, epsom salts, the largest colour-coded pill organizer around, and a cooler full of low-tyramine, preservative-free snacks. Coupled with early bedtimes, yoga-times, and a dark, quiet room in every corner of the province, I’d say that’s pretty good planning.

I could go around convincing myself that I’m fragile when I actually feel strong, being more of a lonely hermit than a sociable traveler in fear of the next attack, but where’s the fun in that? I guess that a big part of deciding to TWM is resigning to the fact that my body is going to let me know when it’s had enough, and that it’s okay and sometimes completely necessary to have a good cry in an unfamiliar place and ask for help when I need it. And if I can survive vacation with more good days than bad, then maybe I’m just that must closer to being able to return to work.

(Please send your happy back-to-work thoughts into the universe on August 21st and 22nd, as that’s when my employer holds their next round of staffing meetings and might decide if and how they will accommodate my request for a trigger-reduced work space.)

Chronic painers out there, how do you manage your condition while travelling?

p.s. Stay tuned for info about an upcoming writing project for http://fighterzblog.wordpress.com/. I’ll be asking folks with chronic pain and their partners/bffs/lovers/co-parents to fill out an anonymous survey about how they deal in moments of pain.

One comment

  1. Laurie Brown · · Reply

    It’s astounding to me that when you’re body says NO! it has to do it in such an extreme way. Oh if only there were warning signs – if only there was a test you could do – like a blood sugar test that diabetics use that would alert you to a slippery slope. Whomever comes up with that one will make millions and millions of dollars!

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