There was a time, dear reader, when I got migraine headaches — a lot. It was debatable on whether I got them every day or whether I had the same headache for multiple days, but often I would go to sleep with a headache and wake up with a headache. And yes, it was a migraine. There are very distinct characteristics of a migraine, and I had them. How could I sleep with a migraine? I don’t know. I just could. I could also go to work, take care of my kids and go to school with a migraine. Mostly because they were a nearly every day part of my life and for the most part, I learned to live with them. For the most part. I remember the first time I was struck down with a migraine. The trigger was something that still triggers me to this day — though I didn’t know it at the time — and that was the setting sun. I was walking outside with my friends, I was about twelve I think. I was carrying this big ol’ mirror down the street. Holding it in front of me like kids do. It was one of those mirrors that hang on the back of a door. I don’t remember why we had it, but we did. “You’re gonna break that if you’re not careful!” people keep saying as we walked down the street, but what did we care? We were teenagers and invincible. It was a long, summer day, and I remember us laughing and giggling about this silly mirror. We had a steep driveway that led to our apartment parking lot and we were walking down that, because of course we were. Like, who walks on the sidewalk when you can walk down the driveway? Anyway, that’s when the setting sun hit that mirror and reflected straight into my eyes. Bam! Instant headache. Blinded and dizzy by the unexpected pain, I stopped dead in my tracks and sat down on the hot gravel. If I remember correctly, my friends pulled me out of the road and ran to get my mom. I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I’d never felt anything like it. I would like to say before or since, but I have since felt it… many times. After that initial migraine, I started getting them on the regular. Like… almost daily. This was back in the late seventies, early eighties. Let’s just say, that I’m familiar with the migraine headache. I’m in my fifties now, dear reader, I’ve been getting them for decades.
So why am I talking about migraines? Because I want to talk about triggers. There are a few things that triggered my migraines. Notice that I said “there was a time” in the beginning? I still suffer from migraines, but not nearly as often as I used to, and the reason behind that is because I searched for and found what was causing them. The doctors who told my mom they were stress headaches were partially correct, because stress is one of my triggers. I had a crap childhood and my first marriage was… stressful. Once I divorced my first husband, my migraines went from almost daily to every other week or so. Every other week is still a lot, y’all. So I looked for different triggers. The first one I stumbled upon was the one mentioned above. You know those montages that happen in the movies when someone has an epiphany? Yeah, that happened to me. There I was, walking down the street with my friends, and there at a high school football game, and again in the park having a picnic with my family, and again walking with friends, and so on… Bam! Bam! Bam! Sudden and terrible migraines every time. I distinctly remember the high school football game even now. Because everything was great and wonderful until I stood up to cheer for my team and then crumbled to the ground as the headache just… shot through my right eye like an arrow. I remember cussing and crying and all of my friends were alarmed and concerned because it was so sudden. They thought I’d been hit by something like a rock because I was holding my eye and crying. Anyway, when I figured out the sun trigger, I avoided going outside or being near widows around the time of the sunset. Not always practical — especially when I worked in places with big, picture windows that faced west, but I tried. Sunglasses help. And my migraine instances went down. It’s so sensitive, dear reader, that I have to avert my eyes if there’s a particularly spectacular sunset in a movie. And sometimes if the light is just right during a sunrise, it will invoke a migraine too. But mostly it’s sunsets. Maybe because I don’t get up early enough for sunrises, I dunno. I haven’t figured out exactly what it is about them, the color of the light, the way it reflects on things, or what, but something… instant migraine. And the worst kind of migraines too. Like sound hurts, light hurts, my eyes hurt, don’t touch me! migraines. Even this picture here will make my eyes twitch, but no migraine… But what’s weird is that it took me until I was in my forties to figure out the sun thing. Like, I just never made that connection. Once I did and started avoiding the sunset, I was like, “Well, duh.”
But they weren’t gone. Two more triggers remained to be rooted out. One I was able to do something about and one I was beyond my control. The one I couldn’t control still gives me migraines, and that is that sometimes my sinus headaches will morph into migraines. It doesn’t always happen, and I’m never sure if it will happen with a sinus headache, but yeah… And the other, well, it was a bit difficult to find, but find it I did, serendipitously. I actually stumbled across a comment in a forum somewhere that read something along the lines of: “Have you tried eliminating high fructuous corn syrup?” and everyone in the forum poo-pooing that as ridiculous. But I thought about it and said, “It won’t hurt to try.” So I did. Y’all… y’all… I’m here to say that my migraines all but disappeared when I took HFCS out of my diet. Okay, that’s not quite true. I mean, this was during a time when my life was still pretty stressful, so I still had them, and I worked in a store with the aforementioned picture windows facing west, and there’s the sinus thing, but my migraines went from every other week to… like… I stopped even keeping track because I knew what was causing them now. But! Let me tell you this for nuthin’, it is not easy to cut HFCS out of one’s diet, especially here in the USofA. Not easy at all. That stuff is in everything. It took me six long months to cut it completely out, and even now I have to carefully check the ingredients of foods to make sure the recipes of the foods I eat haven’t changed. Now, I’m not saying that if I accidentally eat something with HFCS in it that I’ll get a migraine. Like if I eat a burger from a fast food place the bun most assuredly will have it, and I won’t get a migraine. But if I eat a burger every day for several days, I will. I tend to give the buns to the dogs, just to be safe. And if I eat a piece of candy that has a high concentration of HFCS, yeah, I’ll get a migraine. I found that out the hard way.
And I told you guys all of that to tell you this. I have this pain in my side where my gallbladder used to be. It hurts y’all. Like… hurts. Unlike the migraines this pain started out slowly. Like I’d get it started happening back in the ninties, and I’d get it once every year or so, then maybe once a year, then every six months, &c… I have tried eliminating a lot of things from my diets to make it go away — nightshades, FODMAPs, gluten — to no avail. And I’ll keep trying. Because like my migraines, this pain has landed me in the ER a few times. It’s that bad. I think that they erroneously took my gallbladder out thinking that was the cause. Since they did that, the pain has increased in frequency exponentially. The intensity is about the same, which is to say… it fucking hurts! >_< Before they removed my gallbladder, I’d get this pain once, maybe twice a year. Now it’s nearly a daily occurrence. I was on some medicine that helped, but the medicines I took are supposed to be temporary and they’re really hard on the liver. So, I’m trying an elimination diet. Like the high fructuous corn syrup, I ran across another comment buried deep in a forum that asked, “have you tried eliminating soy lecithin from your diet?” and of course everyone was all: “Soy lecithin is harmless.” But! there are a couple of studies that say it might not be if you’re sensitive to it. And that’s where I am now. But, like HFCS, soy lecithin is ubiquitous in the American diet. So whenever I think I’ve eliminated it, it sneaks in through something I never thought it would have it as an ingredient. So far though, it seems to be working. Kind of… The pain in my side has gone from being a daily thing to being a once in a while thing, and I’ve stopped taking the medicine for it. If I can stick to the plan. This is not a diet to lose weight, dear reader, it is a diet to eliminate pain. That’s what all of my diets are. I don’t eat a lot as it is. If I cut any more calories I would be on a starvation diet, and that’s not good for anyone. I think though, that like my migraines there isn’t just one trigger… Nah, that would be too easy. I’m fairly sure what another trigger is, and even though it’s way easy to cut out, it’s easy said than done. I’ll talk more on that in a different post. For now, I’m gonna see if the soy lecithin thing pans out. Thanks for listening.