In part one of this series, I shared my migraine journey. I have experienced them for 23 years now, so I’d say I’m pretty well-versed in the migraine area.
Now, let’s talk about causes and symptoms of migraines. It should be noted that I am not a professional, I am just a person who has experienced migraines for a long time. So all of this is written from my prospective. It is also important to note that everyone experiences migraines differently. So please keep this in mind as you continue reading.
There is quite a list of things that can cause a migraine for me. Lack of sleep, low water intake, too much caffeine, eating cooked red peppers, red wine, chinooks, stressful situations, not eating regularly and pressure on my shoulders and neck are just a few of my triggers.
It is somewhat of a running joke about how much I sleep (it’s lights out by 9:30 for me!), but I have found that I am bound to suffer with head pain if I frequently get anything less than 8 hours of sleep a night.
Cooked red peppers is a weird trigger, but apparently it’s not uncommon. It’s just like any red wine for me, even rose. And damnit do I love a good rose, but I cannot drink it anymore. I’m not exactly sure what it is about cooked red peppers that trigger a migraine for me, but raw ones are just fine. I do have to eat a fairly large amount of cooked red peppers to notice anything though. So it’s not a huge limiting thing for me.
Caffeine helps with migraines, but too much can actually be the cause of one for me. I do have coffee every day, but I don’t think I drink an insane amount. And fortunately I don’t notice any symptoms if I happen to skip coffee one morning. But who likes to skip their morning coffee… definitely not this girl!
Stressful situations are an interesting trigger for me. Leading up to the event or situation doesn’t seem to bother me, it’s afterwards that gets me. For example, our wedding was so, so lovely, but of course lots of planning and work went into it. I wouldn’t say I was overly stressed in a negative way, rather it was a high intensity situation. Towards the end of our wedding, guess what started creepin’ along… you guessed it – a migraine. This also happened when giving birth to Andee. In fact I even threw up several times while in labor and pushing because of my head pain. I’m not sure what it is about finishing an intense event, but I’m bound to pay for it afterwards.
I mentioned chinooks in the first post in this series, but they are for sure my greatest trigger. I can feel the change in barometric pressure in my head instantly. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains where weather changes happen often as well, but I’ve never experienced anything like the weather changes here in Calgary. When a chinook is blowing in from the west, the temperature can vary by 20 degrees Celsius (that’s 36 degrees Fahrenheit) from the west side of the city to the east side of the city… AT THE SAME TIME! So if I am driving from my house to work, the temperature can be 20 degrees different from one location to the next and along with that, the pressure change is completely different. So I will sometimes feel an insane pressure shift in my head on my 30 minute drive to work. Have I mentioned yet that Calgary weather is insane?
Symptoms for me vary from migraine to migraine, but I definitely have had plenty of them to know when a migraine is about to come on. My symptoms are loss in vision, floaters, loss of normal speech, numbness on one side of my body, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain and sensitivity to light and smell. I don’t always have every single one of these symptoms with each migraine, but I do experience them quite often.
I will often have floaters (little black spots) in my vision a day or two before a migraine hits. Then about an hour before a migraine comes on, I tend to lose my vision to some extent. Either a black circle will appear over half my line of site or I will have crazy flashes of light (think a techno rave, but isolated over half of my vision). It hinders my vision enough that if I hold my hand out in front of me, I won’t be able to see at least half of it. It doesn’t cause me any pain, but it is very debilitating.
Speech is a weird one for me that I only started experiencing once moving to Calgary. The first time it happened, Keenan and I were in Banff eating lunch and I just started speaking gibberish. It freaked me out, but really freaked Keenan out. It was like I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t get the words out. It was just a jumbled mess. Fortunately this symptom does not occur every time and it usually only lasts for like 20 minutes. However, it does happen often enough that even my elementary school students will know when to go pull some games out because Ms. Keri cannot talk right now. Pretty rough, hey?
Also before a migraine hits is when I experience the numbness. It will come and go in different parts of my body, but it is always isolated to one side. If my migraine is on the left side of my head, the numbness will occur on the right side of my body. I will usually experience the numbness in my lips, fingers and toes. It’s like my hand is asleep, but I can’t shake it awake. Again, this typically lasts for only about 20 minutes, but it’s not fun at all.
Vomiting and diarrhea don’t occur every time for me, but they usually are a packaged deal. Fun. It’s like my body is in so much pain that it’s just trying to expel all the hurt that’s inside. Vomiting with a migraine is super painful, like one of the most painful things I’ve experienced… and I’ve given birth. So ya know it’s bad! There is already so much pressure in my head that when I do end up vomiting, the pressure is intensified immensely. This is the symptom that often led me to the hospital in high school because I just simply could not deal with the pain.
Writing out all of this is pretty crazy for me. I always knew migraines were rough, but damn, they are just plain awful! As I mentioned earlier, I have found some treatments that help (thank god!), which I will share in the next part of this series. If you have migraines, do you have similar triggers and side effects? Please share as I think the more information out there, the better!