Friday, September 12, 2008


Much like National Headache Awareness Week back in June, I've been extra aware of my head pain this week, which happens to be both Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and Migraine Awareness Week (in the UK). And I've spent this noteworthy week being rather ill, between a rather tall stack of Migraine triggers and some medical issues.

First, my family (Mom and sister) came to visit me. They live in Massachusetts, so it's an all-too-rare treat to have them come visit. Like me, they are both Migraineurs, so they "get it" about being sick and in pain, though neither of them have suffered with the severity of Migraine that I have.

My sister, mom and I went to Port Townsend for the long Labor Day weekend, to visit a pretty Victorian town none of us have seen, and to drive up to Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park. We drove up on Friday afternoon, returning on Monday. While it was a very laid-back trip and we cooked in the kitchen in our hotel room, it was still traveling, which always stresses out my body.

Tuesday through Friday, I was back at work, dealing with the typical stack of work triggers: fluorescent lighting, computer screen, food smells and noise. Being tired from the long weekend away made me more susceptible to my triggers, though I had a few days of recuperation before another long weekend. My mom spent the week traveling again, while my sister left on Monday night. In addition, the Lyrica I had been trialing as preventive #7 began giving me increasingly intolerable side effects, so with Dr E's okay I discontinued it on Friday, after several weeks of side effects.

Friday afternoon, DBF, my mom and I looked at a house before driving to Lake Chelan. This was more of a rush trip involving a lot of driving. By the time I got home Sunday night, I was completely worn out and dreading another week of work.

During my family's visit and our various trips around Washington state, the effectiveness of the Botox treatment I had back in June had been wearing off, meaning more pain and more Migraine symptoms. Luckily, Monday afternoon was my second round of Botox injections, and I was hoping for relief similar to my first treatment.

Wrong! This time, the injections hurt much more. Monday night, I felt awful. Bad enough that I called my doctor on Tuesday morning to report in about my side effects. Dr E called back quickly, and after asking me a few questions determined that I may be having a mild allergic reaction to the Botox. Great! He had prescribed a new preventive for me to try, Inderal, but suggested I hold off on it until I felt completely back to normal.

As if that stack of triggers and side effects wasn't high enough, I had a stressful week at work. My company laid off 20 employees on Tuesday, which amounts to about 5% of our firm. While we were very fortunate that my company was (and still is) financially stable, these employees were not laid off for performance issues. Our senior partners handled it well, holding four separate open discussions with the various teams and entire firm, inviting questions from everyone. They recognized how stressful the layoffs would be for all of us, but the shock of losing good employees (and friends) was difficult on everyone.

And because this stack wasn't quite tall enough yet, I worked 9-hour days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to try to make up for the work time I missed on Friday and Monday. So now, I'm in recovery mode.

What I need to remember in facing these types of life situations is that, first and foremost, I need to take care of myself. In my healthier years, I could handle the sort of stress that travel and work would put on my body without much trouble. But now that my Migraines are out of control again and I spend all of my time being sick, I need to take extra good care of myself during stressful periods. I've really done a number on myself, and I'm hoping that this weekend is enough to recover (though it may well not be).

I have been very frustrated and upset this week. Dealing with another failed preventive and an allergic reaction are difficult enough in my day-to-day life, but adding all this stress on top of it just threw my body for a loop. I had to leave work early today, after spending much of the day in a painful haze, to come home and nap. DBF woke me up for dinner, and after eating, I'm starting to feel less like road kill. I still feel incredibly dizzy, nauseous, achy (both Migraine- and Botox-related) and exhausted.

I had some plans this weekend, to go look at houses and run some errands. In all likelihood, I will have to postpone these plans and spend the weekend on the couch, trying to catch up on sleep and renew my energy reserves.

Megan over at Free My Brain wrote this week about her Migraines being invisible to herself. After these two weeks of overstressing my body and not taking enough recovery time, I find myself in the same boat. Acceptance of illness is a difficult path, and I find myself repeatedly learning the same lessons.

So, for the final few days of Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, I plan to be much more aware of my own illness, and treat myself with the patience and compassion I deserve.

Be well,

Monday, September 8, 2008

national invisible illness awareness week

Those of us with Migraines certainly understand the frustrations of living with an invisible chronic illness, one that brings us incredibly debilitating pain and other symptoms. Many of these frustrations we share with other members of the invisible illness community, specifically that Migraines are invisible, and those around us can't tell we're sick just by looking at us. Hence the word, invisible.

You may have noticed in reading my blog that I capitalize the words Migraine and Migraineur. I adopted this for many of the same reasons as my fellow Migraineur bloggers: advocacy and awareness of Migraine as a disease, and more than just a bad headache. Teri Robert of MyMigraineConnection explains her reasoning for the capital "M" in her excellent blog post, Migraine With a Capital "M".

Ellen Schnakenberg over at WEGO Health has recently run into trouble with the WEGO editors. Per AP style guidelines, diseases are not capitalized unless they are named after a person (Parkinsons, for example). Because WEGO follows AP style, they will not allow Ellen to capitalize Migraine in the WEGO newsletters. After some pressure, they have allowed her to capitalize Migraine in her own blog posts and articles. Teri Robert fought a similar battle with before she moved over to MMC.

This may not seem like a big deal. Follow the style guidelines and stop making a fuss about it already! But for those of us living with Migraine, recognition of our disease as what it is - neurological in basis with a genetic component, and incurable - is crucial. Public perception of Migraine is that it's just "a bad headache". How many of us have heard and been hurt by those insensitive comments? Can't you just take some Advil? You always have a headache. I used to suffer from headaches too, until I found ___ cure. Sound familiar?

Clearly I do not follow AP guidelines on my blog when it comes to this issue. And from now on, instead of capitalizing just Migraine, I will be capitalizing the names of all diseases - Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Lupus, all of them. Those of us with invisible illnesses not named after a person shouldn't have to be reduced to a lowercase letter, especially when these illnesses have such a large impact on our lives.

In the spirit of National Invisible Illness Awareness Week (September 8-14), I ask all of my readers to consider doing just one thing to raise awareness. That could be as simple as talking to your significant other about the details of your illness that you normally try to hide. It could be writing a blog post or a letter to a friend. It could be capitalizing the name of your illness, or all illnesses. It could be any of these things or others, whatever may be your personal comfort level.

For further reading about II Week, I encourage you to visit the II website and see what other bloggers are doing. If you have any ideas about raising awareness, I would love to hear them in the comments.

Find more videos like this on Illness-Disability-Healthcare-Caregiver Ministry Network

Be well,