I have been getting botox for migraines for the last three years. The treatment has changed my life dramatically and beautifully. My migraines are 50% better, and none of them are even half as severe as they were prior to botox. I can deal with migraine symptoms that send me to bed for two hours instead of two days, or head pain twice a month instead of five times a month.
There are reminders that I get every time I see my neurologist for this treatment. Things that I inevitably forget (or ignore) within a month after visiting. This time, I’m making a concerted effort to remember, because they make all the difference.
1. Consistency is key.
Consistency is so freaking challenging for me. I know it would be in my best interest to keep a regular migraine diary. I know that it would be in my best interest to manage my diet consistently. To sleep regularly and have a consistent bedtime and wake up time. I know these things. But it is such a challenge. I rarely feel consistent from day-to-day, and those shifts invite me to shift in other areas of my life too.
I put my yoga time on the calendar weeks in advance as if it is an appointment, and I cannot miss appointments. This has helped me commit to my practice. But geez!, I cannot fill up my calendar with appointments for daily chores, keep a migraine diary, eat, sleep, exercise, empty the dishwasher, shower, and take my dog for a walk. It makes me feel like a freak (and that judgement is what I need to let go of!). A routine in the midst of a body that is anti-routine is one of the most difficult things for me to find some peace with. But I’m on it this quarter. Consistency is a key word for me.
2. Anxiety is connected to migraine.
Sometimes I forget this connection and it can send me into a tailspin. My doctor reminded me — anxiety is part of Migraine Prodome. It can precede a migraine by a few days. It is part of the process. The earlier I can recognize that, the earlier I can treat the head pain. But sometimes (well, most of the time!) I don’t recognize it. I get tied up in my anxiety and forget. I forget to notice my yawning, my craving for chocolate and my muscle stiffness. I focus on the anxiety. It is challenging to step back and see it in context. So my learning is — notice the context within which the anxiety is happening. Observe myself even when anxiety is overtaking my body.
3. Keep a doctor you love, and depend on her.
I have been seeing Dr. Judy Lane, a head pain specialist in Denver, for the last five years. I have to drive five hours each way to appointments with her. I make arrangements for lodging and my husband takes off work to go with me. It sometimes feel like an ordeal and I hate when everything has to stop to deal with my migraine. It seems like such an “event” and it bugs the sh#* out of me. And sometimes the drive just feels overwhelming. But each time I see her I remember how valuable a good doctor is. She changed my life at the first visit. She didn’t blame me for my head pain, or my pain killer usage. She supported me out of rebound headaches. She schools me for not being good to myself, but she never judges. She works with me even with my inconsistent routines and inability to remember things. And she’s consistent in her support in my being healthy. This is a gift.
4. We are not a job title. Nor are we our jobs.
When I started seeing Dr. Lane I was working 50-60 hours a week. I was chronic in a bad way — head pain daily and working from my bed when I couldn’t make it to work, which was several times a month. I would strand myself somewhere in town often, being struck with debilitating head pain and unable to drive. I would have to wait for my husband to come rescue me. Dr. Lane supported me still, but yesterday (and every other time I have told her that I do not work like that anymore), she really cheers for me. It reminds me that, while working like that can technically be done, it is SO not recommended or smart in any way. I have had to learn that my worth is not dependent on a job title, or on my job. A huge lesson for me. And something I have to keep learning over and over again.
5. Pain is just pain.
Getting botox hurts. The shots in my head are freaking painful. The anticipation of the pain sucks. It makes me nauseous and can trigger head pain before I even get to the doctor’s office. But I was reminded yesterday again — the pain is just pain. It goes away and the result is worth it.
6. Let your support system be there for you.
Relying on other people, and letting them be there to support me is a constant lesson for me. I don’t want my family to be troubled by my migraine, so I have often tried to just make it on my own. Yesterday my husband and parents were all at my neurology appointment with me. I started to feel guilty about it. And then I reminded myself how good it feels to be cared for, and to have people around me. That is healing. And that is a gift. I am working on remembering that. Every Day.
Every. Single. Day.