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6 Things I Learned About Migraine From Journaling
photo of woman writing in notebook

I’ve gone in and out of journaling.  I obviously love to write, but journaling always felt like a scrimmage instead of the real thing. I never really quite got it. I know it’s supposed to help, and I definitely kept a diary as a young girl, but I’ve looked at it skeptically. It has yet to feel truly like therapy on paper. I rarely reread my entries. Maybe that’s the problem.

Recently, I kept a 30-day journal about my life with migraine. It may have finally clicked for me. It wasn’t the writing (although it was somewhat cathartic), it was the reading it back. Here are six things I learned about my migraine and myself from journaling.

Yup, stress causes it. I noticed several patterns as I read back over my journal entries. Many of my migraine episodes were triggered by stress -- caring for ailing family members, a communication issue with a co-worker, or saying “yes” to too many things.

It hurts to see someone else suffer. My husband battled severe headaches while recovering from COVID. I’m used to being on the other side of the headache stick. Perhaps it really bothers me because I know how debilitating migraines can be when I see someone I love dealing with any kind of headache.

Everything looks like COVID. When I was a kid, I remember calling everything “the cooties.” Your eye is a little red -- you got the cooties! Cough a few times in class? Ewww, you got the cooties! Now I’m grown up and cooties have been replaced by a very real and potentially dangerous five-letter virus. Headaches are often an early sign of COVID. So now, even when I know my period is on the way or I’ve had a trying day, my mind pauses for a second.

Migraines are tough, but second to some. I wouldn’t wish migraine headaches on my worst enemy. That said, I also deal with sinus headaches from time to time, and for me, they are much worse. My sinus headaches come with many of my same migraine symptoms -- often debilitating, some nausea, inability to concentrate, and lasting for hours or days sometimes. Unlike my migraines, I have yet to find a remedy for my sinus headaches. Nothing I take OTC or as a prescription seems to help! So far, no natural remedies have offered relief either.

Grief can cause a migraine. Folks talk about stress causing migraine headaches, and for me, that’s definitely fact. However, while journaling the past month I realized that other emotions can be a trigger also. I’ve gotten an anger migraine, an overwhelmed migraine, a happy migraine, an embarrassed migraine, and at some point in the last 30 days, I must have been on the receiving end of a grief migraine. I didn’t write a lot of details. I’ve lost several close friends and family members recently. I’ve had a lot of back-to-back sad moments. I realized I can get a migraine from just feeling blue.

Travel is not as carefree. I’ve written about traveling with a migraine before. I’ve learned some hacks, but as I prepared to travel home to see family, I was reminded (by the pages in my journal) that traveling with a chronic condition takes some planning. I never, ever want to be caught unprepared while traveling. So I pack what I need to make sure I don’t get caught off-guard with a migraine. I pack lavender, prescription migraine pills, and an ice pack sometimes. I also build in buffer time in my schedule as much as possible to avoid being overwhelmed.

I learned a lot about myself while journaling through days and nights as someone with chronic migraine. I also learned that the days go on and the pages turn, and I continue to live my best life -- migraines and all.


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Photo Credit: vitapix / E+ via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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