Miss Migraine: Bleeding for Star Wars (literally) and unavoidable convention migraine triggers

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 28, 2012.

After four days of nonstop Star Wars awesomeness at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, Florida, I’m not even remotely ready to resume “normal” life or start classes (which happens tonight — I’ve even got a little bit of homework I need to do…). This was my fifth Star Wars Celebration convention, and like all the others before this one, the warm, open fan community inspired me creatively and personally.

The Star Wars fan community isn’t just about watching movies, reading books, and collecting action figures. We build life-size snow speeders, make movie- and comic- accurate costumes, build amazing LEGO sculptures of our favorite characters, create giant dioramas, write radio plays, make up new story lines, and so, so much more. We are active, engaged, and talented, and we have fun.

Celebration VI Jawa tattooine

Tattooine is hot and bright!

Although my head pain never went away completely, and I did have to take a painkiller the first day of the convention, I believe being engaged, active, and inspired is an incredible migraine analgesic. My brain was releasing so many endorphins that the pain, while present, seemed almost irrelevant. Either that, or being at Star Wars conventions gives me Force powers and I was able to temporarily heal myself.

Although the celebrity panel with actor Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine / the Emperor) was easily my favorite panel, waiting for anything at the main stage was somewhat of a trial. During the panel pre-shows, they played incredibly loud music and shone incredibly bright lights into the audience. I didn’t bring earplugs, because I’ve never needed them at a convention before, and normally the lighting is so poor as to eliminate any possibility of decent photography. I basically had to put my jacket over my face and plug my ears with my fingers to avoid an instantaneous migraine, but seeing the actual panels made it worth the effort. Still, I will probably send an email to the convention organizers mentioning the problem this caused me. I imagine it’s something they never thought about.

Star Wars bantha tattoo

I got this bantha tattoo on Sunday at the convention. Art by Jason Leigh. It hurt like a bitch, but at least it distracted me from my head!

This was Ian McDiarmid’s first convention appearance, and he shared a wealth of behind the scenes stories about filming Return of the Jedi (it took four to five hours to put his makeup on, and he got the part because the original actor couldn’t wear the yellow contacts). He was witty and smart (in response to an attendee’s wish that he be knighted, he responded, “You don’t need the knighthood when you have an Imperial crown.”).

At one panel, I also had to switch seats with my husband, because the person I sat next to had on enough cologne on to stun a gundark. And it was that heavy musky perfumey stuff that I can’t stand the smell of to begin with, not to mention the fact that any strong smells will give me a headache after about one minute.

Airplanes also give me migraines. It’s something about the cabin pressure, or the recycled air. I’m not sure. I can feel the pressure in my sinuses start to build up, which makes my face hurt, and before I know it, one of my temples starts throbbing. The flight home was fine, thankfully, but the flights to Orlando were incredibly painful. My husband got a migraine on the plane, too. But, unfortunately, there’s really nothing we could do about it except take drugs, use our aromatherapy products, cover our eyes and wait it out. Thankfully once we landed we both felt much better.

This was the first convention or Star Wars event where I’ve injured myself, and I must say I’m proud of my “battle wounds.” I fell and scraped up both my knees during the Bounty Hunt, a scavenger hunt where participants solve clues and search for “targets.” I wasn’t the only person who fell, but at least I had the excuse of running in a dress — no easy task.

Now I’m going to see if those Force powers will extend to homework and/or the errands I need to run today…

Miss Migraine: My migraine support team

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on July 31, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

The necessity of asking for help with a simple, daily task because my head is throbbing and I feel weak and dizzy makes me angry. It makes me feel helpless. It makes me feel useless and worthless.

Unless I’m literally writhing in pain in bed, unable to get up or open my eyes or speak more than a few words at a time, I probably won’t ask for help. Luckily, I have a support team.

My husband

D.J. didn’t want me to take this picture.

D.J. takes care of me without making me feel like I’m putting him out. If I can’t vacuum or buy groceries or pick up our weekly fresh produce subscription, he does it without complaining. I make sure to thank him for doing these tasks, because I am truly grateful for his support.

He also nudges me to take care of myself. It was at his insistence that I finally got an appointment at our local headache clinic. While I haven’t gotten relief yet, I have gotten hope, and a knowledgeable doctor who listens to me and is available by phone during office hours. D.J. also wants me to explore therapy options, and get my eyes checked (which I’m doing tomorrow–I’m kind of nervous about it!).

But perhaps more amazing is that despite the fact that D.J. often winds up doing more of the housework than I do, he makes me feel like I still take care of him, like he still needs me — just not to pick up groceries! This makes it much easier for me to relax and let go of things. He makes me feel valued and useful, and that is his greatest gift to me as his partner.

Lexi

Cater-corgi!

Although I may be slightly biased, I think Lexi is the most beautiful dog in the entire universe. She is also probably the brattiest. Even in her puppy pictures you can see the attitude in her eyes. She doesn’t like to be held, and the only time she likes to cuddle is at night or early in the morning before I get up. But when D.J. or I get sick, she stays with us constantly.

Corgis may not have the power to cure migraines, but they do have the power to cure sadness. There’s nothing like coming home to Lexi’s wagging nubbin and happy barks. She runs around me in circles, and if I wait too long to pet her, she jumps up on my legs and makes a noise at me.

She can sense when I’m feeling depressed or anxious and usually answers by bringing me a rope and asking me to play tug with her. I can’t remember a time when this hasn’t cheered me up considerably. She makes me laugh every day. (Lexi is now 13 and suffering from degenerative myelopathy, but she still makes me laugh every day.)

Jaina

Jaina is waiting for me to get her bone from under the cabinet.

Jaina is an 18-month-old German shepherd dog. Unlike Lexi, she’s more or less oblivious to our moods. But since she’s just about the goofiest German shepherd I’ve ever met, that doesn’t matter much. Her favorite activities include licking D.J. for long periods of time (especially his feet and hands), chasing her bones underneath the furniture and staring pathetically at one of us until we fish them out for her so she can do it again, and chasing her squeaky ball at the dog park.

While Lexi does keep me active, with Jaina I have no choice but to go for long walks every day. GSDs need lots of exercise so they don’t become bored — and therefore destructive, especially when they’re puppies. Regular, low-key exercise keeps me healthy and staying healthy helps keep my migraines in check. Not to mention that Jaina is incredibly lovey and cuddly, and never says no to hugs or squishes.

Family and Friends
So many other people have supported and continue to support me in many ways. My mom is always willing to listen to me complain, and my dad and I often talk about our respective health woes. Friends have driven me to the emergency room, bought me groceries, made me tea, and so much more. Thank you.

Sunset walk in the rain

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on July 76, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

The city always seems quieter in the rain, except for the cars splashing down the streets. Everything is hushed, subdued, like the rain is pushing it down, dampening it.

Last night we had no choice but to walk in a steady, post-thunderstorm shower. Our dogs needed to go out and we have no yard. Normally on our evening walks my husband, D.J., and I talk about our days, our plans, books we’re reading, New Yorker articles. Last night we walked in a comfortable silence. After a rough week migraine-wise for both of us, being together was enough; we didn’t have to say anything.

I listened to the soft, erratic plat, plat, plat, of heavy rain drops on the hood of my jacket. Through breaks in the clouds I could see the sky, still glowing with the last bits of sunlight, a smokey blue. Reflected light from downtown skyscrapers and street lamps illuminated the low-hanging clouds in a golden yellow. As we entered the park, I caught a glimpse of the sunset in the distance: deep orange and red on the western horizon, beyond the rain.

My 18-month-old German shepherd puppy bounded along the path, pouncing on a stick and carrying it proudly for awhile before abandoning it for another one. My Welsh corgi scampered in a straight line ahead of me, intent on walking, smelling, and marking her territory as much as possible.

Here was beauty — in the rain, the sunset, lights reflected in puddles — and here was love — my husband and dogs beside me. My head hurt, yes, but it didn’t matter. Like the city, the rain made my headache seem quieter, subdued. So I let the rain soak into me, pick up my worries and my fears, and carry them away.