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If there’s anything worse than a migraine, it’s an unexpected migraine. Right this very minute I’m dealing with a pretty rotten migraine. I want more than anything to go back to my cool, snuggly bed and sleep the day away. Unfortunately, as a single working mom, that’s not really an option. Life needs to go on. I have deadlines to meet. It’s hard to think through the fog, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. Then again, I used to have warning signs. I typically knew when a migraine was coming on. This one came without warning, and it brought along new friends.

If there's anything worse than a migraine, it's one that comes with no warning! Check out how to cope with unexpected migraines.

The Evolution of My Migraine

Did you ever notice that the minute you think you know what to expect from your migraines, they throw a new curve ball at you? I’ve been dealing with headaches most of my life and consist migraines for at least two years now. In the past, I knew the minute I woke up in the morning if it was going to be a migraine day. The signs were there: a twinge in the back of my head, a slightly louder than average ringing in the ears and an off-kilter feeling accompanied by mild nausea. If I felt those things, I knew it was going to be a rough day.

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The other night, though, for the first time ever, I experienced the “aura” that many people get with migraines. I completely freaked out! I told my mom I was going blind, convinced that this was the end of my seeing days. My mom asked me to describe it. I told her it looked like a jagged prism off to the left, but it was in both eyes. She showed me pictures online of “ocular migraines” and they were a perfect match. While I was incredibly relieved that I wasn’t going blind, it still freaked me out. It’s bad enough trying to work when my head hurts, but when my whole vision is impaired by what looks like  a sun-catcher gone mad, it’s like adding insult to injury!

I’m not alone, and that kind of makes me feel bad!

I know I’m not alone when it comes to suffering from migraines. Nearly 36 million other Americans deal with the very same issue. Some of us are triggered by things like lack of sleep, stress and changes in weather. Others get migraines from triggers like bright lights and certain food ingredients. The way we experience migraines can differ greatly from person to person too. My migraines come with skull-crushing pain, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, really loud ringing in my ears and other symptoms that make it far more than just a headache.

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All of these symptoms make it harder to get through the day. Even after I get the headache part under control, I feel so wiped out that I just want to sleep in a dark void for a week. Unfortunately, as I said, that’s just not possible.

Tips for Dealing with Unexpected Migraines

How do you get through an unexpected migraine when you can’t crawl back to bed? I’m still learning, to be honest. A few things that help include:

  • Keeping a journal or log: Since you’re not going to feel like writing War & Peace when you have a headache, keep it simple. A notebook where you can write down the date, time and a few quick words about potential triggers and your symptoms. Later, when you’re feeling better, you can expand on the entry.

Migraine Journal

  • Avoid your triggers: once you learn your triggers (or at least a few of them), you can make a conscious effort to avoid them. While it’s kind of hard to avoid changes in weather and a noisy household (especially if you have barking dogs, meowing cats and playful kids), you can avoid things like food triggers.
  • Prepare for the unavoidable triggers: For those triggers you simply can’t avoid, make yourself a migraine kit to cope better with them. If noise sets you off, carry ear plugs. I have really light colored eyes that are crazy-sensitive to sunlight, so I carry sunglasses everywhere. Make sure you’re also following your doctor’s recommendations for dealing with migraines.
  • Take a time out: Although I can’t tuck myself into bed and sleep away my migraine, I can give myself a 20-minute “time out” break and shut my eyes for a few minutes. Alas, I have to set the noisy alarm to make sure I don’t turn it into a snooze fest, but it definitely helps take the edge off. If you’re out and about when a migraine hits, try giving yourself a time out in the quietest spot possible.
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Coping with unexpected migraines is always a challenge, but if you’re prepared, you can take the edge off of them at least. For more great tips on dealing with migraines, visit MoreToMigraine.com.