Weekend Migraines

I am writing this post in case it can help someone with migraines. Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. See a doctor. You know the drill. I am just some random person on the internet, most likely, someone you have never met. For all you know, I am a Russian bot. 

I have had migraines for approximately 30 years. My main triggers are overexhaustion (either muscle exhaustion or sleep deprivation), bright sunlight, and overhunger. All three together are usually a recipe for disaster. I do not have seasonal affective disorder–the clouds of Western Washington State were a thing of beauty for me.

Over time, I frustratingly developed a new pattern to my migraines–being woken up in the morning by a migraine already at crushing intensity. If I catch a migraine in its prodrome phase or early enough, I can often head it off. But, it is already too late for that when I wake up with one. The only possible correlation I could identify was perhaps the pillow? I knew that whenever I stayed in a hotel or something, I was at high risk. Maybe that accounted for the increased frequency at home, too? I bought several pillows to try, to no avail. Correlation did not equal cause, here.

One of the worst parts of this new pattern was the fact that the wake-up-migraines were hitting a high percentage of weekend mornings. At the time that the pattern was emerging, I was a medical transcriptionist. One day, I was transcribing a report for a doctor who had seen a woman complaining of waking up with migraines only on the weekends. I was so excited. I held my breath, waiting to hear the doctor’s advice to this patient.


She must be doing something differently. Drinking more alcohol those nights?

My heart sank, for her and for me.

At least I knew I was not the only one with migraines that occurred more frequently on weekend mornings.

Years passed. Years. So many migraines.

One day, I saw a meme on Facebook quoting Hippocrates as saying “Before you heal someone, ask if he is willing to give up the things that make him sick.” “Yes! Yes, just tell me what they are,” I mentally screamed. I don’t drink alcohol, caffeine, or soda. I don’t smoke. I do eat too many processed carbs including sugar and chocolate. That would take significant effort to change (I have tried before, so I know). But, if I had some high percentage assurance that making that change would do it for me (not some doctor telling me that would help my overall health because that is the rule for every illness and every person, or some random internet blogger with no medical training spouting their sure knowledge), I would do it. I would do whatever it took.

Last November, soon after seeing that meme, I was sitting in an all-day session for continuing legal education workshops (CLEs). The prodrome started. I picked up my bag to look for medicine. Nothing. I had switched bags recently. Frantically, knowing what was coming, I searched the bag. Nothing but a Tootsie Roll Pop. (Don’t judge.) Dejectedly and not caring that I was in a lecture audience, I put the Tootsie Roll Pop in my mouth. The prodrome stopped.

As soon as I got home I googled “migraine hypoglycemia.” There it was. One article. It described the nauseous feeling that is part of my prodrome. It mentioned that they can develop overnight as blood sugar falls while sleeping and recommended eating something high in fiber (to minimize the blood sugar swings) right before bed. All of a sudden, I recalled that one of my known triggers was being overly hungry, and it suddenly made sense why going for a walk (still without eating) in the fresh air (my cure-all for everything) often made my migraines worse when I woke up with one. And, it could possibly explain the weekend phenomenon: I am always sleep deprived during the week because there is always more that I have to do and want to do in a day than I can possibly do. But, on weekends, I do allow myself to sleep in a tiny bit, which equals more hours without food.

That did it. I still get migraines. Migraines are complicated creatures. During Hurricane Florence, the only reason I did not go to the emergency room was because I could not bear the thought of the bright lights in the waiting room. But, it has been four full months now, and I can definitely say that my migraines-on-waking are basically under control. I cannot tell you how huge this is.

I also realize that hypoglycemic blood sugar swings are exacerbated by processed carbs. So, while not making drastic changes, I am keeping that in mind as I consciously make food choices.

This post is for anyone out there who is googling “migraines on weekends” or “migraine when I wake up.” I’m not promising anything, but reading about that one possible connection between migraines and hypoglycemia changed my life.

My system right now (just for ideas for you — do whatever works):

In the morning, I pour boiling water over 1/4 cup of wheat berries/grains in a Thermos-type mug with a lid. At night, I drain the wheat (I use plastic embroidery grid that I have cut to the size of the mug), transfer to a bowl, and, currently, I am adding some fabulous orange-pineapple-cherry marmalade and a cut-up strawberry for a delicious taste. It is also fine plain, of course. I eat it while I am watching a few minutes of Netflix or reading a book while I wind down for bed. I have a “rescue” Larabar by my bed if I wake up feeling “off,” either in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Usually, I just take a single bite and fall back to sleep or that bite gives me time to get a proper breakfast. I save the rest of the Larabar without problem. That’s it. That is my regimen that is working. When I travel, I just take some granola or packets of Cream of Wheat for the snack right before bed rather than worrying about soaking wheat berries during the day.





Be Still and Rest

The peace in Quaker House right now is almost palpable. So much so that I repeatedly stop and wonder at it for a moment. One thing is clear — I must have really needed the change in schedule that was recently implemented (at my request), in more ways than I realized.

Cat on the back of couch.
Sophie to the right . . .

The regular work week here has been the normal Monday through Friday — except I also often have things work related in the evenings and sometimes Saturdays and always Sundays. I was wearing down. I thought it was because I was always around people, in the space in which I both work and live. I love people. I also love solitude. So, I presented a plan to the personnel committee that would allow me to have Fridays off (when not at an event), and, importantly, with the House empty as well.

Last Friday was the first of these new Fridays. But, I left on a (personal) trip within 15 minutes of the close of the day Thursday evening, just as an urgent need was making itself known. I tried to help connect people and resources as I drove out of town.

In addition, although I am a nightowl, I have recently committed myself to being available (awake and dressed) on call extremely early in the mornings. I now wake at 4:47 a.m. However, having just turned the whole Quaker House schedule sideways, logic suggested that I take Friday early mornings off too. I released myself from that obligation on Fridays, as well.

Tomorrow, is the first Friday here of the new schedule. There are things that will need to get done tomorrow, but there is no rigid schedule for them.

The stillness that has resulted this evening has made me realize the drain was not just being around people constantly, amazing as they are. It was also the simultaneously carrying concerns for family members experiencing stress, constantly preparing to defy my natural rhythms, walking around some physical clutter, and always having a busy schedule just waiting to pace my day. Those things have somewhat faded from the forefront this evening. I cannot shake the thought that the peace also comes partly from work recently undertaken that involves Quaker House in a small but significant way.

beautiful hand-knitted hats

* * * * *

Two years ago today (04-11-2017): Co-worker at Consilio Legal Services, Michelle Harkovich, kindly took a headshot for me behind the budiling where we worked, in front of beautiful flowering bushes. I needed it for an upcoming Quaker House newsletter announcing me as the new director. My thanks to Michelle!

Unrecognized Lifelong Grudge

I just had an epiphany about myself.

All my life, I have blamed Charles Darwin for creating tension academically and culturally in my world and, most egregiously, in a subject that I love — biology.

I have been relgious all my life. I have thrived in science all my life. So, yes, I am one of those people who came to terms with both Darwin and God. But, that tension is always there because it is never far from the headlines about school districts–will a district be teaching creationism/intelligent design or evolution or both? People dig in their heels and are passionate about their sides of things.

I must have been blaming Darwin for all that negative energy all this time; blaming him every time the debate resurfaced in the news.

I realized this, thanks to Facebook.

Meme with quote "The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man."
Meme posted by Facebook page Lecturum on 03.02.19.

This meme popped up, and I immediately loved the quote because it describes my daughter, her husband, and my neighbor so well. I love biology from an intellectual perspective, a fascination at the marvels and systems. They love animals from their emotional core identities. So, I smiled as I thought of them. Then, my eye dropped to the author of the quote, Charles Darwin, and I reflexively hmmmphed.

And, suddenly, I wondered why I reacted that way.

Taking time to think, I realized Darwin must have truly loved “all living creatures” too, both intellectually and emotionally. He dedicated his life to studying them, their similarities, their differences, their connections to each other and to himself. His studies led him to travel great distances so he could research amazing creatures. He tendered theories he had to have known would put him at odds with the Church.

I suddenly realized I probably would have liked this guy and, yet, for approximately half a century I have only given him the most superficial nod whenever he has sent another annoying disruption into my news cycle.

My apologies, Mr. Darwin.