Category Archives: migraine

A Feeling of Everything-is-alright-ness & Philadelphia Half Marathon

I think I love doing these races so much simply because they make me feel more alive. Just getting to the starting line last Sunday for the Philadelphia Half Marathon was a total well of emotions. And when I crossed the finish line … well you will just have to read on to find out what happens.

This year has been a big old wake-up call for me, most especially pertaining to my health.

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years, teaching yoga for 8 years, and health coaching for 3 years. I am also a perfectionist. Or at the very least have some major perfectionist tendencies. This perfectionism has kept me from coming clean, or being totally honest not only with myself but with every person in my life – from those who I see on a daily basis to those who sometimes peek at my social media presence.

My migraines took a turn for the worse around Christmas last year. They became more frequent, longer in duration, and the symptoms were more severe than I had ever experienced. I was getting a migraine every 7-10 days lasting 2-3 days and, without fail, I could not hold anything down; vomiting regularly and spending at least a day recuperating and rehydrating. I am still dealing with these severe migraines but I have taken several steps to make taking care of them a top priority.

I didn’t want to tell anyone what was really going on except for a select few because I thought admitting that I was having a challenging time meant I was a failure – in so many ways – including a failure as a yoga teacher and health coach. It hadn’t dawned on me that being truthful with myself and giving my health the attention it needed was a huge part of being the best teacher/coach I possibly could.

Since December 2013 I had to say no to so many people and events: from endurance events to weddings to teaching … it started to become so very apparent that my health was not in a good state. Not only that but I was not giving my health the attention it deserved.

I would be struck with a migraine and on top of the physical pain and discomfort I would sink into a state of depression. I am now learning to transition into migraine-mode with more forgiveness and compassion for myself. It’s is tough work, but I am learning to let go and let the migraine just take me into the migraine-state for however long it needs to process through my body.

So what on earth does this have to do with a half marathon? Well, I was hesitant to even sign up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. What if I got a migraine on race day? It was something I thought of every time I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. The list of what if’s ran through my mind endlessly. I finally came to peace with the fact that a migraine might happen on race day, but I also accepted the exciting possibility that it might not.

The very last run I went on before we left for Philadelphia, I said to myself “I’m going to run this thing” – that became my mantra and I visualized approaching the starting line with my friends and imagined what it would feel like to get back into doing this thing that makes my heart sing.

And guess what? I ran that thing! I got to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon and even set a personal best at 1:57:43. This was the first race for me in about a year which, if you know my history with triathlon and running, is a pretty big deal as I have spent the past 4-5 years filling my calendar with races.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.54.42 PMSo what happened when I crossed the finish line?  My eyes filled with little tears, I got that knot in my throat, and my heart swelled up. (I think I’m officially a “Finish Line Cryer.” Is that a thing?)

The days that I have spent on my couch in more pain and discomfort than I can come close to describing … those days have given me a greater appreciation for the days without a migraine. Where I am grateful just to toe the line at a race and be amongst the running community. Where I am grateful to share race stories with my friends, our teeth chattering as we make our way back to our hotel. Where I am grateful for that hot shower after a race, the water washing away the sweat and soothing my aching muscles.

It’s a feeling of lightness, of “everything-is-alright-ness” … and maybe migraines have given me more awareness of its existence.

PhilaHalfI am grateful for my experience with migraine. Migraine has given me a deeper understanding of debilitating pain and discomfort; it has given me greater appreciation for the days WITHOUT migraine – what a sweet blessing those days are; migraine has taught me to accept the help and support from loved ones when it is offered, and to ask when it is needed; and migraine got me to get my butt in gear this year to make my health a priority. We should never be so busy that we cannot take care of ourselves.

 

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To Toe The Line

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Sunday will be my first half marathon in over a year. Which, given my track record (no pun intended) over the past 4-5 years – a tendency to sign up for road races on a whim, compounding multiple half marathons in the same year as an Ironman – says a lot.

This year has been challenging to say the least and I limited myself quite a lot because of the severity of my migraines.

Sunday is the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I am most definitely undertrained, but I know that once I toe the line I will finish.

For me this race is much less about finishing, or finishing in a certain time (I have no doubt this will not be a PR race). It is ALL ABOUT toeing the line.

I just want to wake up Sunday morning, migraine-free, and get to that starting line. That will be enough for me.

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Migraines, Congruency, and When to Say No

congruencyEver since I was little I remember getting migraines. My first memories of them include lying on the Middle School auditorium floor, covering my eyes with my sweater, or my mother squeezing the tender spot on my right hand.

Fast forward to being 30 and I still get migraines. They go in waves of severity but currently they seem to be terrible, awful, and no good. Without going into too much detail, they leave me lying in bed (or on the couch) holding my head to try to manage the pain, making frequent trips to the bathroom because I cannot keep anything down.

I had a migraine just a few days ago. It came on Thursday night and finally started to subside Saturday evening. From the moment I woke up on Friday I knew exactly what was in store. I collected my pillow, most cozy blanket, and put on my most comforting yoga pants and headed to the couch where I would lie for hours in and out of sleep, switching ice packs every hour or so.

As the migraine worsened I started canceling obligations: work and social. I started thinking of what I was missing out on – the professional opportunities, the date I had planned with my boyfriend, the haircut, a day spent in sunshine. As Saturday approached, I started thinking about my time and the way that I spend it.

For all I know migraines are not life threatening. They are however very debilitating and affect my quality of life. They also reaffirm the idea of congruency, what is important, and what it is that gets me out of bed in the morning. Or, when suffering from a migraine, what is it that I miss doing the most?

And finally, these migraines are starting to shed light on the fact that I, like so many people today, have the tendency to say yes far too often and spread myself way too thin.

So why write about it in a blog post? I want to be completely transparent and use this as a commitment to my intention to say no with the confidence that I will not be missing out, especially when it is congruent with what I want. I’m starting to see that when we honor what it is that we truly want, we also start to learn more about the meaning of self-love.

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small.  My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” 
- Kim McMillen

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My Friend The Migraine

I am a little ashamed to write about this. Just as I am ashamed to admit every time I have a migraine. Here goes a post that’s not going to be very pretty, as I am writing it in the middle of what is turning into a 2 day migraine (let’s hope it stays that way.) It feels like a knife is wielding it’s way into my head on and off, on and off, throughout the day and sometimes it’s just on-on-on-on-on for a long time. Relentless pain with no relief. My brain is on fire. And then I get the nausea, vision auras, and if I’m really lucky, vomiting. I apologize if that grosses you out but it’s the truth.

The only relief I find is covering my entire head in ice packs (or my trusty migra-cap – thanks Mom!) or when I’m lucky enough to have someone squeeze my hand really hard to create enough pressure and pain so as to distract me from the pain in my head. I have had the occasional meditation class or session give me relief, either partial or absolute, and I know this is something I should turn to more often.

Instead what I will more often do is allow myself to enter the cycle of doom: a migraine starts coming on, I debate whether or not to take the uber-powerful prescription I have or do I ride it out, hoping it won’t last too long or be too painful? I then begin to identify WHY this particular migraine is setting in: stress from work, something I ate, bad karma. Seriously, all of that goes through my head and I play the blame game with myself, inevitably feeling immense guilt and stress not only for bringing this pain upon myself but also for how it might affect my actual life. Missing out on work, dinner with friends, being completely zonked when I teach a client even though it is quite evident to them that something is wrong. Words don’t come as easily and I don’t balance as well as I normally do in the balancing poses.

This particular migraine, while taxing, has been different. I am trying my darndest to stay positive. I did not cancel a thing and showed up for work at the office for as long as I could stand the fluorescent lights. These migraines give me a taste of what it might be like to have depression because I feel despondent, powerless, and unable to do some of the things I love most. Focusing on building my business with a migraine? Forget about it. Heck it’s hard to even read a chapter in a book.

For the people who know me, you also know that I get migraines, mostly because there is a good probability that I have had to cancel our plans at some point in time. Migraines make me dizzy, nauseas, throw up, unable to think coherently, depressed, down in the dumps, tearful, and worst of all – fearful. I am fearful that they will be a part of my life forever and that they might stop me from accomplishing goals that I set for myself. I realize this was a big reason why completing an Ironman was so huge for me.

So now what? Well now I do what I can to prevent more migraines (long story for another post, for sure) but I also have to accept and make friends with the migraines. When a migraine comes on, I literally see it as my biggest enemy, I give it a personality, it freaking HATES my guts and wants to ruin my life. There has to be another way around it. A way of laughing at the migraines. Like the time that I got out of jury duty because of the fact that I got migraines that lasted up to 72 hours. I swear to God that this was not intentional and I was only answering the questionnaire with 100% honesty when they asked about medical conditions. Now that is actually kind of funny.

I would have to say that another positive that I see from them is forced time for introspection and reflection. While it might be painful, it forces me to rest, eat well, meditate while at the same time I want to disengage from email, Facebook, my iPhone… I feel numb to all of that and alive to my thoughts and emotions, wild as they may be. I’m thinking I should pay more attention to these migraines and what they bring up.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

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