I’ve been suffering from migraines since 2011, and although they’ve gotten much worse since then, I think I’ve finally found a regular treatment plan and life rhythm that helps me take care of them. They can really be debilitating, and I feel for anyone else who suffers from them. To give you a sense of how I’ve come to deal with them, here’s a typical week in my life and what I do to take care of myself. Keep in mind this is all along with some pretty hefty medication that I take twice daily, and about 80+ oz of water a day. I also work part-time while going taking class at night, hence the odd schedule.
7-7:30 am, Alarm goes off: Time to get up! I need to keep on a pretty regular schedule of waking up each day, and Monday is often the hardest day, especially if I’ve slept in at all over the weekend.
8 am, Breakfast: As much as I can eat – usually in the form of high-protein cereal or yogurt and mom’s banana bread sent from NC. That’s usually all I can get down thanks to my meds, though. No coffee – while some people swear by it for dealing with migraines, it’s been off limits for me for a while.
8:30-10 am turns into a myriad of homework, getting ready, and organizing before heading off to work, anywhere from 10 to 11 am. Once I get to work, it’s more of the same – email, getting things done, the usual.
11 am, if I remember, Snack: I need to eat every 2-3 hours. If I don’t eat often enough, it’s a recipe for a headache.
12:30 pm, Lunch while working
3 pm, Snack: Are you seeing a pattern yet? My day revolves around food.
4 pm, Break to work on homework at work while waiting for the later meeting
6 pm, Meeting at work
7:00 pm, Snack then a Workout
8:30 pm, Dinner: Often full of carbs – I was told not to eat a low-carb diet on this medicine and of course I’ve taken that to heart! By this time at night I need to make something easy which often means pasta and frozen veggies with alfredo sauce (the big kid version of mac and cheese).
9 pm, Homework: Whatever I need to do for the next day.
10:30 pm, Winding Down: I need to take time each day to read something for fun, or watch a TV show on Netflix – no staying up late doing homework for me.
11-11:15 pm, Lights out! I need 8 hours of sleep, non-negotiable. Given how light of a sleeper I am, I need all the time to sleep I can get.
Tuesday/Thursday (The two days I have class from 6-9)
On a bad day, I’ll wake up around 6 or 6:30 am and won’t be able to fall back asleep (hence the early bedtime). On a good day, I’ll sleep until my alarm goes off at 7 or 7:30 and repeat the morning routine from Monday. Everything is pretty much the same up until 3 or 4 pm.
4 pm, Head home from work and get ready for class: This involves gathering all my stuff including a variety of, you guessed it, snacks to get me through the 3 hour class.
5 pm, Big snack: I eat as hearty of a snack as I can – almost a dinner but not quite – in the hopes that it’ll tide me over through most of class
6 pm, Class starts. So does my countdown to when it will be socially acceptable to pull out my first snack. Luckily all my classmates are doing the same thing.
6:30 pm, I start to get tired. Sitting in one place listening to a lecture while it’s dark outside is hard for me! I start to eye my snack and do a cost/benefit analysis of how long I need to wait into the class for it to make sense for me to eat it.
6:42 pm, I cave and eat part of my snack and hope I don’t get too hungry later on. I figure it’s been almost 2 hours since I ate last.
7:30 pm, Break: Our professors are great and know 3 hours is a lot of class to handle so they give us a break halfway through. Much appreciated!
8:25 pm, Pure exhaustion sets in and my neck starts to ache: this can be one of my warning signs for a headache so I start to panic and hope that I’ll be able to get home to my bed before it gets any worse.
9:05 pm, Class is over.
9:15 pm, I’m home and in my pajamas, having yet another snack: One of the perks of living in Evanston is that I can get home very quickly after class. This is essential on nights when I’m not feeling good. Usually after class I’m pretty tired and end up just getting in bed, watching a show or two on Netflix, and turning off the light by 10:30. My rule is to assume that nothing productive will get done after class!
Thursday is usually a pivotal day. If I can make it through Thursday without a migraine, and get home and into my bed and feel fine, then it’s safe to assume I’ll be okay. My migraines very much have a weekly cycle that I need to try to take care of – the more I can take care of any known stressors over the weekend, the better, so I can allow for other events to pop up during the week and be able to cope with those without getting a headache.
After a good week, Friday is the day that I get to chill out, work a few hours, work out at the end of the day, and hang out with friends. After a bad week, I may end up in bed with an ice pack on my head sleeping off a headache. What really makes or breaks it for me is how much sleep I got throughout the week and how stressed out I was – really how much I got to stick to a routine.
7:30 am, Time to get up!
8 am, Breakfast and catch up on news and blogs that I didn’t read throughout the week.
9:30 am, Meeting at work
11 am, Snack time (I swear I feel like a kindergartner sometimes)
11:15 am, Catch up on emails – this is very much a catching up day for anything that got left behind over the last few days
12:30 pm, Lunchtime
2 pm, Head home for the day – if it’s nice enough out (in the winter that means above 10 degrees) I’ll walk home to enjoy the scenery
2:30 pm, Back to bed for reading and Netflix – this is especially important if I have a headache!!
5:30 pm, Work out
7 pm, Dinner
8 pm, Plans with friends – these can take on many forms, often involving taking the El into Chicago (which can make me dizzy, an issue I never had before these headaches). I’ll often head out to a bar with friends, reveling in my water or ginger ale while they get a beer – that’s right, no alcohol here, especially no wine or beer, which are huge migraine triggers for me. Only on special occasions do I treat myself to a drink.
11 pm, Kim gets tired. I psyche myself up for staying out with friends cause it’s going to be great!
12 am, Kim gets REALLY tired. I kind of get cranky but try to hide it. Cause being social is important and all.
1 am, Kim is ready to go home. I can’t really deal with staying up past my bedtime but I make exceptions on the weekend because I love spending time with my friends. I’m constantly weighing the benefits of staying up every extra hour with the potential for waking up with a migraine the next day.
Saturday and Sunday are often recovery days where I get back onto my regular sleep schedule (if possible), work out, get as much homework done as I can, and get some solid relaxing in, much like Friday. I really benefit from having a regular schedule and get so many fewer headaches when I can stick to my schedule, but sometimes I have to get creative to live the life I want to live. I’ve figured out how I can make sacrifices and what I can deal with, and where I can’t cut corners, and I think I’ve made a plan that works for me! This schedule will not work for everyone, and I know I’ll have to readjust it regularly as things change in my life, but knowing that I’m someone who has to have a schedule has been very enlightening to me.
If you suffer from migraines, I hope you’ve found a way to take control of your life – it really can feel like the migraines control you and not the other way around. Is there anything else you’ve found that helps you get relief?