Unfortunately, I deal with chronic migraines. Not just chronic migraines, but hemiplegic migraines. And sometimes I do manage to get a migraine without the migraine, but with several other hemiplegic symptoms. Thankfully, I’ve gotten into a routine as a work from home mom that allows me to function most days, which is, frankly, most chronic migraine sufferers wet dream since a new medication only comes out about every 20 years…and it’s usually so goddamn expensive that most people can’t afford it.
I’ve looked into the “discount cards offered by pharmaceutical companies. You only qualify for the less expensive meds if you’re insured. How much sense does that make? I understand that health insurance blows and that it is cheaper for most of us to pay cash a lot of the time. I use a GoodRX Card…but even it doesn’t offer any real savings for the newer meds that may or may not offer any real relief for hemiplegic migraines. But again, I am functional most days. Here’s my how-to guide that took me quite a while (trial and error) to develop. It may or may not work for you, fellow chronic migraine suffer who may or may not work from home, because we all have different triggers. I hope you find it useful.
Affordable Preventative Meds
You read that right. I wrote “preventative meds.” I know that not everyone wants to take or can tolerate preventative meds. First, here’s what you need to know. Several years ago when I had insurance, I had a neurologist do all of the necessary workups, including brain scans, to make sure I didn’t have a tumor, epilepsy, or another issue causing the headaches. Nothing was found. It was at that point, after having migraines since I was 14 years old (I was in my 30s at that point…I am now 41 as of the date of publication), diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines. I was put on preventative meds that were covered by insurance with affordable copays. When my copays skyrocketed because of changes in insurance laws, I couldn’t afford the medications. The migraines came back. And it was hell for years. Stress made it worse. Certain foods. Weather. Light. Noise.
Last year, right around Christmas and a 14 day non-stop migraine, an ad for Cove popped up in my Instagram feed. They offered 60% off the first month, video neurology appointment, and the same preventative meds I took for around what I used to pay as my original copay. I am not totally migraine free, but they are manageable and I am functional. By the way, I don’t get anything for mentioning them here.
Dark Mode for Life
I use dark mode everything. My Kindle automatically switches to “comfort view” at a certain time because I don’t use it all the time. My cell phone is constantly in “comfort view” to keep the blue light minimal. The brightness is often at zero.
I use special screen protectors on my laptop screen that are designed to reduce eye strain. The downside of those….definitely the application process. I had a really bad migraine when they arrived. Despite the little stick they give as well as the cleaning cloth, I still have air bubbles. While there’s an extra screen protector, I don’t want to repeat the process (especially since I plan to replace this laptop soon).
I also use a Chrome add-on called Dark Reader. It’s free, but you can donate to their cause. I sure as fuck did. I chose Dark Reader because as a work from home mom, a lot of my clients use Google Sheets and Google Docs. A lot of dark mode plug-ins do not work on Google products. Dark Reader does…and there’s even a very helpful Google Support walk-through to set it up right. I also like that I can tell it which sites to work on. For example, it is always turned off on Canva because it’s practically impossible (for me) to work in Canva in dark mode. It is off on Twitter because Twitter’s dark mode is fine.
OMG, though, Upwork looks fucking amazing in Dark Reader.
And, yes, I use dark mode on everything even when I don’t have a migraine. It helps keep me in “no migraine mode” because I am that light sensitive.
When I work, I wear non-prescription yellow glasses. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t wear them all the time. I probably should. I’ve had mine for a year. I do wear them more often than not. I’m wearing them now. They are still in great condition. They reduce glare and continue to remove blue light. One time, I got into my graphic card settings and decided to remove blue light that way. My 22 year old son, who handles my IT, was not amused with me.
Cleaned Up My Diet
This one never wins me any friends. I don’t drink. I don’t consume dairy. I avoid my known food triggers. Period. I don’t go looking for trouble. It isn’t worth the problems it will bring to me.
I stay on top of my nutrition. I’m not saying you need to go vegan or anything like that. I am saying make sure you’re staying hydrated, staying away from your known food triggers (you know as well as I do it is not “just a headache”), and make sure you’re getting good nutrition. I take additional B supplements (not because I am vegan; I had an issue with B vitamin deficiency before that…and I wasn’t and am not anemic), I drink Amazing Grass Watermelon Energy, and (again) I avoid alcohol (it’s dehydrating, for starters) and dairy.
I Bought Sunglasses I Love
And, no, they didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. I bought them from Walmart on clearance. They remind me of the ones Joan Didion seems to favor. I am light sensitive, even when I have migraines that don’t include pain. So, I can wear sunglasses inside. A lot. Find sunglasses you like if light sensitivity is an issue for you.
Invest in lamps with low lighting. There are rave reviews about green lighting (adjustable brightness) for migraine sufferers. I, personally, haven’t tried it. I have a lamp with adjustable colors and brightness (although it is not the lamp made for migraines). I’ve tried the green at the lowest setting. It’s still too much for me…but I am extremely light sensitive.
Eye Masks and Benadryl
You read that right. I have eye masks and I have Benadryl. Talk to your doctor or neurologist before using Benadryl. The eye masks block out the light. I take Benadryl at a doctor approved amount to, when necessary, try to loosen up the migraine or sleep it off. And, no, I am not telling you what dosage I take. I am not a doctor. Talk to your doctor.
I Stay Hydrated
My preventative meds make me thirsty. I drink a lot of water. I stopped drinking soda over a year ago. I have a Pepsi once in a while, maybe once every three weeks. Primarily, I drink water and unsweetened tea. I hate sweet tea. I know…I know. Your body needs water. Your brain needs water. Get and stay hydrated.
It’s also important to not wash yourself out if you do take a preventative med that makes you drink a lot of water. If I have a migraine, I also make sure I drink something with electrolytes or eat some french fries with a little salt. I’ve found over the years that making sure I am getting some salt (to make sure I haven’t washed myself out…and, yes, I really have been hospitalized for “water intoxication” which means washing out my cells and you really do feel sick and drunk…and it happened by accident because of Sudafed 24 hour).
When Necessary, Go the Fuck to Sleep or to a Dark Space
I know this can’t happen every time for everyone. Hell, I work from home and I can’t always do it because I’m a special needs mom. On 7/8/2020, the day of publication, I’m recovering from a migraine without a headache. So, I’m kinda spaced out and icky feeling…but I know what’s like to just do everything to mitigate and still have to just give it up and go the fuck to sleep or need to find a dark space (and also know that isn’t always possible).
But that’s my guide of keeping myself functional with chronic migraines as a work from home mom (minus my workout routine…which is daily).