Migraine Triggers Don’t Have to Take Over Your Life


At the first sign of a migraine, WebMD blogger Michele Jordan tackles it head-on. She knows her triggers – the three Cs: cheese, chocolate, and cocktails.  But patience with herself and understanding from others goes a long way, she says.

Video Transcript

MICHELE JORDAN: Hi, my name is Michele Jordan. I’m from Los Angeles, California. I have had migraines for over 30 years. And I am a writer. I do a lot of health and medical writing mostly for WebMD.

There are many triggers that I have for my migraines, first what I call the three Cs: cheese, chocolate, and cocktails. Those three things get me every time. And they’re three of my favorite things. Those are some of my triggers. I’ve noticed that stress, not getting enough sleep, not getting enough food. Whenever my body feels out of balance, I tend to have a migraine.

I often have severe nausea with my migraines, occasionally some vomiting, dizziness, fatigue. Sometimes it can affect your speech, your eyesight. It really does impact other areas of your body than just your head.

Whew, my relationship with migraine has changed over the years. I remember being very young and very scared. Even though migraine runs in my family on my mother’s side, I didn’t know just how intense the pain would be and how serious and debilitating the symptoms are, nausea and sensitivity to light and other things.

So when I had migraines, I really was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to address them on my own as I got older. I was grateful that I started having them while living with my parents. But as I moved out on my own, and I started working, driving a lot more around the city, I really was nervous that I would have a migraine episode without anyone to help me. I even had to go to the emergency room a few times to get pain relief for severe migraine.

I have learned so many lessons about dealing with migraine episodes. Two important lessons I’ve learned, one, the first one is to attack them right away. I used to ignore migraines. I used to continue with my day, continue working, running errands, whatever I was doing, thinking it would go away, or I could just brush it under the rug.

Not so. I have learned that when a migraine episode happens, the best thing for me and many others is to address it, take medication if needed, lay down. In some cases, I’ve taken the day off from work. But I really can’t ignore it. It’s not effective to do that.

Second thing is to communicate to friends, family, coworkers around me that I have a migraine episode. It’s kind of a warning. I may need your help. I may have to take time out for whatever we’re working on. And fortunately, I’ve found most people are very accommodating and understanding. I’ve even heard folks say, sure, whatever you need because I also have migraine.

Fortunately I have a lot of people who have shown up for me in my life with migraines. And the biggest person has been my husband. And when I’m just not up to having fun in that moment or I have to change some things that I’m eating, if I’m laying down, and I’m suffering through a migraine, and I can’t cook, and I need food, he will show up with my favorite meal and leave it for me to eat when I’m ready. And so I am grateful that I married such a compassionate and supportive husband.

The biggest thing I want people to know who don’t have migraines is that it’s more than just a headache. I think some people who don’t have migraines feel, oh, it’s a headache, a typical headache that they themselves might have. And it’s different.

We really need patience from folks who are hearing about our migraines in the moment or just in general and understanding that we are doing our best to make it through the day. We’re doing our best to remain productive. But we have this big monster that’s preventing that. So patience and understanding are the things that we need most.

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