Stress induced migraines are not new to me. In 1st grade at the after school program I attended I was crying uncontrollably over a worsening migraine that was likely the result of a long school day. The teacher looked at me in awe and commented to her co-teacher, “This is more than just a headache. Take her to the office and call her parents.” Even they were alarmed by how severely my head was hurting • I can remember as a 7 year old frantically panicking that my head hurt too badly to complete a book report that was due the following day. My parents urging me that my teacher would understand and it would be okay. Meanwhile I was ill with anxiety which only exacerbated my head pain. • I recall a boy in 5th grade making fun of me for going to the nurses office everyday accusing me of just trying to get out of class. I turned to the teacher for my defense and her reply was, “Well, it’s not your fault you get headaches… but you DO go almost everyday.” And it’s true, I would walk to the nurse who always seemed unsurprised to see me. She would offer me an Advil that my parents had provided to be kept in her medicine cabinet and she would let my lay down with an ice pack and the lights dimmed for about 15 minutes before sending me back to class. • Much of middle school was this way too. The exception being when the pain was bad enough that it made me sick and they would allow me to call my dad in tears to pick up early from school • In high school I remember being at cross country practice in the sweltering East County heat holding my head against a cool metal gate in the shade trying to find a little relief in between hill repeats • And in college during one of my last finals handing my phone and notes to the GSI and explaining, “I want you to have these now because I have a bad migraine and I will be running to the restroom to throw up every 30-40 minutes until the exam is over.” (Mind you this was a make up exam because I had already cancelled the first one as a result of, yea you guessed it, a migraine) •
   As I’ve ventured to address my head pain I have tried acupuncture, essential oils, biofeedback therapy, Botox injections, occipital nerve block injections, physical therapy, chiropractic work, a variety of medications including but not limited to: SSRIs, opioids, beta blockers, triptans, and herbal vitamins. I am glad to report that looking critically at what I eat as having a direct impact on my head pain has actually been quite profound. Taking gluten out of my diet, reducing dairy and many spicy foods, and incorporating more whole raw foods has influenced a phenomenal improvement.
   Over the past 2-3 years the daily headaches have all but evaporated and the migraines have reduced from 3-5 times per week to 3-5 times per month (with some slight variation). The diet change along with a couple of the medications I’ve tried (Tramadol, Treximet, Relpax, and Frova) on an ‘as needed’ basis, Hemp Extract oil, and daily meditative deep breathing have helped to eliminate most headaches and migraines. Unfortunately, when I DO get migraines they are still so awfully severe I feel like pulling my hair out, like slamming my head against a wall, like I’m losing my mind! It’s a whole body experience of nausea, shooting pains, dizziness, and at its very worst even passing out. And this inescapable variety of pain is a direct result of stress. And this is so difficult to overcome because it becomes a slippery slope, a downward spiral of stress causing migraines and migraines causing stress. 
   When I develop high expectations for myself (namely an exam or a race) I often feel a varying degree of stress. Stress that is usually manageable. But once a migraine creeps in there is an all encompassing anxiety accompanied by a pounding pain that takes over. Suddenly the upcoming fear feels just as impossible and overwhelming as it did when I was 7 years old worrying about turning in my book report. 
   I experienced that feeling this week as a result of my nerves and excitement going into the race this weekend. A headache set in late Thursday night and did not let up until the following Wednesday; with varying degrees of nausea, severity of pain, and of course increasing feelings of stress and insanity. I tried every method of treatment at my disposal and nothing made a dent.
   Now on the other side of this migraine I’m doing my best to channel positivity for this upcoming race (because really… it’s just a race!) and keep perspective on the whole thing. I plan to think about the things I love about the sport, about racing, and have some fun with it! 
   I have come a long way from the hormonal 14 year old channeling anger and frustration over the incessant pain interrupting AP Courses and Cross Country practices. I’ve also come a long was from the 20 year old at University plagued by 72 hour migraines on a weekly basis impeding lectures and exams and triathlon training. I am grateful for the progress I’ve made, but I know I will need to find greater internal peace, day to day patience and mindfulness, and keep perspective in the face of stress and anxiety if I truly want to be free from head pain. 

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