Anatomy of a Setback: How I Recovered from Migraines…Again

Even when you’ve recovered from migraines, things can go from bad to worse so easily.

It’s frustrating.

You’re cruising along, successfully avoiding all your triggers, finally enjoying life again. Then – BOOM – out of the blue your migraines come back, with vengeance.

“What did I do wrong?” you pray to the migraine gods. They don’t respond.

So you’re back into the cycle again. Monitoring what you eat, questioning everything you do, checking in with your body constantly to figure out what you’re doing wrong.

What changed? The answers can be so subtle.

Today I’m going to share the story of my recent setback with migraines. Prior to this, I’d been migraine-free for over a year, thanks to a clean diet, better hydration, and my savior Dandelion, which I use both as a preventative and abortive migraine remedy.

I had been living my life again, without fear of migraine. I had even been able to do things that would have been pure insanity in the past, like staying out until sunrise three nights in a row to attend a series of concerts.

Then I did something stupid, and I’ve paid for it for months.

The Set-Up

my best buddy, Sophie
My best buddy, Sophie

This spring the weather turned nice early, and it was such a pleasure to get out hiking again with my best buddy Sophie. One lovely Saturday morning mid-April, we joined our group of dog-loving hikers for a 6 mile hike.

Six miles. This was definitely too much after the sedentary months of winter, even though the terrain was mostly flat. The temperature quickly climbed to the mid-70s, and I only brought one small bottle of water, which I shared with my bud. The last couple miles were tough, but like I said, it was flat.

When I got home I quickly packed my overnight bag and headed off to visit my Dad, as I often do on Saturdays. The next day was my grandmother’s 91st birthday, and we celebrated with a fantastic meal at a local seafood restaurant.

Although I drank plenty of water after the hike and throughout those two days, I was already doomed. Driving home Sunday evening, I suddenly felt very dizzy. “Geez, I must be dehydrated”, I thought (duh), and pulled off at the next exit to buy a Gatorade and the saltiest snack I could find.

That helped. Munching on salted nuts and sipping the sports drink, I carefully navigated my way home.

My Big Mistake

The next week I wasn’t that concerned. I went back to my normal protocol of whole, natural foods and lots of water. I got plenty of work done, and decided to reward myself with a Friday afternoon off. I headed out to visit a friend for the evening.

Shortly after I got on the interstate, I was passing an 18-wheeler when the world started spinning. I gripped the steering wheel tightly and pulled off at the next exit.

This time I was prepared. I pulled out the bottle of supplements I carried for just this kind of situation and took a variety of pills. I chugged a whole bottle of water and walked around a bit to see if I was still dizzy.

Everything seemed OK, so I ventured back onto the highway.

That was my biggest mistake. I should have gone home, but instead I continued to my destination. Not feeling right. White knuckles gripping the wheel. I stayed focused on my breath, singing to keep myself alert. It was a high-speed, eternal hour of pure terror.

By the time I arrived I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Actually, I was having a nervous breakdown, but didn’t realize it until much later.

The Price I Paid

The next week was the worst of my life. I was terrified of driving on the interstate, and had to find a new route to even get back home again. Sitting behind the wheel made me dizzy, and I’m still not sure if it was physical or just anxiety getting the best of me.

I spent the next four days battling migraine, and none of my usual weapons were working.

It really felt like I was going to die. I was afraid to go to sleep at night, worried that I might not wake up in the morning. Several times that week I nearly called EMS for a ride to the emergency room, but didn’t out of fear that the doctors would just run a bunch of expensive tests without finding anything wrong. I took my blood pressure repeatedly, and it was totally normal.

So I did what I usually do: I kept myself watered and fed. I kept track of everything I was eating, everything I did, every symptom that occurred. I looked it all up on the internet, gathering too much information to make any sense of it all.

By Thursday the migraine subsided, but I was fragile. Every few hours, that sense of foreboding came back. I didn’t know if I was going to have a heart attack, a stroke, or what. All I knew is that it felt like I was clinging to my life.

Two days later I discovered the cause: coffee. Every time I drank a cup of coffee, I felt like I was going to die. And I drink a lot of coffee.

So, I had to give it up. Coffee, the love of my life, had to go.

Actually, it wasn’t that hard: I had already cut down to decaf before this even happened. I used to drink anywhere between 6 and 10 cups every day. Late last year I had noticed the caffeine was making me feel crummy; I started drinking half-caf, then decaf.

After my dizzy drive through hell, the little bit of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee was making me feel like I was going to die.

Recovered from Migraines…Again

In the months since, I’ve been able to piece together what really happened. It started with dehydration. Not just lack of water – I was drinking plenty of water – it was low levels of electrolytes that set off the dizziness. Continuing to drive while I was dizzy created intense fear inside of me.

That hour of driving in fear burnt out my adrenals. It sapped my energy and changed my body chemistry, which gave me a migraine. And, since caffeine activates the adrenals, any time I drank coffee I felt like I was going to die.

It’s been a rough road, and I’m finally close to normal again. But I had to start over from square one.

The things that helped me get control over migraines before are only marginally useful now. My body chemistry is different. I’ve never had food sensitivities in my life, and now I’m noticing some foods and supplements really don’t agree with me. I’ve had to experiment with different herbal remedies than I’ve needed in the past. I’m trying new exercises, and even started getting acupuncture, which is great support for the adrenals.

The happy ending to this story is that I’ve now managed to cure my migraines twice. Each time, I’ve used the same method to work through the problem. You can read about it here: 5 Steps to Solving Your Migraine Mystery.

Everyone’s migraines are different, and one person’s migraines can even change over time. The 5 Steps help figure out what it takes to make your migraines better, starting where you are right now.

Please give it a try. I know your migraine mystery can be solved, too.

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