Niamh Reid (pictured above)
Migraine is a complex neurological condition with symptoms that range far beyond a headache. For me, it manifests as hemiplegic migraine. I don’t always get the intense headaches.
My migraine symptoms mimic a stroke, leading to hours, days or weeks — with numbness, tingling or weakness down one side of my body. I have chronic migraine, which means I have more than 15 headache days per month.
Navigating my migraine symptoms and lifestyle
I recently attended an online talk from The Migraine Association of Ireland with Dr Nick Silver, who noted that migraine treatment should always start with lifestyle. After several failed treatments, I chose to stop waiting for a silver bullet and focused on controlling the controllable, while still working with my neurologist.
I have chronic migraine, which means I have
more than 15 headache days per month.
My analogy for migraine symptoms and coping
I view migraine management as steadying a Jenga tower. I picture each brick of my ‘Jenga tower’ as an element of my lifestyle that keeps me on an even keel. Each time one shifts out of place, the tower gets a little more unstable. With too many missing bricks, the tower crashes down, and a migraine attack begins.
This build-up of triggers or ‘wobbly bricks’ causing an attack is called Migraine Threshold Theory. When I feel my tower wobbling, I focus on tapping each, little brick back into place with good sleep, regular healthy meals, regular exercise, mindfulness, hydration and nature — particularly sea swims.
Understanding and approaching migraine symptoms
I talk openly about my condition — not in a constantly complaining way. This has also helped in my relationships as my friends and family now understand that if I need to cancel plans or leave early, it’s because I need to. Has this approach ‘cured’ my migraine? No. Has it made my life much more manageable? Absolutely.
Some days, I climb a mountain; some days, I climb under a blanket, and that’s okay. If you live with migraine, know that you are not alone. Chip away at the little things you can do, control the controllable and hold onto hope.