On March 28th, I sat down and pondered a question posed to me by Head Health: What is your migraine story?
I was a few weeks away from the beginning of my 18 week journey with the MENT Protocol and had the opportunity to really sit back and understand what my story looked like. It was deeper than medical charts and a diagnosis and recognized that my story was simply that of fortitude, of continued strength and perseverance. It’s a story that’s been shared with all of you and has created this vast network of individuals who are all on this journey with me.
If you want a refresher on the original piece, you can read it here.
But as I look back over the last 18 weeks I’ve certainly grown a lot.
I said that my story was a bridge that I’d built to connect the disabled, chronically ill community to the rest of you but that’s really not the whole picture.
So what’s changed and how have I worked with the tools and strategies within the Protocol to create this lifestyle that is really meant for me?
What is MENT?
I want to start with the basics. I’ve referenced here and there that I’ve been participating in the protocol/lifestyle program but I haven’t gone into much detail.
For starters, you can find information and learn more on their website here.
This is a lifestyle program designed specifically for migraines and headaches that allows us to take a more individual and whole body approach to understanding the multifaceted nature of migraines. It is currently in the preliminary phases and will continue to grow.
The program narrows in on some key areas that help us connect symptoms, health history, migraine and headache types to various lifestyle elements including nutrient deficiencies, foods that are best suited for each individual, and education about the environment we create around ourselves.
I made the decision to embark on this program with one goal in mind: to increase my awareness and expand my knowledge of all things migraine and health related.
My Progress: In the Beginning
I’ll be honest, I lost sight of my goal to simply learn very quickly.
Before the program began, we had some preliminary materials to go through and some people saw instant results with these new ideas for how to live life including incorporating mindfulness and actually cooking meals at home rather than eating fast food. This made me feel a bit behind, but truthfully I was ahead because these early concepts were things already present in my life.
Although I was ahead with a lot of the early material, there were a lot of habits that slowly began to change under the surface.
In April I was reactive. So much had happened in the beginning of the year and I truly had little control over my emotions. Ironically, I published a piece on mental health around this time – I think it’s important to point out that this piece is still valid and having good mental health is different from from being emotional.
I was also struggling to maintain goals that I was setting for myself.
With this program, I found some great success as I had a solid foundation to keep me on track with my goals. The major success I had early on was pushing myself to get outside more and stretch every day.
I am still stretching every day, and sometimes even getting some more rigorous yoga in. I’m gotten worse at getting outside, but it’s 100 degrees most of the time so I’m not feeling too awful about it.
The first few weeks were slow and fairly routine for me. I wasn’t discovering “new” information, but much of what I’d discovered in my own research was being backed up and confirmed. Confirmation was really needed, as it proved that I was absolutely on the right path.
Biggest changes in the beginning:
- Explored new morning routines ~ this led to the discovery of a few really awesome podcasts (Stuff You Should Know and School Your Soul are my top two)
- Embraced airplane mode on my phone ~ from around 11 pm to half an hour after I wake up, my phone is on airplane mode so I don’t feel inclined to respond to any notifications. I’ll also turn it on when I’m working on a blog post, watching a movie, or painting so I can be fully present in those moments. This has made me feel so much less obligated to the happenings of social media and other people’s need for instant gratification.
- Shifted to wanting to enjoy the little moments in life ~ this in part came from my May instagram challenge to find beauty and inspiration all around me, but further developed through being intentional and realizing my personal happiness is something around me everyday, I just have to choose to pay attention and then bask in the moments.
My Progress: In the Middle
The middle of this program saw some HUGE strides.
I had my lowest pain months I’ve had in years over the course of June and July. I primarily attribute this to eliminating my abortive use completely. Although I’d long been out of the medication overuse habits of 2017, I was very much caught in a cycle of rebound.
My severe pain dropped to less than 50% of the month and then close to 30% of the month and I felt really connected to my body and how my health could improve.
The middle of the program saw a lot of opportunity for growth that occurred without me really recognizing them. I was still in the same space where a good portion of the material being shared was stuff I’d already come across – in many cases, things I’d discovered just weeks prior.
There was a large social media challenge, and that came right after I’d done a similar cleansing of online spaces and altered how I interacted with various online communities.
As I continued to piece together my symptoms and headache types, I gained a much deeper understanding of migraine in general: migraine can in fact just be a headache. However, that headache can and often is more debilitating than migraines. One unique aspect of this program was a completely new breakdown of migraine and headache types based on the symptoms, which lead to a unique approach to analyzing how to avoid or treat each attack.
For instance, I recognized after eliminating rebound headaches I was left with a combination of sinus headaches, tension headaches, and migraine. I had a few odd balls such as headaches caused by eyestrain or a blood sugar headache brought on by a yummy piece of toffee, but since these headache types had been broken down so specifically recognizing them and treating them and knowing how to avoid them in the future became much easier.
My combination of headache/migraines that I’m left with point towards clear areas that I need to address including: inflammation – specifically in my sinus cavities, stress or anxiety brought on that I’m not fully aware of, and the neurological disorder that can hopefully be better managed as I continue to make positive lifestyle changes.
Biggest changes in the middle:
- Made the decision to move back out on my own ~ This was a huge turning point as it mainly allows me to really see my health and progress in the big picture. Being at home and having some stressors reduced was great and needed a year ago, but if I’m hoping to regain independence and further improve, I need to be able to test my limits (you know back to that whole, can I grocery shop or get to my own doctors appointments).
- Hit a slump in my writing ~ With moving and embarking on this program, I was a bit lost with my writing. I realized I was trying to share without oversharing my progress and what was being implemented in my life, so now that the program has ended this more formal “update” is a part of me getting back into my writing.
- Got a humidifier ~ this seems ironic since I live in an incredibly humid state, but after testing the humidity levels in my bedroom they were much lower than normal. Adding in a humidifier to keep the humidity at about 45% has made a huge difference. I’ve found that I sleep much better and have some improvement on the sinus inflammation front.
- Sold my microwave ~ our world is of full of sources that contaminate life around us and can cause higher “toxicity” levels that can impact our health. Microwaves have been controversial but for me, I fully am capable of living without one so why waste the countertop space?
- Began to embrace mindfulness in the form of being intentional ~ this came in being more intentional with planning out my time, making decisions that weren’t rash, and choosing what interactions would best serve my health both in person and in online spaces.
My Progress: In the End
The last few weeks of the program were full of a ton of incredible information. The connections between the initial observations we had to make were all drawn to various organs, potential nutrient imbalances, and the foods we consume.
This was incredibly eye opening for me as it pointed to a whole slew of options for what could be causing various symptoms and why certain treatments hadn’t worked in the past.
One of the largest areas that deserves to be mentioned is the incredible focus on food that was much different than a standard “migraine diet” or trigger identification. Instead, there’s an educational approach that breaks down different food groups that are often considered healthy but may pose problems for someone with migraines or organ systems that aren’t functioning at optimal levels.
My personal progress towards the end of the program hit a bit of a speed bump. Moving brought on all sorts of stress, the weather has been a mess, and the great progress I had been making back tracked a bit. (The constant cigarette smell that invades my apartment that caused a sinus infection followed by an untimely infestation of bugs probably didn’t do me any favors.)
Biggest changes in the end:
- Found something new to be passionate about ~ I’ve started painting and selling a few pieces here and there. It’s something that is so relaxing and really brings me joy. This helped tide me over while I was still in a bit of a writing funk.
- Got nutrient levels tested ~ In ruling out possibilities for various symptoms, I had my nutrient levels tested and discovered everything is pretty perfect. Not quite the news I was hoping for, but that’s okay. Additional testing is being done as hyperthyroidism may be an underlying issue that has developed.
- Fully embraced that food is not my problem ~ with such a focus on food, it was hard to accept that I wasn’t having additional progress and no foods seemed to make me feel better or worse. Taking the next step to declare that I will eat and enjoy everything while being mindful of what I’ve learned in this program was really huge and allows me to let go of the stress I’ve been attaching to food.
- Got an air purifier ~ it sort of addressed the cigarette smoke, but in the long run this will help with seasonal allergies and any other crap in the air that could be causing me problems.
So, what is my life with migraine?
Now that the program has come to an end, I do have a variety of “next steps” to explore and continue to build off of everything I’ve learned.
Creating a lifestyle tailored to my needs isn’t something that could realistically happen over 18 weeks, which I fully understood. Being equipped with more information and a new way to approach various aspects of treatment gives me hope that progress and healing will have a positive trend in the months and years to come.
Based solely on the program, my next steps include digging deeper into some of the symptoms I experience and connecting them to organ systems, nutrients, and my lifestyle to best examine how to reduce them or eliminate them altogether.
My migraine story isn’t really about the bridge anymore. The bridge has been built and I love continuing to connect and share what I’ve learned with people across the globe but for the most part my migraine resources have been created. (See them under the migraine resources tab)
This story is one easily predicted, it’s a story about creating life each and every day. About finding the right balance between my daily activities and where I can extend or challenge myself.
It’s a story about love. Self love.
I have to fall back in love with myself. I’ve long let go of the person I was when the migraines weren’t as severe, it’s time I let the person I am now flourish and shine.
I have to fall in love with how I spend my days and allow my moments to be fully intentional. I love to paint and write and drink coffee. I love watching horror movies and bad romantic comedies. I love eating the yummy foods I prepare. It’s time to really learn to love this life and allow growth to happen naturally.
It’s a story about advocacy, but not one of mere education. It’s advocating for growth and more positive mindsets. It’s advocacy for health and exploration and letting go of limiting beliefs. It’s advocacy through a different lens.
The picturesque “what will I do when I’m no longer sick” doesn’t live here anymore. I have a neurological disorder. I’m disabled. And I will love my life and create a lifestyle for myself all the same. Improvement and healing are inevitable. I hope remission is inevitable as well. But I won’t be living my life so that it can begin when remission does.
This is my life. It starts today.
This girl, sitting on her couch fully unable to stand up because of the severe vertigo, but enjoying the moments spent with a big painting for her mom in her lap is the perfect picture of a life worth living.
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