Saturday, October 30, 2010

Migraine Makers

There are a few things that keep coming back to me about the elimination diet. I forgot that I used to call the time when I could add back new foods the Migraine maker period and about some of the weird food combinations I would end up eating. I would still enjoy these weird concoctions even though I will probably never have them again when I am done.

I can understand how people that don't have food triggers may view the elimination diet as a complete waste of time, but I believe it is well worth the efforts and that you are lucky if you don't have food triggers. I know I've heard some people, who do not have food triggers, say they wish they had them. I think they are looking for some type of an answer as to what triggered their Migraine, but I wish I didn't have any or at least not as many. To me, food triggers aren't just a matter of something else we have to avoid, but another way Migraines make us alter our life styles and sometimes in a huge way.

I started putting new foods back into my diet about two weeks ago. The first week, I added back exactly as I wanted to conduct this portion of the elimination diet. I believe in the beginning it is especially important to introduce as basic of foods as we can with as little extra ingredients as possible. I am usually a very methodical person.

My basic lunch for the first six weeks consisted of the same fresh meat sandwich that did not have any preservatives, condiments or anything funny like that. I am aware that meat may be a little funny for some people as well as the bread it is put onto, but I also needed to eat something that could sustain me and I could adjust if needed.

The first food I included was a simple tomato. It does not have any extra ingredients to worry about and is the base of many other foods. It was fairly easy to add tomato into my diet. I could eat it plain or add it to my sandwich. My sandwich is usually a great place to use the new food addition and a very welcome addition as even this little change made a big difference to the same sandwich of the prior six weeks.

The second week was a little tougher. Due to a special occasion and against my better judgment, I was talked into trying shrimp cocktail with sauce. I wasn't really concerned about the shrimp, but the cocktail sauce has way too many ingredients to make me feel comfortable. In the end, it was my choice to bring back into my diet. I typically have a hard time letting people do nice things for me and because of the occasion, I agreed. I wasn't going to have the typical dessert for the special occasion which is part of the reason I compromised on the cocktail sauce. It made them happy and I knew what I was getting myself into.

I wasn't involved with any of the planning for this dinner and they knew all of my other food restrictions which they kept to nicely. Of course the shrimp did not last past that dinner, so I was faced with either wasting a week of introductions or doing something with the cocktail sauce as I wasn't going to go out and buy more shrimp.

Don't laugh. I ended up making more cocktail sauce and spreading it on my sandwich for lunch. It wasn't until the next morning that I looked at the ingredients in horseradish and I realized what the problem had been. Horseradish contains vinegar. There are certain types of vinegar that passed my first ediet, but I don't think it was the type that was in the horseradish. I also believe I have more food sensitivities than I did when I went through the ediet the first time. No matter how silly this sandwich sounded, it is nice to start getting some variety into my diet.

I have to start concentrating on Thanksgiving now. I can't think of any other special occasions that might get in the way before then and tomatoes was something I had to add back early because they are in so many different things. Since I only have a couple of weeks before the holiday, I am not going to be able to add too much back in before then.

It should still be a great Thanksgiving and possibly the end of a long running tradition as I believe another branch of the family will break off after this year. It's hard to keep everyone together as the family grows and our Thanksgivings are up to about forty people now. Between losing people over the year and gaining people, it is inevitable to have this dynamic change again.

Thanksgiving is four weeks away which means I can add in four more foods before then. I know I'm not going to be able to have any desserts, appetizers or drinks which I am prepared for and will enjoy the company instead. I'm hoping not to run into any more Migraine makers during this time.

Given the choice, what four foods would you add back in time for Thanksgiving dinner?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slowly working at it

I know I still have a problem and have been working on it and me for some time. I frequently ask myself a question like why do I keep abusing myself like this? The more I learn about Migraines and the more yucky I feel, the more I don't want to feel this way.

I treat myself ok when I am home and I am getting better when I am at my relatives homes. The place I still have to act on the most is while I'm at work.

It's easiest to do what's right at home. I have dimmer switches in most rooms and they work great. Whenever I enter a room that is too bright, I will automatically turn it down. My family has come to expect this and don't even comment about it anymore. I think it's just as natural for them to turn the lights all the way up as it is for me to have them as low as possible.

Many of my extended family members have those demon filled CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) at their houses. Diana Lee, from Somebody Heal wrote an article, Update: CFLs, Migraines & the Law. The government has been looking to make light bulbs more energy efficient and it appears that some companies, which manufacture the incandescent light bulbs, are going to make them more efficient so they won't be phased out after all. In many ways, that will be such a relief as they were originally looking at being banned because they were not efficient enough. Phew.

My sister definitely knows that the CFLs kill me and I can't stay in her kitchen or other rooms when I am there and they are brightly lit. With a lot of people around (she has four kids), it's very difficult to leave the lights off. When I babysat overnight for her recently, I was very touched that my BIL changed many of the bulbs in the kitchen for me and I didn't even say anything about the lights this visit. I could manage through the other lights they had in the other rooms while I was there.

Last week, I spent a little time with my parents in their home. My parents don't normally think of things like the lights. I don't fault them and this is where I know it is my responsibility to speak up as needed. I try not to be too intrusive on them and I don't think they noticed when I would scoot into the darker areas of the room.

On the occasions when I couldn't move, I would ask them if they were finished using a light they left on. My mom immediately looked at the bulb and saw it was one of the devil bulbs and turned it off as she was done with it. She did mention about turning on a different, normal light. I have to confess, I didn't turn it on as I felt there was already enough lighting in the room and that nobody was in danger of not seeing some thing if they were to get up. She didn't ask again or I would have turned the normal light on low.

As you can see, lights are a normal controllable trigger that I encounter regularly. Sound and smells are others that I have to manage, but lights seem to be the most invasive.

The place I still have the most trouble with helping myself the most with is while at work. As long as I stay in my office, lights are not a problem because of the light sleeves and I can also lower the window shade on more sensitive days. Right now, offending noise and smells can be controlled by closing my door. The area that I have to work on the most are my hours.

I often ask myself why I put in all of the hours I do while at work. The biggest reason I keep coming back with is that I feel I have to put in an honest days work. I feel I have peeks and valleys during the day on how I am feeling. I know there are times that I am not as quick as I need to be and even have to take more time doing tasks than it really should take me to complete them.

My boss often lectures me on getting out of work on time. I know he means it and that he is trying to look out for what is best for me. I also know my health needs for me to leave closer to on time, but I still feel I need to put in a whole day of work too without me getting in my way.

There are other reasons for the long hours that I have been working on too and I have gradually been able to leave a little earlier as I am able to alleviate some of these other obstacles. I know I can and my boss always tells me that I can also log out, go home and complete what I need to from home so I don't get other distractions, but I tend to fall asleep as soon as I turn on my computer after I get home and don't get too much accomplished.

Getting a better grasp on these hurdles and trying to identify any additional triggers that I may have is something I am hoping will help me get myself under better control. I know I need to as I think I get caught in this vicious cycle too often and need to get out of it.

Do you have some thing you do that you need to work on with yourself too? What do you do to help manage yourself?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More on common themes

I bet you can tell the two big things that have been on my mind recently. I'm sure you're right - food and lights. I have a few things to talk about; one of which are the lights as I finish up my last doctor visit.

To my stupidity, I haven't used my intermittent FMLA yet. Yes, I know it's me and my own problem. I was hoping that I would feel a little more comfortable calling out with the iFMLA, but for some reason, I still have a very hard time. It's not my boss either. He would be really good about me taking time off if I needed to and having the iFMLA doesn't hurt my attendance or number of occurrences at work either.

A lot of the times I'll go into work with the intention of completing one thing that desperately needs to get done and then end up staying for the entire day as just one more thing keeps coming up. Two other dilemmas I give myself is that I don't want to take my meds before I go in, although sometimes I have to, because they will make me very dense and I still have trouble advertising how I am feeling. I'm sure this makes me come across as very obtuse and aloof when I am like this. It's probably also not good for my career or current job status either, but how do I get past that? It's really a rhetorical question; I know it's an obstacle that I have to work out. I am actually slowly getting better about taking care of myself, but I still have a way to go.

When I was at my last doctor's visit, I mentioned to her that I haven't used any iFMLA yet. Of course she gave me one of her funny looks, particularly because I had already given her my charts since my last visit. I proceeded to tell her that I am extremely happy to have the iFMLA especially since my company announced that we will be moving sometime next year and my light situation is currently up in the air.

At that point, we started to walk across the hall from her office to the examination room. She mentioned how she doesn't like the fluorescent lights in their hallway; she is also a Migraineur. As I looked up, I blurted out that at least the lights were covered. She couldn't believe that our lights at work are not covered. Uncovered lights are really not good for Migraineurs and being extremely light sensitive makes it even worse. She immediately said she could write a letter. I let her know that we still don't know where we are going or what the lighting situation will be like and that my boss is already in meetings about it, but I would let her know if I need one.

It now looks like I have a new project at work. I just found out there is someone who is out on leave due to Migraines. It sounds like she knows what her rights are at work which is a good thing, but I'd like to make sure she is getting the right help and education for herself around this disease. I'd also like to let her know that I am there if she ever needs to talk to someone who understands. I definitely think it helps to talk with someone who knows what we go through.

After I found out my just headaches were really Migraines, my boss would hook me up with his wife. I could ask her all of the silly questions that nobody else would follow. It would help because she would recognize where these questions were coming from and answer them appropriately. I really appreciated her time. Now, I have my internet friends and this blog to help me get through my challenging times. Thank you!

In keeping with another common theme of mine, I'd like to express that my thoughts and prayers are with Eric Legrand, his family and teammates. He is a Rutgers football player who was paralyzed during their football game over the weekend after making a tackle during a kickoff in the fourth quarter. I pray he can make a fast recovery and hope he will walk with his team again.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ready for Doctor Lessons

I've gone to a few doctors who did not believe and actually discouraged their patients from doing the elimination diet. I never went into details around the elimination diet with my current doctor and was faced this week with telling her that I decided to start the diet again. By the way I brought it up to her, I kind of feel like I trapped her since I had already started it.

I kept going back and forth on how I should approach her until I realized what I really wanted to know was how she felt about the ediet so before I said anything else that is exactly what I asked her. She gave a very interesting answer, but she always backs up what she says with her reasons and also keeps an open mind.

She scrunched her face a little and indicated that she is not a fan of the ediet. She thinks we may not find the right triggers and that it might be better to notice a food from each time we eat it. She said it's tough because we can run into other triggers along the way or eat like gluten one day and not the next and it could get tricky when adding back in one class at a time.

I started off by telling her that I never would have found some of the food triggers I did if I didn't go on my first elimination diet. I told her I found soy almost immediately and I don't believe I would have found it any other way. Soy is in so many different foods. I also said that my basic diet does include gluten and I have some other foods that are not high on the food trigger list, but anything can be a food trigger for anyone and I am aware of what my basic foods are and can adjust them as needed. She nodded in agreement.

I explained that I understand there are other triggers that may hinder the introductions of new foods. Like the first four weeks I started on the diet this time and if that happens after I start adding back in, I may need to reintroduce that new food again, but at least I am aware of some of these other triggers. I definitely understand how tricky the ediet is, how there are so many factors to consider and other obstacles that can interfere with what we are trying to accomplish and I will do what I can to make it as accurate as I can. Migraines are not easy on any front, but we have to do what we can to help them. Not everyone has food triggers, but I believe the elimination diet is the best way to find out if we do have food triggers. I know it is the best way for me.

My doctor told me she hopes this works for me and that she hopes I can turn her opinion around. I'm pretty sure I turned around one of my previous doctor's opinions on the ediet after I brought out my charts and explained everything I had done. This was the first and only time this old doctor was interested in anything I brought with me. This doctor actually sat next to me as I went over everything! I never went back after I gave the doctor this lesson.

I'd like to show you one reason why I believe in the elimination diet as much as I do. Please mind you that I did not have this graph when I visited my doctor this week, but I can promise you that I will make a believer of her during my next visit. This is a graph of the first five weeks from both of my elimination diets - I need to point a few things out after:

The dark brown line is from my first ediet while the gold line is from the ediet I am currently on. The graph would probably show a better difference if I could show it as monthly, but it is too soon for that now. This time, the number of Migraines I started with is lower than where they were the first time. I believe a big reason is because I have been avoiding the food triggers I found from that first diet.

If you look at the first ediet, the number of Migraines started to reduce dramatically after two weeks. You will also notice that they increased significantly during the fifth week. For various reasons, this was the week I had to start adding back new foods. As you can see and to my surprise, I did not have a good reaction to this particular first food.

During my second ediet, I really didn't have much of a drop in the number of Migraines until week five. The first four weeks were surrounded by unavoidable triggers. There were no unavoidable triggers during week five and so far, it's been a fairly good week six. As you can see, it would not have been good to start adding back new foods after four weeks this time. I feel I am ready to start adding back now!

During my visit, my doctor asked me what I was supposed to add back first. I told her anything I wanted. I will be as methodical as I was the first time and more cognizant of other triggers this time as I have learned so much more about Migraines and triggers since I first did the elimination diet.

I really am ready to start adding back now. I am ready for more variety in my diet, but I want to find more true food triggers if I have them.

Do you have food triggers? How did you go about finding your food triggers if you have them? Have you done the elimination diet? How did you go about doing your elimination diet?


Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Little Light Talk

Over the past few weeks, I've had a couple of conversations about the future of my lighting accommodation at work. Although I still don't know what's going to happen, it is looking better than the first talk I had, but at that time, I didn't have a chance to talk with my boss who has always been very helpful in this department.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with our HR director about something else. I knew it would be premature to have these conversations, but she brought it up after she was talking about how one of her relatives has Migraines and then she remembered about my lighting needs.

During our discussion, she said she couldn't promise me anything around lighting modifications. She also started quoting the archaic lighting policies we used to have under an old maintenance supervisor when the lighting absolutely killed me. As I said, it was still too early to have these talks because we still don't even know where we are moving yet and she asked me to remind her later on so I could possibly look at our new area to help determine the best place for me to sit.

A big problem about where we are moving is that a whole group of us will also lose our offices which means I will lose a lot more control of my lighting. I know this is a little selfish as we will all need to be extremely careful about everything we talk about everyday as we have a lot of impromptu confidential conversations that go on throughout the day too.

As we kept talking, I slipped in different challenges that Migraineurs face as she needs to understand that Migraines are not just headaches. I also mentioned that many of us know people with Migraines, like she does with her relative, and if I can help them understand a little more around Migraines, then I feel like I've helped someone someplace. She seemed to understand that. She was funny after I revealed some of the obstacles and comments I had received around getting my light accommodations setup the last time. Even though it is a couple of years later, she apologized for the comments I received.

This past week, I was able to have some conversations about the future lighting and other things with my boss, Bart. I feel a lot more confident in talking with him about this as he understands and was very instrumental in getting my current light accommodation in place. Bart understands enough about Migraines as his wife has had Migraines forever and takes preventatives for them too. Bart was actually my first teacher of Migraines, but I don't want to inundate him with Migraine talk since I'm sure he gets enough of it and lives with it at home too.

Bart told me not to worry about the lighting. He said they have already started having different talks around employees who have a need for special accommodations. I reiterated to him that I would not be able to handle it at work without the light accommodations I currently have and that this is my biggest concern about moving. I didn't mention to him that I have other work anxieties around my Migraines too because the lighting is the one I worry about the most. I think I also fear coming across as just wanting the best environment and not necessarily for health reasons which is why I pick and choose. I guess I really need to see the area before I can judge.

Bart has an idea of what I go through. We met in a different city for a meeting a few months back. We split when we got to the building, but I was able to give him my parameters around picking out a seat in a conference room if he got there first based on the lighting in the room. It's embarrassing to let out these inter-most struggles we go through that appear to be totally strange yet normal to us. These are the types of things I try to keep invisible from work as I fear they may hurt my employment because it is weird and usually within my control. By the way, he did a really good job in picking out the seat.

I'm sure there is going to be a lot to come around these light conversations. I trust Bart will do whatever he can in the extra meetings he needs to attend around this because of me. He knows what I go through and how much the accommodation helps.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

One Month Later

It has been four weeks since I started my second elimination diet which has not been like the first time I did it. I didn't expect it to be the same, but I didn't expect it to be so different either.

In one way I feel better even though I haven't really experienced much of a Migraine reduction yet. At this point last time, I had gone from having a Migraine or headache almost everyday down to about one per week which was just before I started adding back a new food per week. I haven't been this low since then.

After the first month on the ediet this time, I have not seen a reduction in the number of Migraines. However, I feel my mind is a little clearer, my face is not as numb, I am not as nauseous or as dizzy and I actually lasted 3 aisles in the food store before I had to get my forgotten hat. I certainly attribute these improvements to some of the foods I am not currently eating.

Since I have been on the ediet this time, I have been surrounded by many other triggers that I credit for keeping my Migraine levels up. In these four weeks, we have had two weeks of pouring down rain, I have had two hormonal weeks and I am wrestling with many triggers at my son's football games. Big sigh.

Compared to the first time, I am much more aware of other triggers around me as I was in the beginning of my Migraine eduction process then. Last time, I started the ediet at the beginning a January. I don't believe hormones were as big of an issue back then and that January was a dry, non-snowy, non-rainy month. Starting the ediet at the beginning of September this time, has been met with the triggers mentioned above plus some very hot days and smells that you don't get in January. For me, winter probably would have been a better time to start the ediet again, but I really wanted to get started with the whole process again quickly and didn't think anything out.

I will need to do my best to factor all of these extra, unavoidable triggers in when I start adding a new food back this time. I was really hoping to be in a better place than I am right now, but I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out and may even need to retest some of the new foods depending on other triggers that are around on a given week when that food is added.

I am still trying to hold off for another two weeks before adding back any foods, but this past week has started getting a little rough as I am craving other foods. I am very anxious to start adding back and contemplating beginning with basic things on the Thanksgiving menu so I will be ready for that holiday by the time it comes around.

There is so much to learn about Migraines and it can take a little longer for those of us who tend to be a little thickheaded or stubborn. It's also kind of hard to do when we have too many Migraines, but we must start making dents someplace in our trigger identification process.

I believe I have more Migraine triggers now then I did back then; both food and other triggers. I know I have become so much more sensitive to some triggers then I used to be and hope to identify some of these additional triggers soon.