For most of my adult life, the dream of a Migraine-free holiday was just wishful thinking. I could always count on getting at least one bad Migraine attack for the holidays, often on Christmas Day. Most years, it wasn’t enough to just get one attack. The first one would show up around Thanksgiving, followed by three or four each week. By Christmas day, my head was pounding non-stop. The attacks would hit daily through New Year’s Day and not let up until after Valentine’s Day. I’d accepted Migraine as a foregone conclusion every holiday season.
Then one year, I didn’t get sick at all.
Most years, I went a bit crazy trying to pull off memorable holiday cheer. Flinging myself into shopping, baking, and decorating, I filled every spare minute preparing for the perfect celebration. Handmade gifts wrapped with elegant precision were my specialty.
I remembered everyone except myself. Taking time to eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated, or sleep never occurred to me. After all, I was making memories! It wasn’t unusual for me to work nonstop for 24 hours or longer. I survived on soft drinks, potato chips, and cookie dough and didn’t stop until guests arrived.
That’s when Migraine would hit. Just when all my hard work was about to pay off, a Migraine attack would send me running to a dark, quiet room. I spent most holidays in bed, listening to the distant sounds of loved ones enjoying the day. I was making memories all right. My children don’t remember all the preparations. They just remember that I was missing.
A surprising change
I was deep into the second year of graduate school, trying to balance studies, a full-time job, and an internship. The holidays were simple that year. I didn’t have the time or energy to pull off a grand celebration. I couldn’t have done it if I tried. The holiday was filled with firsts.
- The house wasn’t filled with the aroma of homemade treats.
- There weren’t any lights on the house.
- Gifts were store-bought and simply wrapped.
- I wasn’t sleep deprived.
- I was well-hydrated.
- My body was well-nourished.
- I was healthy and present for the entire celebration.
A valuable lesson
Those holiday Migraine attacks were triggered because I sacrificed good self-care. I stacked my triggers too high by skipping meals, loading up on caffeine, and pulling all-night gift wrapping and cookie decorating marathons. My behavior wasn’t Migraine-friendly. Instead, I behaved as though I was perfectly healthy by trying to create the perfect holiday to the detriment of my health.
Holidays at my house are different now. Each year, I ask myself, “How much can I do and still be healthy on the big day?” Nothing is more important than being able to enjoy the day with my family. Everything else is optional. I look for the simplest, healthiest way to make sure that happens. All I want is a Migraine-free holiday so I can be present with those I love.
More reasons to stay healthy
My family has almost doubled in size in the last few years. Both my kids have found their life partners and little Reni deserves some spoiling from her granny. I now have six very good reasons to have a Migraine-free holiday. They’re the priority. I’d rather eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Christmas dinner than spend the day hiding in the dark.
Trying something new
I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been – but that’s no excuse to fall back into old habits. In fact, this year’s holiday plans include new and healthier ways to celebrate.
- Barbecue brisket will be the main course. The prep time is less than 15 minutes and my house will smell delicious as it slow-roasts all day. Plus, it’s a family favorite, so I won’t get stuck with weeks of leftovers.
- Potluck side dishes are also on the menu. The kids are grown and perfectly capable of sharing the load.
- Paper plates and plastic flatware are the new fine china, saving me from standing at the sink for hours.
- Grandma’s homemade sugar cookies are still on the menu, with a twist. I don’t pull all-nighters to frost dozens of cookies anymore. This year, my family can frost their own cookies. I’ll bake the cookies and supply the frosting and sprinkles. Everyone else can do the rest.
- Online shopping is a must. I’m even going to order groceries online and have them delivered. My time is too precious to waste standing in line and fighting crowds. My family is more important.
So what happened this year?
There are blank spaces in the family photo albums where holiday photos should have been. They’re missing because I was too sick to make sure the photos were taken. This year was different. For the first time in many years, I was Migraine-free with camera in hand. Take a look at my family’s Migraine-free holiday. Maybe next year you can have one, too.