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The Trick is to Keep Breathing
10.03.2011 (2602 days ago)
Health (1 posts)
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How I became my own Heroine

It all started about 6 years ago. The pain in my head focused on the left temple and felt like a knife being driven into my head in a steady pulsing pattern. Light and sound made it worse and I was nauseous. After three days of lying in a dark quiet room with an ice pack on my head, my mom dragged me to urgent care. They were classic migraine symptoms and sure enough that’s what I was diagnosed with. And every doctor after that has diagnosed me the same.  “Yes,” they say, “I think you are a true migraine sufferer.” Great, tell me something I don’t know. Ideally, how to fix them. In the years since then I’ve seen many doctors and I’m still asking how to fix them.

The doctors usually fall into 2 categories. I tend to think of them as the Helpless and the Hopeful. The Helpless are most of the general physicians. They give me a shot to take away the pain, offer me another refill on my medicine and maybe share an anecdote or two about people they know who have migraines and that’s about it. Some of them, sadly, know less about migraines than I do. A few have a slightly antagonistic attitude towards me as if I’m making the pain up or have ‘just’ a headache and am being a big baby.

The Hopeful are mostly the specialty people; neurologists, optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc. They usually tell me that they have had great success with treating people with migraines and are confident that they can help me too. But the CAT SCAN was clear, my teeth and eyes turned out to be just fine and while the regular chiropractic adjustments are great for my neck tension, I’ve never noticed a difference in my migraines because of them.

But that’s the thing really; there is no cure-all fix for migraines. Each person is completely different. So while not drinking orange juice worked great for one doctor’s friend, I can drink it without any problems. Sometimes you can find your “trigger” and sometimes you can’t. Plus being a woman, we have it even harder – many female migraine sufferers get triggered by their monthly cycle. Not exactly something we can just stop.

So why am I talking about my migraines in relation to being a Heroine in My Own Life? Stay with me, I’m getting there. You see the last couple years, my migraines got worse. More frequent with more severe pain. Good times. My doctor decided it was time to put me on a daily preventative medicine. There are several options out there and we chose the most popular one whose only common side effect was weight loss. Sounds great, sign me up! But it was a nightmare. I didn’t have any weight loss but I did have EXTREME thirst, tingling in my hands and feet that kept me from sleeping and manic nerves. After one month I thought I would lose my mind. So I made them take me off that medicine and booked an appointment to see a top neurologist instead. His news wasn’t promising – he said my option was to try a different daily medicine. But I had no desire to go through that last experience again.

The last few months of 2010 were the worst by far. I was missing lots of work, having to cancel out on long-planned events and was having more days with pain than without. Plus my meds completely stopped working – I could no longer get any relief at all! I thought I was for sure going to have to do what the neurologist said and try another daily medicine.  But not only was I scared of more side effects but I also knew that my body adjusts to medicine really quickly and I either need more meds, stronger meds or different meds. So even if I found a daily medicine that worked, it would probably only be for a short term. I became depressed at the thought of what my life was going to be like – basically no life at all, just constant pain management and constant fear of an attack. I had to find another way.

That’s when my mom reminded me about a story she had heard a few years prior. A model who changed her daily diet to a raw vegan one and she stopped getting migraines. When she had told me back then I thought the idea was crazy. No meat, no dairy, no cooked foods…what are you kidding me!? But as they say, drastic times call for drastic measures.

So in between bouts of pain, I researched raw vegan diets. Then I spent a few weeks transitioning my diet by eating only raw vegan food for weekday breakfast and lunch. My plan was to be 100% raw vegan for the month of January and see what happened. No meat and no dairy but also no gluten, no soy, no MSG, no caffeine, no weird unpronounceable chemicals, no processed food and nothing cooked above 118°. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices is all that I would be allowed. Why so extreme? Well most research on migraines shows that certain foods are common triggers. And sometimes if you find your triggers and eliminate them from your diet, you can curb or even stop your migraines completely. So that’s one reason. Another reason is that super healthy nutrition can do amazing things for your body of course! It’s something we all know but tend to conveniently forget.  You really are what you eat. And why raw you might be asking? Because food cooked over 118° loses most of the precious enzymes located within it that most of us are severely lacking.

So how hard was it? Not as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, compared to migraine pain, it was a cakewalk! The first few days I experienced a slight discomfort in the head, most likely due to caffeine withdrawal. Then I entered the true detox phase. I don’t want to get into the (gross!) details but man was I full of toxins! Meal planning, shopping and preparing took a lot of time and it took real dedication to make the time for it. I wasn’t hungry eating this way but there were a few times when I really really wanted something different. But I held strong. I just kept thinking about my health. And guess what? Not a single solitary day of migraine pain the entire month!! It was amazing, it was unbelievable, it was a miracle.

Since then I’ve eaten about 80% raw and 90% vegan. If I travel or there’s a holiday or birthday I let myself eat non raw vegan food. But then I go right back to eating my raw vegan food.  My health has become my number 1 priority and my mind has finally become strong enough to take control. Yes I have had a migraine since – this is not a fairy tale and there is still no magic potion for me. But since my body was so much cleaner when the migraine struck, the medicine worked again and I didn’t suffer nearly as long. My hope is that the longer I continue to eat ‘clean’, the less I’ll suffer.

I’m a Heroine in My Own Life because I took matters into my own hands when presented with choices that weren’t good enough. I stood up against the so called experts and said there must be an alternative to try. Instead of turning to more toxins that put more money in the hands of pharmaceutical companies, helped me only short term, and left me in a chemical haze, I chose better nutrition to create a healthier body and mind for myself in the long term.  I refused to accept being a victim of my migraines and a slave to the medicines and instead chose a different path.  I found a way that gives me hope that I can live a normal and fulfilling life.

adrea · 2602 days ago
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  •  adrea: 
    Oh wow, I can't believe you have migraines too! So great that you have noticed an improvement in your health when being vegan.. I've also found it really helps with my seasonal allergies. Let me know if you try the raw foods more and if that makes a difference!
     2602 days ago 
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  •  AnaLewis: 
    Wow!!! Adrea, I am so glad you put this out there. I have heard of raw vegan eating helping so many people, but never have been this close to one. I suffer from monthly migraines, and since I am vegetarian, whenever I have gone vegan, my health does improve immensely. I will try to edge raw foods in there (up the percentage) and see how that works and if it helps the monthly migraines. Thank you!!
     2602 days ago 
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How I became my own Heroine