Living and Writing With Migraines


This week I faced more writing struggles than I tend to on a regular basis. I even missed yesterday’s post because of those struggles.

I had back to back migraines that kept me from doing the things that I love. A typical week finds me at 229 Yoga, taking a cycling class or a cardio barre class, sweating like a sinner in church with tears lining my face as I ask myself for the umpteenth time why I like to torture myself this way. It’s the endorphins. I’m an addict.

I love to exercise and over the last week and into the weekend the migraines literally took that away from me. But that wasn’t all they stole, they robbed me of the work I had to do on book two of my series. At the time, I felt so defeated. Now, in retrospect, I can accept that things happen and that the only way to go from here is forward. I’m at the point where I’m thinking there’s really no use crying over spilled milk.

This week, I’ve still been getting migraines. The only difference between this week and last is that I made a quasi-decision regarding them. That decision is a sort of mantra, or rather two mantras. The first is that the migraines are not who I am. They don’t define me and while I am in pain, I will not let them defeat me. The second: If I’m in pain anyway, might as well light my muscles on fire at the studio.

With all of that considered, and being completely honest, my current struggle with writing is just sitting down and getting the work done. I have an outline and I am excited about where this story is going, but the motivation to actually do it seems to keep alluding me.

I have this mantra. Yes, another one. It goes something like this: I can do anything for five minutes, if I still hate it after five minutes, I can quit. The beauty of this mantra, when actually put into practice, is that I inevitably place my Mac on my lap, set my timer for five minutes and when the five minutes are up, I frantically am swiping at my phone to shut the hell up, because, doesn’t it know I’m busy here? It’s a great system. When used. I suppose that’s true for all effective systems though, isn’t it?

Last week, I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Lee Smith’s interview from “Novel Ideas” and I found that I connected more to Stephen King’s experience than I did Smith’s. That may be because Smith didn’t really seem to talk much about any obstacles she faced, as opposed to King who really talked at length about his in a way that I could connect to. Smith also said that she’s never suffered from writer’s block, which, if I were being completely honest made me feel very distanced from her.

At that point, I just couldn’t relate anymore. If I were being rude, then I’d say her statement sounds like a load of horse poo poo. Take that as you will. Regardless, I feel like she wasn’t being really honest about writer’s block. Or was she pretentious? I haven’t decided yet.

King, on the other hand, talked about the very reality of writer’s block and how it had lasted for almost three years (give or take, don’t fact check me, it was a long time!) for him in the writing of “On Writing”.

I can connect to someone who is transparent about the fact that writing isn’t always easy, that writing is hard and sometimes, writing just sucks and is painful to do and it’s also something that we, as writers, inevitably have to work through. Because writing is part of the fabric of our being, it’s not something we can just excise and call it a day. That’s like saying we’re tired of our hearts being broken and then deciding to rip it out. Impossible.

Overall, after reading King’s and Smith’s thoughts on their process, I felt very encouraged that I’m doing all the right things and that my struggles are normal, common and to be expected. Essentially, I’m not a special snowflake. I’m not the only one who’s struggled to come to the page and just get the work done. And that feels very freeing. It’s like a pass given to me to forgive my shortcomings, get over them and just get to work.

I also liked how King talked about health and exercise as part of his routine. As of the New Year, I set for myself some clear and attainable goals for my health. As a result, I’m seeing Joy from Joyful Apricot who is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and has helped me craft a tailored plan that we are constantly reevaluating for migraine triggers. Since the start of the New Year, I’ve lost 18 pounds with Joy’s guidance. If you’re in the Albany/Leesburg area and want to talk to someone about health, Joy is your girl!

On top of getting my nutrition right, I also exercise between 5-8 times a week depending on my own laziness and whether or not I double up on any given day. I’m determined to keep this up not only this week but in the following weeks too–regardless of if a migraine sets in.

When it comes to getting my work done, both for my MFA and for my books, I use the time while my kids are at school and the early morning before they wake up to write. I haven’t timed my “actual time” of working hours, but I feel like I’m more than blessed with enough time. When it comes down to it, I just need to learn how to use the time I’m given wisely and get the frick off of Pinterest!

At the end of the day, all of this boils down to another mantra: cut the distractions, cut the crap, and just get to work.

Keep Reading and Keep Writing,


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17 thoughts on “Living and Writing With Migraines

    1. Thank you Kat! It sucks and as much as I can I feel determined to face this monster down up front. I’ve had them my whole life, literally, since childhood. And they’ve incapacitated me more than I’d like to say. Of course, when they’re so bad that I can’t actually stand then I do have to stop whatever I’m doing.

      1. I already get all whiny when I have a headache, so I cannot even imagine how you are handling actual migraines. I am sorry that it is so bad sometimes that you can’t do anything. It really sucks.

  1. Awww, I am sorry about migraines. My husband has them as well so I know what a struggle it is. It took us a loong time to figure out what truly helps but now it seems that we finally found a way to prevent them. If you are interested, let me know and I would be happy to give you some tips!
    Anyway, I love King’s finction books. However I have never read his On Writing but I definitely plan to because every who I know who read it, loved it.

    1. Lucia!! I would love to hear your advice. I really have tried like all the things, but every time I say that, someone has some advice for me. I am open to hearing any tips you have!

      1. Okay, her you go:
        – Chocolate and nicotine are the biggest triggers, try to avoid them.
        – Tea from dried peppermint herbs helps a lot. But make sure to have actual 100% dried herb, not some mixed tea bags.
        – Overall, we found out that migraine is connected with eating habits so you have to make sure what is best/worst for you, what are your triggers and so on. Fresh vegetables helps a lot, as well as drinking clear water or herb teas. Once my husband changed his eating habbits, migranes retreated. He still has them from time to time, but not as strong and only when he breaks his new eating habbits.
        I hope it helps 🙂

      2. I didn’t know about the peppermint! Makes sense tho, I like to diffuse peppermint eos sometimes.
        I’ve been seeing a nutritionist and we’ve decided to eliminate gluten today. That is the next step I’m taking food wise since I eat a fairly clean diet. Thank you for your help! 💜

  2. I love this post! Especially since you mentioned a lot about exercising. Although for me it’s less about migraines and more on depression. I used to have trouble sticking to a routine even though exercising is what keeps me from feeling terrible and really sets the day for me. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Hey Cam! I’ve totally been there with depression too. For years!! I feel you, girl, I really do. I used to have a really hard time sticking to a routine when I was in a really rough headspace so I can empathize with you. Something that helped was having accountability to go workout, especially since I knew it made me feel better. Get a buddy, or make a buddy at the gym. I know that sounds terrifying, but I’d like to think that there are warm/loving/supportive people at most gyms/studios. Find something you love and keep at it. Love you girl, thanks for sharing your experience with me!

  3. Another great post. Sorry to hear about the migraines. I know that has to be a distraction from time to time. I usually get headaches from staring at my laptop too long; the brightness gets to me sometimes, but if I lower it too much I can’t see what I’m writing. Balancing life and writing is one of my primary goals this year. Like you, the most important task on my list, is to write. And keep writing! No matter how little or how much writing I accomplish, I keep reminding myself that it’s all progress in the right direction.

    1. Thanks, John. Balance! Ugh!!! It’s such a beautiful and ugly word. Beautiful because we all need it. Ugly because sometimes it’s sooooo hard to find!

      Like you said though, as long as we’re making forward progress, that’s all anyone can really ask for! Ourselves included. 😉

  4. Migraines are the worst! I taught group exercise for many years but my knees are no longer my friends… So I get that addiction! I find the writing process fascinating, something I personally don’t think I could ever do, but I have the upmost respect for everyone who does!📚🌹

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