Ironically as I sit here writing this, I have a cooling gel patch on my head, peppermint oil on my head, temples, neck, behind the ears and a steel ice face roller next to me.
I had my first attack at sixteen years old. Thirty years later, I still suffer from severe migraines on a regular basis with no cure in sight. I have missed more special occasions, holidays, events, and opportunities than I’d like to admit. For years I’ve heard people ask skeptically, “do you really have a migraine?” Because it’s invisible, non-sufferers tend to think it is made up or that sufferers use migraines as an “excuse.” If you too are a migraineur, then you can relate. If you are not, you will never truly understand the pain, frustration, embarrassment, and depression that often accompanies regular migraines. To some degree, we migraineurs suffer from paranoia that we are a “burden” to the non-sufferers in our lives. This leads to anxiety and related insecurities.
No two sufferers are the same and we all have different triggers. Remedies that might work for me, may not work for everyone else (except for the times they do!) Another infuriating aspect of migraines – the unpredictability. Things that work for me sometimes, don’t work all the time and things that don’t usually work, might work given the right set of circumstances.
How did this happen? What did I do? Should I drink coffee or not drink coffee? Maybe coffee isn’t strong enough. Should I try a double shot of espresso and some crackers? Did I drink enough water today? Did I accidentally eat something with nitrites or sulfites? Did someone sneak a piece of hot dog into my oatmeal? Did I exercise too much? Did I get too hot? Did I fail to get enough sleep or perhaps too much sleep? Did I skip a meal? Did I eat the wrong meal? Did I eat too much sugar? What pushed me over the trigger threshold?
Was I stressed? Am I so used to being stressed that the reprieve from stress caused the migraine? Was it eye strain? Should I have taken out my contact lenses and used glasses, but sometimes the glasses trigger a headache? So maybe contacts are the way to go? Did I wander into bright sunshine without sunglasses? Was I in a room that was too noisy? Did a bad scent trigger the attack? Was someone wearing jasmine or cloying perfume? Did the conference room get too hot? The list goes on forever and we are all different.
Like many sufferers, I’ve tried every possible preventative drug. Some lowered my blood pressure too much, and some made me lose my word recall. As a young lawyer, that was not ideal. Some drugs caused numbness and tingling and still, others were wholly ineffective. Then there are the “onset” drugs and throughout the years, there have been many. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they work for a while, only to have the migraine return hours later. Should I save my remaining “onset” pills or use them and risk needing another prescription that costs over $400? There are combinations of drugs both prescription and over the counter and there are monthly injections. I’ve tried Botox, acupuncture, acupressure, massage and cupping, biofeedback, and yoga, even meditation all to no avail.
So, what’s a girl to do? I’ve worked for the President of the United States overseeing construction sites and building hotels and I ask you; would you ask him for a “migraine time out?” I’ve defended real estate developers in construction defect litigation and built and flipped homes for years. I’ve hosted shows and vetted inventor ideas and IP for private investors. More recently, as General Counsel and Executive Vice President of an international toy company, I spent years traveling throughout the world, developing product lines, including utility and design patents for children’s toys and cosmetic products. I love to curate and I love to create. I’m a writer by formal education and wordsmithing is one of my favorite things to do. Names and tag-lines are my proverbial crossword puzzle and creating clever, innovative products is my passion. I’ve created patent-pending products, and I knew I had to find a viable solution to my chronic migraine problem that would allow me to remain effective and at work, in the boardroom, the courtroom, and everywhere else.
After many years of searching high and low, I never found the things I needed in one place. Slowly, I began making my emergency kit comprised of my favorite survival items and started carrying it in my purse. My first kit was a one-gallon plastic bag and my kids call me Mary Poppins because I’m ready for every headache emergency. Over the years, I fine-tuned my kit to the point that I ended up with 15 essentials neatly packaged and with a respectable amount of glitter for the little girl in all of us. (Secretly, I think my love of glitter comes from first grade when we used to use empty egg cartons filled with glitter in every color of the rainbow.) Now I’ve incorporated glitter into many of my favorite products.
So why Arctic Fox? Because I’m always so hot, I’ve always loved all things Arctic, snowy, and cold. My American Eskimo pup’s name is Kai and Kai is often mistaken for an Arctic Fox, so I thought hmmm . . Arctic Fox would be the perfect name for my Emergency Kit. I love the color palette of blue and white because it’s clean, serene, and reminds me of that time early in the morning before sunrise, high up in the mountains where the snow looks a bit pink and there’s the slightest hint of blue hue over the landscape.
I wanted a bag that was fashionable, cute, and reusable for a better carbon footprint. I also wanted a clear bag so I could easily see all the headache essentials I needed (because the last thing you want to do mid-migraine is fish around in a black handbag).
More often than not, I find myself needing ice with no access to a freezer. Several doctors have also recommended soaking your feet in a hot tub of water to pull the circulation out of the head and down into the feet as a means of relief, but have you tried finding a foot bath on an overseas flight? Hello, flight attendant, yes, I’d like a foot bath, a cool cloth, an ice pack for my neck, crackers, etc., etc., yeah right.
After several experiences like that, I decided to include the following in the Emergency Kit:
*Two instant ice packs for when you feel like your head is about to explode (I always feel like the heat is radiating from my head and I can never seem to get cool enough). These are also great on the back of the neck to alleviate nausea.
*Two cooling single-use cooling gel patches for use on the forehead or the neck. I work with computers and under hot set lights and need to be able to use my hands and keep moving, even with a headache. These blue gel stick-on patches are single-use, but last at least 4 hours, and I cannot tell you how many times these cool patches have allowed me enough relief to either get through the workday, a shoot, or fall asleep at night. These are also great for busy moms with kids who play sports and who get overheated in the sun.
*A set of foot warmers to mimic a foot bath.
*3D eye mask with lash graphics to use when you are light-sensitive and need a little time out or for when overhead or fluorescent lights feel like daggers in your head. I designed this mask so as not to ruin your makeup or lash extensions. The Velcro won’t pull your hair and it’s almost weightless because heavy eye covers can make migraines worse.
*Two sets of blue earplugs. I can immediately tell a migraine is coming when everything starts to echo. These earplugs have allowed me to go to the movies with my family and tolerate the sound without throwing up or leaving early. Use these in conjunction with the cooling patches and you can get through just about anything.
*Blue Head Scratcher. This head-scratcher allows me to massage my scalp without ruining my blowout and feels great even when you do it yourself. You can also hold it against the base of your skull and restrict blood supply and pounding that often occurs there and that provides some temporary relief.
*Finger Massager. This is one of my favorite fidget items because you simply start at your pinky finger and gently roll it up and down, slowly moving from finger to finger including the thumbs on both hands. This is a great way to both stimulate the nerves in your hands and distract from the pain in your head. As an added benefit, this massager is great for arthritis and inflammation.
*Two Personal Wellness Bags and a packet of travel tissues. One morning I was driving down the 405 freeway with what I would call a “mild migraine”. Everyone has a different pain tolerance and mine is quite high. For whatever reason and with almost no notice whatsoever, I started throwing up and had to grab the closest thing to me. I did this while driving in the fast lane with no opportunity to pull over. I ended up using the reusable Whole Foods bag that was on the passenger seat. Needless to say, trying to throw up, blindly grab for an old napkin in the center console, and keep the car on the road was challenging. To add insult to injury, the bag later leaked. At that moment, I realized I needed to carry self-sealing, leakproof bags and tissues to use during those moments.
*Peppermint Headache Roller in cobalt blue bottle with our mascot, Kai the Arctic Fox pictured. This is the most essential item because of its portability and the number of uses per bottle.
This Emergency Kit isn’t a cure for migraines, but it will keep you out of the hospital and actively participating in your day, so you can spend more days doing the things you love and fewer days missing out.