Migraines Are a Pain II: The Writing Life

Okay, here is where I share some observations I’ve made during my life as a writer. Note, there is nothing scientific about this—these are just observations made by little ol’ me ;-).

Conference and retreats: For some reason, the day after I return from a conference or retreat, I get a migraine. I can count on it. Even my husband knows to expect it. And sometimes, at longer events (like the SCBWI summer conference), it will sneak up on me on the last day of the event. One bit of knowledge that has helped me figure out how to “cope” with all the excitement of a conference or retreat came from the Shrinking Violets Promotion site. After reading Mary and Robin’s blog, I realized that I’m an introvert and introverts need—no, make that REQUIRE quiet time. I realized that I couldn’t stay plunged into the hubbub of conference events. Unless I wanted a headache. So, I take a break in the middle of the day. I go to my room and I listen to soothing music.
I also have found that I MUST be disciplined and get to bed at a reasonable time. No staying up past midnight chatting with my writer friends any more. I’m in my room by 9:30 at the latest. Lights out by 10:00. I also use earplugs and sometimes an eye mask, to insure that I get a good night’s rest.

What do you do when attending conferences and such, to keep your migraines at bay? Anyone care to share?

Book Signings: Last May, I signed books at Book Expo America. On day one, I was in the hall where I signed books for about four hours. The next morning, I woke up with a whopper of a migraine. I attributed it to the stress of the event (driving down, finding the booth, etc.). The following month, I was at the ALA Conference, where I signed books for about three hours at my publisher’s booth. I started getting a headache, and by the time I was heading home on my three-hour drive, it was in full swing (and the prescription meds I take for migraines makes me sleepy, so I can’t take them and drive).
There was no weather, hormonal or dietary event to have caused these migraines. On my drive home, I called my husband. He said, “You know, I was talking to someone a couple of days ago about migraines, and they said that fluorescent lights can trigger them. I’ve never seen a convention center that didn’t have fluorescent lights. Maybe that’s the cause?”

Wow. I’d never heard of that. So I did a Google search and read that there are special glasses to prevent migraines. Amazing. But to good to be true, the skeptic in me said. So, I asked my eye doctor about it. He explained that fluorescent lights can trigger migraines in two ways; either the micro-flashes from a single light source (like in your office) or from the lack of light rays from multiple lights (like in a convention hall, classroom or store). Specifically, it’s the red light rays. Apparently, cheaper lights, like those used in a convention center, lack the red rays (Note: There are more expensive ones available, but they cost a lot more). He pointed to his office and said, “This is why my office walls are pink. I want to cast enough red light into the room to avoid triggering migraines in my staff and patients.” Hmm. And I thought he just loved pink! He continued, “If the lack of red light rays is the trigger, all you have to do is paint your walls pink, or wear pink-tinted glasses.” Well, that’s all I had to hear. I ordered a pair of pink-tinted glasses right there on the spot.
In the month of August, I had four book signings scheduled. I went into each store armed with my pink glasses. And guess what happened? Or shall I say, “Didn’t happen?” That’s right. I never got a migraine. I’m still being cautiously optimistic, at least until I try them out in a large venur, but I think they work. Now, when I walk into a fluorescently-lit room that I know I’ll be in for more than an hour or so, I pull out my pink-tinted glasses. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll continue to work for me.

Has anyone else found this to be effective?

Sorry if I’ve rambled, but I really do hope this might be of interest and possibly help other writers. I’ll say it again; I’m no expert, just a writer who wants to pass the word about possible migraine solutions.

8 thoughts on “Migraines Are a Pain II: The Writing Life

  1. Fluorescent lights are bad for me, or any bright light when I have a migraine. They make it so much worse.I’ve never heard about the pink tinted glasses before. I’ll have to look into that (I need to get my eyes checked and get new glasses before the end of the year anyway). Thanks for the heads up. I hope it continues to work for you!Since my accident, I have to do the same kinds of things to prevent migraines at conferences (lights at the conference can be a problem also). The way they remodeled the hotel in LA was a big problem this year. They used to have the heavy drapes that block out light, but now they’re gone, and it’s really light in the room, even at night (and I’m used to light rooms at night b/c I live in the city). Then in the early, early am, the sun shines in and wakes me up before I’ve had a chance to get any real sleep. Grrr!I don’t think I can do the eye mask thing, so I’ll have to think of something else if I go next year.Thanks for your thoughts and solutions! This is all still new to me (and I’m hoping I’ll get better and it will go away).


  2. Hi sruble,Yes, since Hilton took over the Century Plaza Hotel, the quality of stay has definitely dropped. You might try requesting a poolside room next time, so you won’t have the sunrise seering into your room. Also, if you go to this post on my blog, http://terrypierce.blogspot.com/2007/06/traveling-tools-for-good-nights-sleep.html, you might find some other useful tips.Any lights kill me when I’ve got a migraine. If I have to be out, I’ll even wear a baseball cap to keep the overhead lights from shining directly into my eyes.Thanks for your comments and good luck with finding solutions for your migraines. I know there are all kinds of meds out there, some of which I’ve tried, but that’s a personal thing and something that I won’t talk about here since it really should be discussed with one’s doctor.Goodl luck!Terry


  3. Don’t worry, I have meds 😉 I have 2 prescriptions that I use depending on what kind of migraine it is. They help, unless it is the really, really evil kind of migraine, then the meds just dull it and time is the only realy cure. It is best to talk with the doctor about meds and stuff. I tried many that didn’t work for me or had awful side affects, but those might be the exact meds that work for someone else.I agree with you on the Hilton version of the Century Plaza. I’ve noticed a lot of changes that make for not as wonderful a stay, and yet staying where the conference is, is better than trying to find somewhere else to stay. I stayed on the pool side of the hotel this year, but it was still too light for me. 😦Thanks for the link to the travel tips. I always have my own room at conferences, so I can go rest or sleep, or just not be around people, which really helps with migraines.I’m going to go check out the sleep masks. Who knows, maybe that kind will work for me … just checke, they don’t have that mask anymore, but I found it at REI.Thanks again.Stephanie


  4. Looks like I will look for pink glasses too. I also get headaches because of weather. I do use Imitrex shots (they don’t make me sleepy) and Zomig (which does give restful sleep). At conferences, I do give myself time. It may be to walk through the exibits, have lunch away from the conference site, or read once of the new books I pick up.Deborah Cavitt


  5. Hi Deborah,Yes, there is a variety of medications out there and it seems to be very subjective as to what works for one person and what doesn’t. I think that’s why it’s interesting to talk about the “other” things we can do. I know we can’t control the weather, but how we handle stress, how we control ourselves in a given environment, etc., are pro-active choices we can make to gain a little bit more control over these monsters that like to set up house in our heads.Thanks for commenting,Terry


  6. Terry,Although I only suffered for one year with migraines, I can understand the tremendouse pain they cause. I was working in an office with florescent lighting and going through peri-menopause. Once I quit my job, my migraines stopped.Thank you for addressing migraines.Jean Ann Williams


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