I had my first migraine when I was about ten years old. I remember coming home from school and lying on the sofa with its dark green linen covers scattered with a pattern of pink cabbage roses.
My mother had to close the curtains because the light hurt my eyes. Then I was sick. And that was the start of a lifetime of living with migraines, although for years no-one put a name to them. When I was at boarding school I used to end up in the sanatorium at the end of every term with 'exhaustion'.
Looking back, they were actually migraines although the term exhaustion wasn't completely wrong.
Last week I had a migraine which stole two days from my week. It was the first one for some months. Migraines can rule your life. I have to be careful of bright lights. Driving in autumn when the sun is low can be a problem. When I go to watch Leicester Tigers on a dull day or in the evening I wear sunglasses to cut out the glare from the floodlights. I know I probably look weird but I don't care! A couple of years ago I went to see Strictly Come Dancing at the De Montfort Hall and spent most of the time looking at my lap due to the huge glitter ball on stage which seemed to be sending out pinpoints of light right in my direction.
There are many suggestions as to the cause of migraine, cheese, chocolate, red wine, hormones and more recently I read that a sudden change in temperature could contribute. My migraines used to be at their worst in the spring when the weather can fluctuate a lot. A year or so ago I cut down on the amount of dairy in my diet. When I get a migraine one of the things I really can't bear is the smell of milk. I've never actually liked the taste of it either and had a tiny amount in my tea, but I do love cheese. Anyway since cutting down, the migraines are less frequent and more bearable. Sometimes I don't even have to go back to bed. I do however have to slow down. But instead of feeling frustrated that my plans have to be put on hold I now acknowledge that the migraines are my body's way of trying to tell me something about myself and the way I am living my life at that time. So I take the enforced pause with as much gratitude as I can muster through the pain, and see it as an opportunity to reflect and to re-assess. My migraines may have improved as a result of cutting down on dairy but I do know that it is also stress which causes them to rear up. Whoa! they say. STOP! You're taking on too much, putting yourself under too much pressure. They are always right.
It has been a busy, exciting and in some ways challenging year. There has been precious little time to stop and smell the roses. I have been writing virtually non-stop and to deadlines for nearly two years now and however much you love something it does you good to have a break sometimes. The latest migraine was definitely the result of exhaustion so, despite having an idea for a new book, I am not going to write anything for a while. I shall just mull things over, potter about and, as the wise and inspirational Julia Cameron advises, 'fill the well'.
I hope you can find time to potter, smell the roses and fill the well this week. Thank-you for reading.