I got migraines regularly as a kid. The pain would start as a pinch above my left eyebrow, travel to the back of my neck, and soon send out sparks of light into my vision, nausea into my belly, and, if I didn’t retreat to a dark room soon enough, puke onto our white carpet.
I think I was eight or nine when I noticed the connection between the pain and my eating. That day, I’d had a bunch of fruit punch on an empty stomach. An hour or so later, the headache started.
Sugar, I thought.
Sure enough, a few weeks later, I waited too long to eat after some candy. When the pain started, I didn’t head directly for a dark room. Instead, I raided the cupboard, eating some crackers. I noticed that the nausea eased, even if the migraine itself kept drilling into my forehead.
It’s funny how childhood pain trains you. Even today I watch what I eat. Partially because of the fat-phobia of our culture that I’m trying to shed, but mostly because I spent my formative years learning to hate headaches more than I liked sugar. I don’t eat doughnuts on an empty stomach. I’ve lost my taste for Coke. And I developed a huge fondness for whole wheat.
One more moment sticks out from my years of Learning to Avoid Headaches. I was fourteen, searching for a snack after getting home, famished. The hunger felt migraine-ish, so I tried to hurry.
My brain said “buttered sourdough toast”, but my body said, “scrambled eggs.”
I wasn’t really an egg person, and eggs took longer. So I ignored my body.
Two minutes later, eating my toast, I noticed it wasn’t helping.
Eggs, my body insisted again.
I dropped the sourdough on the counter (this is astonishing; it was my favorite food) and reached for the carton of eggs in the fridge.
Five minutes after that, eating my eggs at the table, I felt well-being spreading through my body. I could tell I would not get a headache. For that day, at least, I had found an antidote.
Whoa, I thought. My body actually knows what it needs…
I’m over at The Mudroom to talk about how my childhood headaches helped me wake up to the incredible power of being one with the crazy-beautiful-amazing-frustrating body of mine. Join me there!