In the book “Who’s Really Driving Your Bus?” by James Henman, the author uses the metaphor of driving a bus to represent our lives. He encourages readers to become skilled drivers of their own lives. This concept can be applied to migraine management. Living your best life with migraine doesn’t come naturally. You need to learn new information, develop new skills, and practice those skills.
- Clean the windshield
Your experiences and beliefs can cloud your vision just like dirt or smudged fingerprints cloud the visibility of a windshield. Your vision may also be impaired by circumstances beyond your control, like rain from a storm or the splashing of mud from a passing bus. Seeing clearly to navigate your migraine future may require you to clean off the grime left by failed treatments, difficult bosses, unsympathetic friends, or even the residue from your own choices.
- Get rid of clutter
Are there loose items scattered around that could be tossed about if you’re forced to stop or swerve suddenly? If you need to make an abrupt change because of migraine, what would shake lose? Look for weak spots and find ways to strengthen them.
- Maintain a well-stocked emergency kit
Is your emergency kit stocked and in good order? Are you prepared for a migraine attack anywhere, anytime? Do you have a back-up plan for both acute and preventive treatment failures?
- Ensure passenger safety
Are your passengers safely buckled? How are those closest to us affected by Migraine? Are we taking steps to keep them secure?
- Establish some rules
Are there unruly or disruptive passengers on your bus? Some people in your life may behave in ways that are counter-productive to your well-being. You have a responsibility to teach others the rules for riding your bus. Most passengers will gladly cooperate. Others will not and may be asked to leave.
Reading the signs
- Recognize the signs
An essential driving skill is learning to recognize and interpret the road signs. Misreading the signs can put you in danger, cause you to lose your way, or get you in legal trouble. In the same way, you must learn to read the signs (symptoms) of migraine. Knowing what to expect gives you greater confidence to respond effectively.
- Know the right response
Imagine learning that a stop sign meant “go” and a green light meant “stop.” You can accurately identify the signs, but respond inappropriately. That incorrect knowledge creates problems for you and those around you. Learning to identify the signs of migraine means little if we don’t also learn how to respond to those signs.
Safe driving habits
- Separate fact from fiction
Good drivers know the facts. Knowing the facts about migraine makes you a better manager of your migraine care, too. Myths can slow you down, lead you off course, and even cause you harm.
- Cruising the open road
We learn to drive in phases. You must learn to drive your migraine bus in stages, too. Some of us zip in and out of migraine traffic like a pro. Others are still developing skills in the safety of a parking lot. What matters is that you keep progressing.
- Driving isn’t a spectator sport
Taking the wheel is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Sooner or later you make mistakes, some more damaging that others. You may even feel afraid to drive again. It may seem easier to let someone else drive. Unfortunately, no one else can drive your migraine bus. No matter how many scrapes, dents, or near-misses, you must learn to drive it yourself.
- Actions have consequences
Speeding tickets, high insurance rates, repair bills, and injuries teach us that our actions behind the wheel have consequences. In driving your migraine bus, you will make some mistakes with negative consequences. It is your responsibility to learn from your mistakes, not give up because of them.
- Know your limits
Safety on the road includes your ability to know your limits. Trying to manage migraine symptoms beyond your control is equally unwise. Knowing when to ask for help or consult a Migraine expert is smart driving. Sometimes, the best course of action is to pull off the road and call for help.
- Eyes on the road
Sometimes you need to look behind you to safely back up or look for oncoming traffic. Yet looking through mirrors all the time is unwise. If you are to make progress, you must spend most of your time looking forward. It is helpful to review past migraine treatments and experiences to inform your future choices, but you can’t get stuck in the past. Progress is made by facing forward with your eyes on the road ahead.
- Hands on the wheel
You control the direction of our bus. Take your hands off the wheel, and it will veer off course. Your migraine treatment can get off course, too. You’re the only one who can guide it back onto the road and steer it in the right direction.
- Finding your way
It’s hard to reach your destination if you don’t know the way. Without directions, you may get lost, waste time, and use up all your fuel. We need a roadmap to get to migraine treatment success, too. Often, you need a professional navigator (migraine specialist) to help you find our way.
- Keep a sharp eye out for danger
Safe driving means watching out for potential danger. Defensive driving is a lot like migraine trigger avoidance. You know triggers exist. Pretending they don’t is just foolish.
- Hone your reflexes
Recognizing the dangers only helps if you have the skills to avoid them. Knowing your triggers is just the first step. Learning how to expertly avoid them takes practice.
- Nerves of steel
Safe driving requires emotional control, especially in high-risk situations. With practice you can learn to respond to migraine triggers and symptoms without becoming overwhelmed by negative emotion.
Are you ready to start driving your migraine bus?
Source: Henman, J. (2003). Who’s Really Driving Your Bus? Trafford Publishing. Victoria, Canada.
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Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.