The throbbing pain was phenomenal; at its worst I would have to lie in a dark room for days on end
: Clara Molden
In 2014, the migraines I’d suffered from intermittently for a number of years became chronic. I was in my 40s and menopausal, and with my two grown-up children leaving home and my grandmother recently dying, my anxiety levels were off the scale. But it was the migraines that really brought me to my knees, and I think they were often triggered by the difficult emotions I was going through.
The migraines would travel up one side of my neck and settle in one eye, sometimes accompanied by an upset stomach, and a kind of brain fog would descend. The throbbing pain was phenomenal and at its worst I would have to lie in a dark room, ice on my neck and hot water bottle on my feet. Sometimes it could last up to two or three days. At my worst I was getting them once or twice a week.
I think it was frightening at times for my loved ones. My husband, family and friends were always supportive when I was suffering, although it wasn’t easy to articulate just how bad the pain was, and I don’t think they always understood what I meant when I said I could feel “the cloud of migraine descending”. I’m quite a private person and tend to withdraw and not really talk about what I’m going through, which could be isolating, so the people who love me could only stand alongside me helplessly as I went through it. I remember one morning having to drive home from a wedding after a late night and having such a banging migraine that I had to pull over, weeping. I hadn’t even had alcohol, just sugary mocktails, but the pain was overwhelming. It must have been really frightening for my daughter Ruby, then in her early 20s, who had to take the wheel and get us home safely. But she was an absolute trouper, fetching me ice packs and paracetamol as soon as we got home.
On January 1 2017, I woke up and decided something had to change. First, I resolved to give up alcohol, because then at least I wouldn’t be having to cope with a hangover as well as migraines. At the time the migraines were so bad that I was prepared to give up anything that might make them worse.
The biggest struggle for me wasn’t missing alcohol but becoming a social pariah. If I went out for the evening, telling people I didn’t want alcohol was always awkward. They’d make me feel like a party pooper, I guess because I made them feel bad about their own consumption. People who like a drink sometimes find it irritating when you say “No, I don’t drink” when the wine bottle comes round.
By this point I’d done some research and knew that adopting a wholefood, plant-based diet would help tackle my symptoms. I realised this wouldn’t help my social life at all, but as I was in the early days of quitting alcohol, I thought, well, in for a penny in for a pound. As I’d been found to have fibroids I couldn’t have HRT, so I had to use diet to manage my menopause symptoms and migraines. So, within three months of giving up alcohol, I’d ditched sugar and adopted a plant-based wholefood diet.
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