Saturday, January 22, 2011

Craft Shows and Migraine Disease

The last few years, I've done one, possibly two craft fairs/church bazaars every Fall.  My late mother got me into it.  She wanted to sell some of the things she had made, and she never thought she had enough for a full table.  So, I'd split the table rent, and go sit with her for the day.  We'd bring a cooler with water and snacks, and my brother would bring us lunch if we didn't get what the venue was serving.  Of course, she usually had more than enough to cover a full table, but I managed to squeeze a few things of mine.  If I got a migraine, or if I started to feel more off balanced or nauseated,  I could go home.  I did that a couple of times.

Things changed once my mother died.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep doing shows, but I figured I could still do one or two without doing much harm to myself.  The first one without her was hard, but I knew she'd want me to be there.  But, things changed. I didn't have an out anymore.  I had to stay unless things got to the brink of non-functionality-like throw-up-in-a-garbage -bag bad or getting-the-warning-that-I'll-need-to-lie-down-and-watch-the-room-spin bad.  My brother would come and man my table if I really needed him to, but more than likely at that point he'd be driving me home.  So, I had to be prepared to counteract the potential triggers I'd face before and during each show.

 The environment of most shows is not friendly to migraineurs or people with vestibular disorders.  The environment is rich in migraine and vertigo triggers.  Shows are held in classrooms, gymnasiums or church halls or meeting rooms with tiled floors-large rooms without much to visually focus on if the room starts spinning.  Loud noise from the combination of the crowd, vendors, loud background music, squeaky PA systems used to announce raffle winners; florescent lights that flicker, as well as strong odors from cooking food and other vendor displays like scented candles come to mind.  

 Then there are the other, personal migraine triggers that follow me everywhere.  Sometimes I'd get excited and anxious the night before and not sleep well.  Lack of sleep or sleep disruptions are a big trigger for me.  I also try to maintain a regular daily schedule.  I have to eat at certain intervals since my migraines can be triggered by skipping meals or delayed meals.  Because of the CFIDS, I also have to rest at certain intervals in order to keep the fatigue, dizzies and migraines at bay.  At a show, I can't do that, obviously.  Then there's the motion of people walking back and forth in front of the table, which can be a vertigo trigger. 

I focused first on the personal triggers.  I made sure I rested for a couple of days prior to the show.  This doesn't mean I stay in bed all day.  I try to be sure my errands-like banking and going to the grocery store are kept to a minimum.  I get to bed early, and make sure I have everything loaded in the car the evening before I set up.  I also still take a cooler with me.  I make sure I have plenty of bottled water, milk, and this year I tried mozzarella sticks.  The protein lasts longer for me, and gives me a little perk up when I start dragging.  This way I can eat smaller portions during the day to maintain my energy.  This year I took an emergency kit with me.  I had my sunglasses to fight glare and light flickering, ear plugs for the noise, tissues-because I get a lot of nasal congestion, nasal spray, analgesic, as well as an Epi-pen-I have a ton of food  and other allergies and I don't leave home without it.  I brought a couple of different projects that didn't require any thought so I'd have something I could focus on.  I also learned acupressure points from my Chiropractor that work for migraine.

There's really not much I could do about the environmental triggers, besides the glasses, and earplugs. Once I got my table set up, I'd look for an area/fixed, not visually cluttered or busy spot that I could look at if I started to feel more spinny.  My brother came to relieve me, and I used the show helpers a couple of times to come watch my table if I needed a break.  My strategy helped.  Although I did get a couple of migraines, they didn't get to be real least until after I got home.  I still was totally exhausted for a few days afterward, but I survived.  Last year I did five shows in all, which was a record, and I'm amazed I survived them!  I tried not to do shows consecutive weeks, but if I did, I tried to do no more than two shows in a row.
I don't know if I'll be able to do five shows this year, but at least I have a plan.