Triggers

I, being the paragon of athletic achievement that I am, get most of my exercise from playing roller hockey once a week.

Calm down, everyone. There’ll be time for autographs later.

Anyway, as unimpressive as that already sounds, the truth is even worse: Sometimes, due to a variety of factors, all the strenuous exertion of my, ahem, roller hockey-ing will result in a migraine for yours truly. Yes, I’m so frail and feeble that the mere act of playing a casual sport once a week can be enough to send my brain collapsing in on itself.

I’m fortunate that the migraines I get now aren’t terribly severe or frequent and can usually be prevented if I’m good about getting the proper amount of sleep and if I eat enough before I play (although that second part does kind of counteract the whole ‘exercise’ aspect of the affair).

As it is, migraines were a disappointingly large part of my childhood and so I got to spend some time at the acronymically named Michigan Institute of Neurological Disorders trying to learn why exactly my brain seemed to be so mad at me. (It’s M.I.N.D., get it?! Oh, brain humor, you are just so droll.)

One of my biggest takeaways from my time at M.I.N.D. – other than that I, mercifully, didn’t have a brain tumor – was that the actual roots and causes of my migraines would always be rather nebulous. Apparently science has not yet advanced to a place where it can identify why some people’s brains sporadically turn into goth kids, wanting nothing but darkness and the sharp embrace of pain. That failure aside, science has managed to curate a list of physical stimuli – triggers – that are potentially capable of sparking the onset of a migraine.

The triggers themselves are fairly mundane. After some trial, error, and observation I came to realize that (in middle and high school, at least) I was susceptible to mozzarella cheese, irregular sleep patterns, and – of all things – the Park Editor mode of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. I’m not even kidding about that last one. The simple – and hyper specific – act of placing a virtual grind rail in a virtual warehouse was apparently cause enough for my (decidedly not x-treme) brain to want to explode out of my eyes. So, for better or worse, I didn’t have a whole lot of late night pizza parties building virtual skate parks when I was a kid.

That’s all very innocent, and yet I always kind of felt like the term ‘trigger’ implied something more intense. When I told a lunch lady that I wanted a chicken sandwich instead of pizza, I knew it was because the pizza might lead to a crippling migraine. But saying that the pizza might have ‘triggered me’ made it feel so much more awesome, as if I had spent years in a secret government lab being trained in a hundred different schools of hand-to-hand combat and then subjected to subliminal manipulation so that, with the ingestion of even the smallest piece of a meat lover’s pie, I might slip into some kind of trance and go on a transcontinental tour of beatdowns.

Or, you know, I’d just get a really bad headache.

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