Triggered and Buckets

So often when you tell people that you have migraine disorder the first thing they ask is what are your triggers?

I often just shrug my shoulders and list a couple of things that are definite triggers and say it is variable. Last year I stopped tracking my migraine triggers for awhile as the pressure of trying to pin it down to something all seemed to much and unachievable at times.

So then at times when I been asked this question it has felt really intrusive and accusatory. Like do you know your triggers and if so why aren’t you dealing with them? No one asks straight away when someone is diagnosed with heart disease what are your risk factors. So I struggled with the concept of people wanting to know more versus the negative undertone of the question.

As someone that has had migraine attacks since the age of 6 I can list definite triggers out for you but I can also tell you I have tried chasing triggers for many adult years trying to get the perfect balance point so I am “responsibly taking care of myself” only to be left confused and in pain.

It wasn’t until I saw a post awhile ago by movement with migraine on instagram that I heard about the bucket theory and suddenly everything seemed a bit clearer. It also seemed like it would help explain migraine attack triggers to those that ask you about.

So the bucket theory as I understand goes something like this as explained by Migraine strong

The Bucket Theory was composed to explain how complicated migraine triggers could be and why something feels like a trigger one week and not the next.

The theory states that each day we start out with a bucket that isn’t empty but contains things that we can’t avoid in our daily lives (ie. hormones, stress and weather). These things fill 1/3 or maybe even 2/3 of the bucket depending on how stressed, hormonal or triggered by weather you are. Then on top of this baseline other triggers like allergies, smells, foods and drinks are added into the bucket. Each thing added takes up space or volume in the bucket. Every one of those things has a different volume attached to it. For example, raw onions may have the volume of a softball, whereas a bit of lime juice may have the volume of a pebble. The amount of water it displaces from the bucket is how it will affect your head and the overall load it has on tripping the migraine trigger mechanism for the day. If we eat or encounter too many large triggers in any given day, the bucket overflows and an attack will ensue.

However, the next week when the weather is fine and our stress level is low, the raw onion that triggered us the week before could be reduced to the volume of a marble instead of a softball.

Migraine bucket theory- my migraine bucket overflowing

So in my bucket I might think the trigger is the poor choice in food I ate last night where in reality it is just the last thing that overflowed my bucket bringing on a migraine attack.

This theory really helped me visualise why it is such a struggle sometimes to narrow down what set off the particular attack and also how to better verbalise that struggle to people in a insightful and educational way.

I hope this theory might help you

Let me know your thoughts about triggers and the bucket theory

Love Monica x

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