How Migraine Changed the Way I Use Technology
I know there are two things, technology and migraines. When I became disabled by chronic migraines, my relationship with technology took on a whole new meaning.
I lived in the San Francisco, California Bay Area during the two tech booms of the 90s and went on to design and produce toys and games. I moved on to interactive installations. I know what technology is.
I knew about the aids but it took me a long time to use them. Technology has helped me with my headaches. I have never had a relationship with technology like I have now.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how much more accessible the world could be if technology were involved.
The internet is a place where I can get human connections and ideas. I research the suggestions I find online and ask my headaches specialist about them. I have access to information that leads to treatments thanks to technology.
I find connection, emotional support, and validation when I use online resources, such as medication ideas, nonpharmaceutical treatment ideas, and equally important, I learn.
It can be isolating to have chronic migraines. Many people have to stay away from social environments when sensory input is not comfortable.
It is hard for people to understand what you are going through when you have Migraine. I have access to thousands of people who are living with the same disease as me thanks to places like Facebook groups andInstagram.
My relationship with technology has changed a lot. I knew about the use of assistive devices because my mother needed hearing aids and voice-to-text. It took me years to look to tech to help with my disease.
Technology can help treat or prevent attacks. Nerve stimulation and neural pathway behavior can be achieved with the use of neuroscience devices. There are five devices on the market that act on different nerves.
“I have tried two that don’t work for me and one that I cannot live without. Some devices are worth looking into, even though they are expensive and hard to get. You have to try it to see if it works for you.”
Technology can help reduce the effects of a migraine. While still allowing you to hear, noise-canceling headphones or earbuds reduce noise levels. There is a program you can use to reduce the amount of light coming from screens.
I lower the brightness of my screens as well. Some technological advances have been made by eyewear. There are special glasses that block out light waves and are safe to wear indoors.
I need help to use technology in a way that helps me. This is one of the paradoxes of living with a migraine disease.
We feel like we have to be online all the time, because of emails and social media. It is important to balance screen time if you are like me and have a lot of screen time.
“I have found limiting notifications on my phone to be helpful on this journey. I am practicing letting go of a sense of urgentness. There are apps that can help limit screen time by letting you know when you’ve been on an app too long.”
This option is built in to some apps. There is software that blocks access to certain apps. I need an app to help with self-discipline.
I never cared about ergonomics as much as I used to. My neck and spine have to be in the right position when using screens, or I will get attacked. I use yoga blocks to support my neck and feet, and sometimes I have to lie down to do it. I stretch my neck and shoulders before and after computer time.
“It is important to use tech in a way that works for you. Vision and hearing loss are some of the issues with using screens. I have to strain to hear, my eyes hurt, I can’t see, and I have a migraine.”
You never know what you’re going to find online, sound levels and clarity vary a lot. Thankfully, there is technology to help with that, too. Screen readers, voice-activated software, and voice-to-text software can help if you’re having trouble with vision or your eyes need a break.
“I have tried a lot of software and it doesn’t work with everything. A steep learning curve can befall you. I am still trying to find the best software to use.”
If you have trouble hearing or are having a hard time with sounds, a caption can help. I use a caption when I watch TV and keep the sound off my phone and computer. I hope more people will provide caption with their content.
The new access to the world has been a silver lining of the terrible Pandemic. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, my world opened for a brief moment, and virtual options were expanded. I was able to take a dance class from my former teacher for the first time in 7 years.
I was able to control the noise, smells, and sound levels in my bedroom, while taking the class, and lay down when I needed to. I could go to galleries and see art without being sick. I used to go to a gallery that had a 3D preview of their shows.
When it is too much for your brain disorder, you will take the next best thing. It was exciting to hear musicians broadcasting. More doctor appointments were done via remote technology.
I am able to go to a clinic that used to be too far away thanks to the persistence of telehealth. The ability to work from home is a huge leap into the world.
The world has the potential to be more accessible. It requires spending money and energy on a small portion of the population, but we all need more tools to engage with the world as we age. We need more people to speak up for themselves or their loved ones.
I am grateful to be living in this time, because technology plays a huge role in my life. I am hopeful for the future of new devices and increased accessibility for people with disabilities after 9 years of no reduction in my chronic migraines.
Yuri Cárdenas lives in Oakland, California, with their assistance dog Katsu. They have been disabled for nine years and are passionate about reducing stigma and helping people live a better life while chronically ill. They advocate to end disparities in healthcare and see a safe space for everyone with Migraine. Yuri loves nature, being silly, and helping people on their antiracism journey.