Challenges: Personal and Otherwise

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From the very start, I have had mixed feelings about the Ice Bucket Challenge. Undeniably the online phenomenon, which quickly went viral, has raised a huge amount of money for ALS, regardless of what percentage of the funds actually get used for research (which is a discrepancy some have pointed out). Another truth is, millions of people have now heard of ALS who never had before, or maybe had only vaguely heard of “Lou Gherig’s Disease,” though a lot of them probably wish the annoying videos would stop clogging up their news feeds. Which is how I feel about it, but also even more, vaguely, completely put off. And I feel like a horrible person for being so irritated.

Is it because of the inherent cliquishness of it, that because of the pay-it-forward part of the challenges, friends are named to either dump ice water over their own heads or donate $100 within 24 hours? Did I begin to feel left out because no one challenged me, “chose” me, a feeling similar to not being chosen for a team in gym class? Such an embarrassing thing to admit, but… probably. Another reason is maybe that I wish my own illness were getting so much press. Migraine has taken over my life, IS my life in some ways. I can’t work; I’m often in quite severe pain, with accompanying symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and photo/phonophobia, so I miss out on a lot of social activities and family time. There is stigma involved, which results in not being taken seriously by peers; being labeled as a “drug seeker” in emergency rooms; not being respected by doctors. So man, it would be awesome if there were a challenge to increase awareness of migraine and headache disorders, to raise money for more research into a very disabling disease which affects 36 million Americans. (I posted on Twitter a few weeks ago that I wanted to initiate a “Baseball Bat Challenge” for migraine awareness: hit yourself over the head or donate.) But certainly, I don’t begrudge ALS. It’s wonderful that more people are becoming aware of it, and it is far more disabling, in the end, than what I go through. So no, of course I’m very happy for ALS to be getting this shot at stardom. My annoyance could also be because people are engaging in this inane, uncomfortable stunt ostensibly to get out of donating money, even though most of the dumpers and dumpees have probably donated as well. But the whole idea started as a way to GET OUT OF donating money, to shiver and shake under a torrent of ice water instead. Because ANYTHING would be better than to send money to a charity, right? Or maybe, underneath that, anything would be better than having a chronic, possibly terminal illness. Look at us, we’re so fit and healthy that we can dump ice water over ourselves, WE don’t have ALS! Or any illness, for that matter – bring it on! We’re so strong, we can take it! But… I watched a good friend’s family participate in the challenge, when my friend’s husband is dealing with his own disabling chronic illness. So that’s not completely true either. The wasting of water? I am from the Toledo area, which had a water restriction recently due to the algae bloom in Lake Erie. So that too. All of the above, and none of the above.

And now, a headache specialist from West Virginia HAS come up with a challenge for migraine awareness: Hot Wings for Headaches. At first, yes, I rolled my eyes. Couldn’t they have come up with something better? It sounds kind of dumb, a silly copycat. Eat some hot wings, don’t drink water or eat anything else for 30 seconds, and then donate $25 to the American Migraine Foundation. If you can’t / don’t want to eat the wings, donate $50. But really, wings? When the chicken wing industry is notoriously cruel and wasteful? I’m not a vegetarian anymore, but those poor chickens. Or the fact that it requires you go out or order in, when some can’t afford to do that. But you know what… I started thinking, there are some serious PROS to this challenge. There are vegetarian alternatives to traditional hot wings, and the number of migraine families who participate probably won’t be significant enough to make any impact on chicken wing factory farms. [I am picturing an Onion headline: Migraine Awareness Stunt Causes Nationwide Chicken Wing Shortage; Super Bowl Sunday in Jeopardy] It also wouldn’t be necessary to go out, though restaurants offering wings are typically inexpensive. It might even give inspiration to families and friends who don’t go out often, motivation to go to a fun restaurant and have a good time for a good cause. Or, make some wings at home! Eating wings is pretty messy for sure, maybe a little uncomfortable for those who don’t enjoy spicy food, but it is nothing like ice water over the head.

So I’ve decided, YES, Hot Wings for Headaches. Eat some hot wings! Make a video, challenge others! Or, just donate money to the headache charity of your choice. Make an Ice Bucket Challenge video, AND eat some wings. At the same time, even! Or, just donate to both charities. Or since so much money has been raised for ALS already (and seriously, yay!) just donate to migraine research, which is tragically underfunded. Here are some good organizations: the American Migraine Foundation, which is the migraine charity chosen by the creator of Hot Wings for Headaches, Dr. Dave Watson; the Migraine Research Foundation; the UK’s Migraine Trust; and the American Headache and Migraine Association.

Here is Dr. Watson’s Hot Wings for Headaches video:

And lastly, just because you probably haven’t seen enough of them, right? Here are a couple of my favorite Ice Bucket Challenges:

David Lynch and his espresso trumpet; Sarah Palin (not a fan, but hilarious); and this crazy GIF.

As always, thank you for reading. Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend lovelies!

yours in spoonie solidarity ~elizabeth

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7 thoughts on “Challenges: Personal and Otherwise

  1. I wasn’t nominated for the ice bucket challenge either but was more relieved than anything. I’m sure such a shock to my system would have triggered something. I tried to come up with a migraine challenge as well. The best I got was headphones with the volume turned up all the day to the most irritating sound, spikes on those ear phones lodged into the ear, the brightest light possible – again some sort of stabbing in the eye going on, something that causes nausea whatever that may be, a baseball ball to the head or head in a vice then having to go about your normal day and being told to shrug it off/it’s not that bad/grow up and doing that for about a week.

    • Ha! Yeah I was so hesitant to try to put my feelings about it into words for fear of sounding like an asshole. I also think the ice water would trigger a migraine, and I didn’t WANT to do one, but for some reason still have been feeling left out. Really it is kind of like sororities in college – I didn’t want to be in one but wanted to be wanted. And the ice bucket thing just seems so pointless. But how to reconcile not liking something that is doing so much good?? xoxo hope you have a good weekend!

      • I still am hesitant about publicly disapproving the ice bucket challenge. Yeah, I get it, it’s for a good cause and you’re suppose to be a good sport about it or whatever. One of my friends did it and told me she would have nominated me if she would have remembered. I was scared in all honesty, I knew nothing good could have come from sending my body into shock and being pelted with chunks of ice on the head. I privately ranted about it, wondering why other lesser know illnesses couldn’t be included in this. Yeah, it is doing good and raising a ton of awareness. Not a lot of people knew what it was but I’m not sure how many people know what it is now. The way it became viral and meme-like doesn’t quite sit right with me.
        xoxo, hope you have a nice, relaxing and low pain weekend elizabeth! ❤

  2. Thanks for the #hotwings4headaches shout out. I’ll give you the background on it. We were sitting in clinic planning our ice bucket challenge (we did ours as a group of docs, nurses, therapists, etc during our ALS clinic day with some of the patients able to watch) and started joking about what we could do next. First it was hottubs for headaches, but that didn’t really seem like a challenge and would require access to a hottub. Then we went to hot sauce, which quickly converted to something we like to do anyway, eat wings. Just so happens that the restaurant is only about 100 feet from our clinic and they were more than willing to play along. Honestly I didn’t think about any direct connection between wings and headaches, just like there is no connection between ice water and ALS. Thankfully, at least at Buffalo Wild Wings, their wings don’t have msg. And the caveat is to eat the hottest you can handle, so for some that might be sweet BBQ. Who cares. Just something fun to do and hopefully get folks to think about and support migraine.
    Again, thanks for the post.

    • Wow, thank you for finding and commenting on my blog, Dr Watson! Now I am quite embarrassed that I said I rolled my eyes initially at your idea. 😉 I did come around though! I really appreciate the work you’re doing both as an advocate and a physician!

      • No worries. We rolled our eyes about it too. It’s silly really. But it was fun and hopefully productive.

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