Beth had her first migraine when she was nine. As she grew up, migraines happened from time to time, but she could deal with them.
Then, in 2016, they started getting worse. They became more intense and started happening more frequently. She became more sensitive to the things she'd learned were 'triggers' for her migraines, but now didn't seem to need a specific trigger for a migraine to flare up.
After months of being regularly incapacitated by migraines, Beth was diagnosed with 'Chronic Migraine' - a neurological disease defined as 'suffering 12 or more headache days a month, 8 of which are migraines'. At that time, Beth was suffering 28 migraine-days a month.
Beth was prescribed the standard sequence of preventative medications, and while she enthusiastically accepted each one, they all proved to make no substantial difference to her migraines.
At the best of times a migraine can be a horrible experience - causing sufferers to seek refuge usually in dark rooms away from all sounds and physical stimuli while they experience an inconsistent selection of widely varying symptoms; from overwhelming pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of sensation in their face and limbs, loss of the ability to move their face or limbs, hallucinations, dizziness, vertigo, confusion... the list is huge.
But when you're spending nearly every day experiencing at least one migraine, lasting from 6 hours to 3 days at a time, the words 'overwhelming' and 'debilitating' really don't do the situation justice. The World Health Organisation rank chronic migraine as the fourth most debilitating disease - beating blindness in the impact it can have on a sufferer's life. Beth and I found migraines quite forcibly taking over our life together, stripping us of time spent with friends and family, the ability to make or keep plans, interrupting Beth's PhD, and as more and more slipped away we wanted to do something to reclaim something of our old selves.
The ocean seemed to hold the answer, as we live but a stone's throw from the Irish sea on the island of Anglesy in North Wales. We set out to reconnect with nature and with ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we could still achieve something in a day, and to give ourselves a greater sense of accountability we gave ourselves the challenge to swim 100 times over the coming winter.
Beth started social media channels to log our progress, and that's when this challenge started to grow into something more. The community of fellow migraineurs, and sufferers of other invisible illnesses, proved to be some of the loveliest and supportive people we could ever have hoped to meet. They helped spur us on, even on the worst of days.
But the most remarkable and surprising element of this challenge was something that we slowly observed more and more, the more we swam; the swimming had a positive effect on Beth's migraines! It fairly quickly became apparent that the more we swam, the less frequent and less severe her migraines were (she still had a fair few, but her condition seemed to be generally improving). We also started feeling generally better; happier, more full-of-life, and less stressed. We swam more and more, and while at the start we'd only really swum when beth was between migraines, we started to make more of an effort to go even when she wasn't feeling great. Through doing that, we discovered that the cold water had a more profound effect on Beth's migraines that we could ever have hoped; it took the pain away.
The rest of the story is told in the film; suffice to say that we helped initiate a research trial with the University of Portsmouth to find out if cold water could help other migraineurs, and are now connected to a global network of migraineurs, patients and patient leaders.
I am tremendously proud of "100 Days of Vitamin Sea", because of the breath of life it gave to Beth and I when we so desperately needed it. I'm also proud of Beth, beyond words, because of the spirit with which she entered into all of this, and for the inspiration that she has been to so many others - most of all, me.
- Andy Clark.
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