The Excedrin® Migraine Experience: Interview with Participant Jessica Pomerantz
If you or someone you know has migraines, chances are you’ve already seen one of many posts online about Excedrin’s latest campaign to raise migraine awareness.
For those of you that have not, I am here to share with you what that buzz earlier in April was all about.
The team over at Excedrin® decided it was time to introduce a more inventive method to help foster empathy for people living with migraines. Focusing on symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, disorientation, and aura the end result was creating an augmented reality that simulates to non-sufferers what a migraine attack can feel like.
The Migraine Experience Program took a couple of years to fully come together. A great amount of time was spent to fully conceptualize the experience - from building the headsets, to determining the appropriate symptoms to portray, and then piloting the experience to ensure it would work the way Excedrin® and GSK wanted it to. This certainly did not happen overnight, but it was important to give the program the appropriate amount of time and thought to ensure we had the opportunity to make the impact the companies wanted.
With over 38 million American’s living with migraines how exactly did Excedrin® find their participants?
A third-party organization was enlisted to help identify the best candidates. Real-life migraine sufferers and Excedrin® users who wanted to help to share their story were called upon to put this augmented reality technology to the test. Those selected individuals had the opportunity to try the migraine simulator with a colleague, family member or friend who was not a sufferer.
Last week I had the opportunity to chat with Jessica Pomerantz; one of the participants with The Migraine Experience.
It turns out that Jessica is an incredibly talented singer who released her very first album, Simple In Disguise on iTunes and owns her own tutoring business that specializes in College Admissions with help in both the Spanish and French languages.
Jessica remembers being around 11 and 12 years old when she was always experiencing headaches. It wasn’t until about the age of 15 that what seemed like incredibly severe headaches turned out to be a diagnosis for migraines with aura.
Like most migraineurs, Jessica sees a neurologist. In her early 20’s Jessica’s migraines worsened causing a great amount of concern. Several MRI’s proved nothing unusual was going on. For Jessica it can be frustrating to hear everything looks just fine; especially when you’re living with a neurological condition that currently has no cure.
Jessica shared one of her worst migraine moments. It happened while shopping at a local pharmacy. Once the aura hit the time frame from when Jessica could get home was very limited. The rest of her debilitating symptoms; head throbbing and/or pounding, sensitivity to light and sounds, would soon follow giving Jessica no other choice than to leave her unpaid items behind. She immediately ran out of the pharmacy to find a reliable means of transportation then arrived to her apartment where it was hours before the symptoms finally subsided.
On average Jessica experiences migraine attacks at least once a month. However, there are occasions when those attacks can happen twice a week. As of lately they have been so debilitating it becomes impossible for her to do anything.
A frequent question migraineurs are often asked if they have considered eliminating certain products or ingredients from their diet. Gluten just happens to be one of those commonly mentioned items. It is something Jessica cannot have anyways. She avoids consuming any type caffeinated items unless it’s on a day when a migraine attack sneaks up on her. Only then can caffeine help aid in helping lessen or eliminating her symptoms.
Given all of the factors about Jessica and her history with migraines I can see exactly why Excedrin® felt she would fit into their plan to help a non-sufferer relate in a way they hadn’t before with their loved one, friend or co-worker.
As a person spending the last 3 decades living with migraines, I could definitely relate to Jessica.
The main connection I felt with her was having a significant other that knows you are not feeling well yet tries to convince you that what you’re experiencing is “just a headache” and to not cancel plans or leave early because that pesky migraine should eventually pass.
After Jessica was chosen to take part in The Migraine Experience she had no reservations on whom the lucky person would be donning the augmented reality gear. Her boyfriend Dan Rosenbaum. Together these two embarked on something that really had the migraine community talking. The focal topic amongst the majority of the groups was whether or not a person could TRULY feel compassion after wearing a device for only a few minutes?
This is what Excedrin® posted on their website after Jessica and Dan shared a few of their thoughts before the Migraine Experience:
Like many sufferers, Jessica feels misunderstood: “People don’t understand what migraines feel like because the symptoms are also hard to imitate,” she says. Jessica suffers from some of the condition’s most common symptoms, including aura and sensitivity to light and sound, which she describes as “Like ambulance sirens going off in your head, but 1,000 decibels louder.”
Dan, Jessica’s boyfriend, volunteered for The Migraine Experience because “it’s heartbreaking to see her in so much pain.” But Dan feels some doubt about the condition as well — “I think it’s just a much stronger headache.” And there’s frustration there, too: “When the world stops for her, it stops for me.”
Jessica thinks the experience will draw them closer to a mutual understanding. “He’ll really empathize, so the next time I get one, there won’t be any rolling of the eyes.”
Jessica and Dan spent 2 full days filming the migraine experience portion, a half day of filming with the two of them talking on the couch, another half day of behind the scenes; which was implemented for the commercial, and finally an additional half day for Jessica to do voice overs.
In all, it took about 5 days total to compile the footage needed for Jessica’s and Dan’s video.
Dan is such a trooper for attempting the augmented reality experience. I think it was admirable of him to accept Jessica’s invitation to walk a few feet in her shoes. Witnessing his genuine feelings of empathy towards Jessica as he reached out for her hand while she asked him “Do you think you could sit in a restaurant with the symptoms that you were experiencing?” and without holding back Dan honestly replied, “No!” had me cheering for migraineurs all over the world.
As a partner and caregiver it is vital to emotionally and morally support someone living with any type of debilitating medical condition. In this particular instance Excedrin® had truly changed the perspective of one more non-sufferer. Now that is what I call a reality check, or to better phrase it, a virtual reality check!
To learn more about Excedrin® and their mission to raise migraine awareness visit their website and take a moment to view each video: https://www.excedrin.com/migraine-experience/
Check out Excedrin’s Facebook Page
Follow them on Twitter
To find out more about Jessica’s music check out her Facebook Page
Head over to iTunes and check out Jessica’s new album that is available for download
GSK Consumer Healthcare is one of the world's largest consumer healthcare companies. Their pur-pose is to help more people around the world to do more, feel better and live longer with everyday healthcare products.
To learn more about GSK Consumer Healthcare and their products visit their website: http://www.gsk.com/
By JP Summers – May 1, 2016
A few weeks ago Excedrin unveiled “The Migraine Experience” that not only created a buzz all over the media outlets, but got the vast majority in the migraine community to take to their Twitter, Facebook or blogs and truthfully convey how this type of augmented reality could overall affect the way people view those of us living this neurological disease.
As someone who has spent the last 30 years trying to explain or worse stand up for myself because my debilitating migraines decided to once again ruin any chance of me enjoying a day out with friends, family, my husband or kids; I wondered had the team over at Excedrin actually find an effective way to alter the perception of someone that had never experienced migraines?
There I was, in the midst of the postdrome stage of a migraine attack, early in the A.M. hours watching each video all the while keeping an open mind about this latest augmented reality platform that is being used to simulate an immersive experience that replicates common migraine symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, disorientation, and aura (visual disturbances, sometimes manifesting as spots or jagged edges).
What were my first thoughts on this entire concept after viewing each video with the boyfriend/girlfriend, mother/daughter, coworkers and friends duos was the following:
Not even a full day had passed when I couldn’t help from noticing the numerous shares of the YouTube video and members from several of my migraine support groups I’m a part of posting the pros and cons of Excedrin’s latest technology that intersects with health in order to create more awareness. If there were ever a controversial conversation to stir the pot amongst migraineurs this sure was that thing.
People had no problem voicing their strong negative or positive opinions. It’s one of the greatest qualities I love about our community of incredibly driven advocates composed of patients, caregivers, neurologist and headache specialist.
Because I spent the latter part of the past 4 years surrounded by people from the medical field, I’ve taken an interest in learning more about what ultimately brought them to that decision where helping people living with debilitating health conditions like migraines is so important to them.
That’s why I was thrilled about the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Seng; Excedrin’s health expert chosen by GSK Consumer Healthcare just for the Augmented Reality Experience.
What was it about Dr. Seng that made her presence become an intricate part of Excedrin’s mission to raise awareness about migraines?
Five minutes into our conversation I completely understood why she was selected for such a groundbreaking juncture.
Dr. Seng’s commitment to provide an expert perspective on migraine prevalence, migraine burden and migraine stigma was a top priority of hers. The excitement in her voice as we discussed what it meant for her personally witness each couple go through Excedrin’s new technological innovation spoke volumes about her dedication to help others dealing with pain.
Witnessing her own mother experience migraines with aura; along with a few of her friends Dr. Seng’s decision to focus on people living with pain once entering Grad School made perfect sense. She realized that people in pain are often marginalized in the healthcare system. That was more than enough reason for her to advocate on their behalf.
As a clinical health psychologist, Dr. Seng is interested in how thoughts and behaviors influence health problems. The goal is to help change thoughts and behaviors to improve overall health. She studies behavioral treatments and decision-making for headache, chronic pain, and other health problems influenced by stress. These treatments focus on changing thoughts and behaviors, so they are considered forms of "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy."
Dr. Seng spent all of her time during grad school studying migraines. She started out in Behavioral treatment trials and 10 years later her work is centered on clinical mindfulness cognitive behavioral therapy; relaxation strategies to help manage migraines.
One of the highlights during her time as a grad student at Ohio University was having the honor of working alongside the great Kenneth A. Holroyd; one of the first psychologists to first study migraines.
What is the environment like in Dr. Seng’s clinic?
A must for any one of Dr. Seng’s PHD students is they WILL NEVER wear perfume or cologne for the next five years in her clinic due to working with people that have migraines. The light bulb where switched out for ones that would be much friendlier to her patient's eyes. Because Dr. Seng strongly believes that it is important to stay hydrated and not to skip meals she stocks her clinic with water bottles and snacks because some people may end up staying a few hours going through various tests.
As a psychologist Dr. Seng has seen a lot of couples in her office where one person suffers from migraines and the individual without them has yet to understand the importance of being more supportive towards their loved ones debilitating state.
Dr. Seng was on site when Excedrin conducted the experience. They set up a little café for their participants to navigate through while wearing the device then brought in 4 couples where one person had migraines and the other was someone important to the migraineur. Overall she witnessed about 7 couples go through the experience.
So the burning question that I really wanted to know….Did Excedrin really do their part to raise migraine awareness for those participant that had never experienced any type of migraine related symptoms until wearing the head gear?
Dr. Seng had the following to say about the couples she observed during and after the experiment.
“The look of realization about what the person they love goes through when they have a migraine made me tear up a little bit because I was looking at them and seeing all of my patients I had worked with over so many years and how much they wished their significant others or family could have that kind of realization.” Dr. Seng went on to say, “When the significant other took off the cap they looked over at them and would comment it was so much more than what I thought and you have pain and nausea with that too.”
She hopes everyone in the migraine community will capitalize the conversations they are having right now and talk openly with the people in their lives.
Dr. Seng ended our conversation on this note, “Migraines need to be taken seriously. We need to reduce the stigma. We need to help people in our lives who have migraines. We need to encourage people to go to their doctors. If you think you have migraines get the right diagnosis. If your migraines change talk to your doctor. If your symptoms change talk to your doctor and come up with a comprehensive treatment plan that is right for you.”
It’s that kind of passion towards a neurological disease, more than 38 million Americans live with, that has me thankful to have someone like Dr. Elizabeth Seng on our side helping raise migraine awareness.
Pictures from the Augmented Reality Experience provided by Weber Shandwick: (Credits: Michael Simon)
To learn more about Excedrin's mission to raise migraine awareness visit: https://www.excedrin.com/migraines/causes/what-is-the-migraine-simulator/
Check out Excedrin’s Facebook Page
Follow them on Twitter
Dr. Elizabeth Seng is a clinical health psychologist in the greater New York City area who specializes in the study and treatment of headache, chronic pain, and other health problems influenced by stress.
Knowledge about how psychological and social factors influence health is becoming increasingly relevant to patients, healthcare providers, and the general public. Dr. Seng is committed to providing educational tools with the hope that greater knowledge can lead to better health behavior decision-making at the individual, professional, and public levels.
To learn more about Dr. Seng’s work visit her website:
GSK Consumer Healthcare is one of the world's largest consumer healthcare companies. Their purpose is to help more people around the world to do more, feel better and live longer with everyday healthcare products.
To learn more about GSK Consumer Healthcare and their products visit their website: http://www.gsk.com/
As The Storms That Fated Us spends its 12th week as a Amazon Best Seller I can't help but feel thankful for my readers support and the people who had a hand in helping to make all of this possible.
One person that played a part in my creative process just happens to be the mastermind behind the riveting scores on ABC’s Castle.
Listening to music while writing is a vital part of my creative process. It allows me to shut out what is going on, no matter where I am at the time, and depending on the lyrics, it could serve as an inspiration for what I am working on.
I never had any issues with making up worlds of fiction that I was able to write out into several chapters over a few days' time. So when I unexpectedly developed chronic migraines, I couldn't understand why my mind suddenly went blank just like someone had wiped my brain clear of all my thoughts.
To go from writing every night for the past two years to not being able to construct a sentence that makes any sense when I read it back to myself was very frustrating to say the least. Even my motor skills took a massive hit. My hands refused to cooperate whenever I placed them on the keyboard to type because my eye and hand coordination was completely off.
My brain became vulnerable to my migraine episodes. The chronic pain I was experiencing also brought on a series of unforeseen symptoms: sensitivity to light or sounds, visual distortions, partial loss of sight, tingling and even numbness of the face or extremities on the side where the headache develops, difficulty finding words and/or speaking, confusion, and vertigo.
Every day was a true challenge to what I was able to accomplish. There were times I became overly frustrated with my health, but I wasn't ready to give up on publishing another book. I had an incomplete manuscript sitting in front of me waiting for revisions from an editor that was very understanding about my condition and was willing to be flexible on my deadlines to submit my work to her.
With a malleable time frame, I waited for the days where I was able to think as clearly as I could to dive into my manuscript. Of course it was easier said than done. There were some mornings that I couldn't bear to stare at my cell phone or laptop screen, even on the dimmest setting, due to issues with my sensitivity to lights. If that hurdle wasn't enough to deal with, I also had issues with noises causing my pain levels to escalate and give me a whole other array of medical issues.
Some people need complete silence to do certain tasks, but I've never not been able to have music playing in the background while I write. It is an important element needed to help evolve my characters from being oblivious about their feelings for someone to falling head-over-heals in love with that person.
I had already spent months compiling a playlist filled with artists whose lyrics transformed my imaginary world into words I was able to type out onto my blank laptop screen. However, when I sat down to work on my manuscript, those same songs I singlehandedly picked no longer sufficed. It wasn't that I didn't like the music, it just became difficult to hear the words at the same time as writing.
The chronic pain with vision issues and dizzy spells inhibited by my migraines already put me into a state of confusion. The lyrics playing in the background alone made it feel like ten people were talking to me at once. I became so distracted that I found myself unable to concentrate on reading my manuscript, let alone working on revisions.
I had 80,000+ words needing to jump off the pages and grab hold of the reader. I wanted them to feel like a part of the story and connect with one or all of my characters. In order to make that happen, I needed to find the right type of music to communicate the tone throughout each chapter.
I guess you could call it coincidental luck that the little music dilemma I had was solved after spending an afternoon watching a show I saw previews for but never saw an episode. It's not often I'm able to watch a show or movie and immediately fall in love with it. Castle was the exception.
Immediately I was drawn in by the cop drama because of two reasons. I loved the witty sense of humor that writer Richard Castle (It had nothing to do with the fact this man is a world renowned author...okay maybe just a little bit) brought into his arrangement to work alongside the lovely, most daunting, maddening woman Detective Kate Beckett (I kind of stole a few of those words out of Castle's angry rant when he expressed his love for her). The two of them make for one awesome dynamic duo when solving a case to capture the killer, but they're even better as each other's love interest.
Which brings me to my second reason I absolutely love the show Castle.
Being a newbie to this detective/drama, I needed to watch each episode to get all caught up to the current season. There were times I wasn't physically able to view the episode, but I could still hear the funny and sassy banter between Beckett and Castle. Then there was the music playing in the background. That unbelievably beautiful melody being played by piano or an array of instruments made the characters' emotions feel like your own.
It wasn't until season five's finale "Always" that I was completely blown away by the score as it set the perfect tone for an epic kiss between a writer and his muse. I actually got goosebumps as the piano's notes harmonized that very moment as one of the best kiss scenes I have ever seen between two characters on TV. I found myself cheering with tears in my eyes (something I rarely do while watching a show or movie). Any time a scene or music (in this case both) has the power to move you into any kind of emotional state, it is really that good.
Needing help to find ways to keep my creativity leaping off the pages of my book, I decided to do the next logical thing: find other scores by this remarkable composer. So I went online to seek out the genius with the gift of bringing a creative spin to the scenes on Castle. What I found was a person who had quite an impressive list of scores for other television series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Last Resort, The Unit, and Terriers.
Three-time Emmy-award nominated composer of film and television music, Robert Duncan, takes his imaginative skills to create some of the most amazing pieces of work I've ever listened to. Whether his choice of instruments happens to be a grand piano, trumpet, guitar, or junkyard items he's found from all over Los Angeles, rest assured what you're going to hear will be some kind of brilliant masterpiece.
When it came down to picking out which of Rob's compositions would best fit the scenes I was working on in Storms, I first went onto his website where a playlist already existed and listened to a series of scores from different shows. I also found Last Resort and The Entitled Soundtrack on ITunes and selected which ones went with the angsty dialogue I wanted to portray throughout my book.
After spending a week listening to Rob's riveting compositions, I found several that helped me amplify the lies, deception, and misunderstandings my main characters dealt with while trying to stay alive in a cottage that is literally falling apart just like their friendship had during their senior year of high school.
Among those scores I chose Every Girl, A Slayer from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the perfect theme for the emotionally tortured heroine Tia. Dylan's Theme from The Entitled was the perfect fit for the vengeful, ex-best friend Carson. The Pilot Suite and Sam Attacks Booth from Last Resort set the tone for the blizzard taking its anger out on the cottage by destroying it one shingle at a time. If Your Were Here from The Entitled gave off a suspenseful vibe while I worked on the scene where Tia and Carson were surprised by an unwelcomed intruder.
Of course during those intense, passionate fueled moments I Just Want You from Castle and In My Veins by Andrew Belle streamed repeatedly as my background music. (If you're Team Caskett then you know why those two songs complement one another).
When I was close to wrapping up the last of my revisions, I decided to reach out to Rob and personally tell him how his music played an intricate part in my creative process. I even acknowledged him in my book with a thank you and the physician in chapter seventeen was named Dr. Duncan. Not only did Rob appreciate the thoughtful gesture, he sent me a selfie with him holding a copy of my book. For being a major fan of his work, that was definitely one of the highlights of this year.
I hope this is the year Rob finally snags an Emmy.
His artistic talents more than proves he's truly deserving of one.
To learn more about Robert Duncan's work and listen to some of his amazing scores visit his website.
A HUGE THANK YOU goes out to TJ MacKay, Founder/Publisher of InD'tale Magazine, for allowing me to write my very first article that shares with their readers how I try my best to manage living with chronic migraines and cluster headaches.
It is my goal to spread awareness about the headache disorders that effects millions of people. If we can't end the negative stigma surrounding our condition then we might not ever be able to receive the necessary funding that could lead to finding a cure for this genetic disorder.
Headache On The Hill 2014 – Washington, D.C.
Speaking to huffpost live’s nancy redd about the dangers of living with chronic migraines
My appearence on Huff Post Live with Nancy Redd to discuss how chronic migraines has changed my life.
The Storms That Fated Us is going to be very different from all my other, earlier books; that much I can tell you. Interested? Take a sneak preview now.
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