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Completely unofficial, made-up migraine types: the fish net

Completely unofficial, made-up migraine types: the fish net

Have you ever gone fishing with a net, or have you ever even had a pet fish you had to periodically scoop out of the tank in order to clean its habitat? (I can hear my mom mentioning here that I had many fish during childhood and probably cleaned the fishbowl twice—sorry, Mom.)  Think of what that experience is like for the fish.  She is still fully immersed in water, so she’s safe, alive, and breathing. But her environs are drastically limited, and her freedom to go where she wants is totally diminished.  If the net is a large one, the fish might temporarily operate under the belief that she is still free, only to feel the net catch her at the last second.

Now think about these descriptions in relation to the newest migraine in the Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types series: The Fish Net.

The Fish Net Migraine allows you to live life normally most of the day.  You swim about your world, relatively carefree and able to make your own choices.  The net travels along with you, creating a breathable bubble around you that gives you the impression that you’re migraine-free.

Oh, but then! It can take action when you least expect it. Perhaps it yanks you out of the water with no warning, leaving you gasping before you’re dipped back into a safe environment.  Perhaps you start swimming faster than before, trying to live your life as if you don’t have migraine, and then you bump against the net, reminded once again that a migraine attack is hovering around the edges of your day, threatening to settle in at any point.

Usually the Fish Net Migraine isn’t particularly vicious. It just hangs out, acting like it’s somehow protecting you from the world when really it’s preventing you from experiencing the world fully.  At times, though, whoever or whatever is holding the handle of the fish net decides to show you once again that you are not entirely migraine-free: you feel a tug and a harsh reminder that migraine is limiting your options not just that day but every day.  The net allows you to live your life, but you never can completely forget the fact that, at least right now, migraine is in charge, not you.

If you’re lucky, the Fish Net Migraine will disappear within a few hours without migraine pain and disability setting in.  If you’re unlucky, or if you pushed at those boundaries of the net too hard despite knowing that a migraine was waiting in the wings, a full-fledged migraine attack will be on its way within hours.

How many of you know the feeling of being both free to move but trapped by the Fish Net Migraine? What do you do on Fish Net Migraine days to help prevent a full migraine episode from taking over your life?  Any thoughts and comments are much appreciated.  Here’s hoping you’re having a totally migraine-free day, no fish nets in sight!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Lillian
    2 years ago

    I know this all too well. I don’t think I’m ever completely free of my migraines, there’s always a trace of it lingering behind but there’s day’s when I think it’s going to be a great “migraine free” day then out of no where BAM! What I thought would be a wonderful “I can do anything, go anywhere Day” suddenly turns into a nightmare. My plans suddenly take a turn around and I feel disappointmen (from me as well as others) creep in. I feel sometimes that this pattern will be my life story yet there’s a little part of me that still holds on to hope that “someday” there will be resolution with a cure and for this life of madness.

  • Macbeck
    3 years ago

    I think I live here most days…

  • Juneleaves
    4 years ago

    About 12 years ago, my newest neuro was amused by the names I’d given my migraines. Of course, there was the, common to us all, Ice Pick migraine, but I had others. Because my descriptions were so descriptively specific, she actually took them seriously and included them in my new patient narrative.

    Here are mine: The Brillo Pad, which feels like someone has taken a Brillo pad to the inside surface of my skull.

    The Sprouting Seed, usually related to allergies, and feels quite literally like a seed sprouting and branching out in my brain.

    And one that I finally christened after years, is the un-Protected Mode migraine. There are rare times in my life where my brain actually feels “protected” as if there is a fully functioning antivirus software running. I feel solid and capable – and my head actually feels safe! Yet alas, this Is short lived, and I slip back into “unprotected mode.” It’s weird, my brain or thoughts begin to feel slippery and precarious. It reminds me quite a bit like the fishing net migraine description, where my net feels overly porous, open to predators and the possibility of being stirred up and yanked out is always present. There’s not a damn thing I can do to alter this awareness, thus I am unprotected.

    I’m not sure why, but these creative descriptions provide a bit of humor for me and if/when I describe my various headaches to others, such as family, friends and medical personnel, I’ve been told that my descriptions are quite helpful in having them viscerally understand what I’m dealing with.

  • kim e
    4 years ago

    Great analogy and story, Migraine Girl. My net has a hole in it! I swim as fast as I can and find my face suddenly flattened against the glass bowl….in comparison to how we would press our faces against the glass of a store window to see the reaction of others as they walk by…only to be sucked right back into my home…the “ultimate net” which has become my safe place, my dark place (both literally and figuratively), my place of comfort (in an odd kind of way), and ultimately the place where hell often takes a vacation – without my permission. It’s nice to know others share similar experiences. I also know that no one’s experience is are the same. Like Nicole9r, I am a clencher so I did invest in a fairly inexpensive dental device to help with this when I sleep but have noticed this happens during the day, as well. (I highly recommend this as my dentist has noted a small crack which has formed along several teeth so it’s best to try and prevent as much damage as possible) Unlike Nicole, I have had daily migraines for about four years now. Similar to jlar, the only cure for me is sleep but this is only possible with the assistance of my phenerghan and another medication that essentially “knocks me out” (if I’m lucky) that can only be taken three days a week…so, I wait until it gets so bad, I have to take it and sometimes, it’s too late. I love BCN’s description of a “goat in a crystal shop!” I felt like that when my migraines became a daily occurrence and after 45, 75, 150, 200+ days of counting and keeping a diary…I finally stopped counting and accepted that this was the place where I was going to be for now..I couldn’t necessarily change what was happening but instead of counting the days of my migraine prison, I began to focus on hope….which I still have but has taken on a few different meanings for me as life continues. Like Kara, pain is a daily experience but I could not imagine the addition of fibromyalgia and all the pain that disease incurs. While I do not have cycles like Jenniferk, I can relate to the “tip toe” effect… if I tiptoe quietly enough, it won’t know I”m here…lol. When I was a self described “working, responsible (haha) migraineur”, I could relate to Midnite….trying to keep up the fascade that I “had it together” just long enough until I could get home to the place where I no longer had to pretend that all was well. Like Meri, my migraines “have a mind and life of their own” yet each one seems to strive to be a little bit different than the former – as if there is a competition to be better than its’ predecessor! I also have my sunglasses 24/7, most lights in our home have dimmers and consider myself to be somewhat of a “vampire.” (I have actually used that as my answer to some of those who must know what I “do for a living” but I add that I also indulge in a barrage of “bon-bons” throughout the day…I love to see their faces when I say this…). I mark that down as things I have learned not to ask others because you never know another person’s situation and it took me years to realize I am not defined by my job description or career choice…ok, sometimes I still have to remind myself. I love that Meri’s hope still lives on in her because there will be a day when this is no longer our struggle. Like mommycarter2, it is nice to know….we are not alone albeit, I can’t help but feel that way at times. Jma1time speaks of a “lifting of the net” and then waiting for the next time…since I wake and go to sleep with a migraine…I don’t have to wait very long for the next one. However, I have learned that while exercise (as well as singing with the Praise Band every Sunday….yes, I do and I have worn my sunglasses under the TV lights and even pulled out my earplugs to get through it), makes the migraine worse, I have also found it is a double-edge sword with a good side….the release of endorphins will often decrease the pain significantly….(maybe that is when I’m able to slip through that hole in my net) until I have stopped and within seconds, I feel myself being drawn toward the glass of the bowl and it hits so hard….but ah…the joy of being able to enjoy the two things I love the most, if only for a brief least on most occasions. Like SilverRain3, I realize I have boundaries but I am determined to push them to the limits at times because I just can’t help but pretend they don’t exist….hoping that one day they will not. Like Luna says, it’s always “hovering.” For me, the hovering is the threat of it becoming much worse…reminding me that when I think I have had the worst migraine of my life, I find it can indeed get worse. I like CindyLee’s description. I have had a total of 3 or 4 days scattered through the past four years and while I was ecstatic that my migraine was so mild, it was almost non-existent compared to normal days…I find myself thinking of what I would do if I woke up one day and it was gone…for good. As I begin to relish in those thoughts, I’m quickly drawn back into the reality of what life is like for me now…Leynal is right about “control.” Dang, I wish there had been a multiple choice question for us that allowed us to determine the method in which I would relinquish it! Doggone it! I guess I still haven’t fully let go. 😉 I find myself sometimes thinking of who I used to be, how I was a single mom and professional woman who needed no one but my Lord and my boys. I was so proud of the challenges I had faced and the trials I had overcome….and while I have come a very long way…yes, I must admit my pride and need for control was naught and in vain. I continue to deal with letting go of the things I cannot control….now, it’s different..I cannot control how others see me or think of me. I can’t control my pain but I do know that some days I can get that brief reprieve and I relish in it for the moment thinking I am free! I’m not…I know the pain is there but for the moment , I am focusing on something else….then, I pray I can get home quickly and safely while I surrender to the disease that I refuse to speak of…Speaking of control; I actually consider myself a healthy woman…can you believe that?! If someone says, “I’m so sorry to hear about your health problems…..I’m like…what? Health problems? (.yes, I know migraines are a debilitating neurological disease but I still refuse to accept that I am not healthy…maybe I’m afraid that admitting to that would be the one thing that frees me to give up). SPSWafford, what a challenge you have…one I am sure you embrace and handle wonderfully…I wish I had two free days without pain….if so, I would give you at least one of mine. I hope you are getting treatment and can find a preventative that works for you…sometimes, my husband will ask what he can do and then quickly say…”I will do whatever I can to help you but I won’t shoot you.” He is so supportive but like so many of you….while I didn’t see this in writing…I can’t help but wonder if any of you have said…”yeah, you can help me if you shoot me or just hit me hard enough that I’m knocked out for a few days and do not have to deal with this pain.” I have cried out to the Lord in the night too many times to count. I now have my own room apart from my very loving and supportive soulmate because my pain keeps him from sleeping and someone has to work…lol! Sarah, my heart goes out to you because my biggest fear is what happens if I become that single mom again…how in the world would I then take care of my children and myself? I’ve always been a survivor but this is, indeed, the greatest personal challenge I have ever had to encounter. Somehow…some way, God seems to put that person in just the right place at just the right time….(which in my mind…is at the very last moment but I know it’s really the perfect time) and I am able to make it one more day…one more hour, one more moment…if truth be known…Ironically, I believe I am probably a better person now than I have ever been…..yes, when I was an “independent, responsible, working, adult.” It’s the “little things” in life that make it so special. I have learned to appreciate the small yet powerful things in life like the beauty of the world around me…the joy of being able to listen to others when he or she just needs a should to cry on…the beautiful words of my son who, while he prays that my migraines will go away, also says, I hope you don’t go back to work if you get better….the satisfaction of walking on that stage, onto the tennis court or onto the treadmill, while feeling like I am going to literally throw up….feeling like my eyes are going to pop out of their sockets and making that first step…making that first swing and watching the ball fly over the net….losing myself in the moment while singing my heart out and imagining I’m standing in heaven giving a live concert and being so humbled by the complexity and gift of life…and the One who created it all. We are so blessed to have our friends, our family and each other….I know I could be dealing with something worse but in the moment when I do not think I will ever escape it….afraid to think of what “worse” would look like…..I’m so glad to know that while I may be by myself in the moment…I am truly never alone. Thank you, Migrane Girl and fellow migraine survivors for sharing your stories.

  • Nicole9r
    4 years ago

    This is 100% accurate. I used to refer to this as “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. I was always thinking I know you are there hovering at the edges, just bring on the pain so I can get it over with. Try taking my prevention meds or regular OTC migraine meds to combat it. Instead I get physically drained and irritable. It is a never ending battle. I have found the Botox shots help a lot but I can always tell when I am coming due for my next dose. It is the lingering pain and constant worrying about is this it, am I going to be out of commission for the next 2 days. I find myself missing, on average, one day a week and I can’t even enjoy my 2 days off because I am fighting a migraine. One question, I have noticed I clench my jaw, quite ofen and it contributes to the head pain. Has any one else noticed they do the same?

  • jlar
    4 years ago

    This is such a great description. I know exactly what this one is like. Often I’m fine in the morning, but get trapped in the early afternoon.

    The best way for me to avoid it is to either sleep, or take my medicine as soon as I realize what is going on.

  • BCN
    4 years ago

    Funny enough, I am thankful for the fishnet. Before I used to run amok like “a goat in a crystal shop” as we say in Spanish. Feeling free and not understanding why I had to bear so much pain just like that.
    With time I have gotten to know my limits, therefore I can also limit my wounds. They are there, and they still hurt on a regular basis. But it is nothing like before.
    Wonderful description

  • Kara
    4 years ago

    Very nice article. I unfortunately am never migraine free and the “net” seems to drown me each and every day of my life. I am on meds, see my doctor regularly. But I am at the stage of trying to decrease the pain and symptoms to where I can at least lead a confined existence. For me there seems to be no escape and this has totally ruined my life. And on top of it, I also have fibromyalgia. So yeah, pain is never gone in my life. It is extremely unfortunate, since I use to be a very active person. I use to love to dance and hang out with my friends. Not anymore. This health issue needs to be figured out so others do not suffer and hopefully so no one will ever reach my level of suffering. Excellent article! And I can’t wait to read your next one. Cheers!

  • JenniferK
    4 years ago

    That is the perfect description and it makes me feel better knowing others understand. I have had a cycle of headaches for seven days with pain never too far away. I tip toe through life trying to avoid another. The net is always there.

  • Midnite
    4 years ago

    My migraines hit so fast it’s like I’m being held in the net away from both safe places, the bowl with the clean water which is refreshing( which is day without a migraine.) and the dirty water bowl where I suffer day after day with no relief. And here I sit in the net trying to figure out what to take what to do. Working I flounder around trying not to make mistakes because they hurt so bad it’s hard to think or talk straight. I just wait to get home and slide into my safe place with other med’s to get me to sleep and hope the net doesn’t grab me when me eyes open

  • Meri
    4 years ago

    I try to always be prepared for my next migraine because it has a mind and life of its own. When the net is completely taken out of the tank, and I start flopping and gasping for breath, that’s when the migraine has hit. I try to take my med before it hits and keep an eye out for symptoms. I wear earplugs to go to the movies and take my tinted sunglasses in case the movie screen’s light is too bright. When I think I’ve finally slain the dragon, it slowly comes to life and is ready to blow it’s fire in my direction again. We mustn’t lose hope. Someday we won’t feel the net around us, and in time, this may all feel like a bad dream we’ve finally woken up from. Hang in there, God bless…

  • mommycarter2
    4 years ago

    This is a perfect description of chronic migraine. I describe it as a tiger in a cage, waiting patiently until it can break out. Lol. But I absolutely love this! It is like you looked into my brain and pulled out the perfect description. Thank you for that. Means that there are other who feel this way and I am not alone.

  • jma1time
    4 years ago

    This is a complete and accurate description of the way my migraines usually begin. Right now as I type this I have the net hanging around the left side of my head. My left eyelid is drooping. Unfortunately, this is an indication that the net has failed and the pain has begun. That pain that literally rips through the left side of my head and through my left eye before the net falls into place is such a shocking and frightening thing. When the net has been effective in sheltering me from the pain of the headache until it has run its course, the net lifts and the relief is a blessed living breathing sensation that washes over me. Then, I wait until the next time.

    Funny, there is no warning before that pain suddenly, like a bolt of pure energy, rips through my head again. The only warning I ever get is a whiff of tobacco smoke or the strange pulling, drawing sensation around my left eye that indicates an ocular migraine is in process.

  • SilverRain3
    4 years ago

    This is very accurate. So basically when I am not having a migraine I am still in pain or waiting for the pain. The net explains it perfectly because I know my boundaries and if I push them I pay or or sometimes the migraine likes to remind me who is really in charge no matter how good I am.

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    ” reminded once again that a migraine attack is hovering around the edges of your day, threatening to settle in at any point.”
    That pretty much describes most of my days.

  • CindyLee
    4 years ago

    What a GREAT analogy! I can take it even further– when the net deposits you back in your regular environment you feel like something bad has gone away, even though you are very tired. What you’ve been fighting and living in with gets to the point where the net is necessary to get it over with and then you’ll feel better for a while, until it builds up too far and need that net again. That is what it is for me.

  • Leynal
    4 years ago

    I like this. It made me think about migraines and how when they come on we must surrender control… And I wonder how many migraineurs struggle with issues of control in their lives. When that net comes, bc it’s always there, we are forced to let go. As you wrote “migraine is in charge, not you.” I wonder how many of us are the type of people who are normally “in charge” in our families. I know I have always been, since I was a child. Does the migraine serve a purpose? Is it’s function to force us to relax? To tell us “you don’t need to always be in charge, things will work out without you”?
    I am interested if that hits home for anyone else…

  • Sarah
    4 years ago

    I’ve wondered that very same thing! And it’s such a vicious cycle. I support myself on my own…and my work hours are drastically reduced…and where I work, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So…this week, I’ll have a whopping one day on my paycheck. So by not going to work, I’ve now increased my stress level of the need to “make ends meet” and then people tell me to simply reduce the stress in my life, as if it is a cure-all. And so…the stress adds to the migraine, and on and on and on and on. And my personality is TOTALLY a take charge personality. People count on me to hold it together when things go crazy…at least a select few of them understand and then become the ones who hold it together for me when I can’t function…only bright light in this dark place.

  • SPSwafford
    4 years ago

    I’ve wondered these same thoughts. As a single mom of a special needs child and a high school teacher, I over-think things. To relax means it falls apart or doesn’t get done. So I too have wondered if my migraines are a forced rest time. Problem is having them on average 2 days a week adds to the stress.

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