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Daily Triage

With chronic migraine, I often feel like I’m the intake nurse in an overcrowded emergency room. Each day, I assess tasks, requirements, and needs for urgency and importance. The ones that absolutely cannot wait, I deal with that day (unless it’s a particularly bad migraine day and I can’t even attend to critical matters). Everything else falls to the waiting list. Like in a busy ER, my to-do list is a never-ending queue. While every ER patient eventually gets seen (or leaves), most chores on my to do list will remain there indefinitely unless they somehow become urgent.

If media depictions are accurate, the vast majority of Americans are barraged with an onslaught of details to attend to each day and few people can keep up with everything coming their way. With chronic migraine, life’s requirements don’t stop, but you have to deal with them when you’re pinned to the couch with your arms tied behind your back and tape over your mouth.

On bad migraine days, taking care of myself is not unlike the bare minimum of taking care of a dog: food, water, and potty breaks are mandatory. There are no walks or playing with toys. Going to the bathroom or moving from the bed to the couch only happen when extreme discomfort dictates it. Those daily tasks of life? Yeah, right.

Chronic migraine is defined as 15 or more headache days a month, at least eight of which include a migraine attack. At the bare minimum, a chronic migraineur spends 25% of each month in a state that severely restricts their productivity. Many of us have considerably more than eight migraine days a month, a lot have them every single day.

Even the most efficient mental triage techniques can’t keep the chronic migraineur’s internal ER running smoothly. Instead of trying to manage the flood of endless tasks, I’m practicing letting it go by allowing myself leeway and not beating myself up when things don’t get done. I’ve been surprised to discover that many of the tasks I’ve let fall by the wayside didn’t matter all that much in the first place. I also take comfort in knowing that no one will bleed to death if I don’t return an email.

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.


  • tucker
    6 years ago

    Interesting. I’ve had a bad week. Lots of stress to begin with since I have a big function at my house tomorrow and I’ve been trying to clean it for weeks now. But this week, it seemed every day something was standing in my way and by then end of the day, a big fat migraine was waiting for me so I didn’t have any energy to work on the house when I got home from work. The Migraine had evolved into an all knowing “being” that just knew I had stuff to do with a few hours to do it and was testing me.

    Friday, even after a miserable Thursday night, I wore a dress to work (a rarity for me!) and went in with a sassy new attitude. That Migraine was waiting for me at work. And it brought bad news news from the specialty pharmacy that they wouldn’t deliver my Botox to the doctor’s office in time for my appt next week either. Now my whole task of working on a busy Friday was essentially triaged to coworkers also since I was now not only a medicated dummy, but a mad, frustrated, sad one at that.

    I guess the only good to come of it is that I came to my senses when my kids reminded me that most of the people have seen our house before. One of the families has a messier house than we do. And why in the world do I need to wash the walls for people to begin with? Ah, out of the words of babes (or teens as the case may be!)

    Fortunately, I got 14 hours of good sleep last night and I did wash those walls this afternoon. I “feel” better about it. My kitchen, dining room and guest bathroom are clean. The living room is decent. Nothing is perfect, it never will be. But this is who we (I) are. I have a plan for a simple taco bar (we all bring parts of the meal) and I’m praying for a nice head tomorrow.

    If another migraine crops up, well, I guess I have a husband and 2 teenagers who can chop tomatoes and put out paper plates and cups and silverware. I was smart and got everything else ready to put out. I triaged my work to the grocery store for this important event! :):)

  • Larissa Taurins-Crawford
    6 years ago

    great analogy, very helpful!

  • Saff Stephens
    6 years ago

    I totally get what your saying! My to do list is the bane of my life!

  • marlenerossman
    6 years ago

    I have had intractable migraine for three and a half years.
    I have lost half of my life to this illness. When will the medical community realize that this is a severe neurological illness? Most doctors shrug it off. I have seen TWELVE doctors including neurologists, headache specialists, psychologists, internists, etc. I have had Radiofrequency ablations THREE time. I have had botox. NOTHING WORKS.
    The only thing that helps are the abortives–Imitrex and the other sumitriptans.I have heard that a combination of propofol and ketamine have diminished migraine in two people, both of which REFUSE to talk to me about it.

    I cannot go on living like this. I had a great life and now I have nothing but migraine and the fear of getting migraine.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    6 years ago


    We’ve been friends for a long time, and I am so sorry you continue to suffer. There are so many things in the works that are looking good for some Migraine patients. We can’t know who they will work for, but they are going to help some, and that means one of them might be you. You are NOT at the end of your rope. In fact, you’re a long way from it. It’s okay to take a break while climbing that mountain though. We need that sometimes. Just remember we’re here for you.

    I have been chronic since the mid 1990’s. I can count the pain free days on one hand since then. Like you, I sometimes get to a bad place when I realize that I can’t continue like this forever. I love life so much, but can’t imagine the next 40 years continuing like this. Who could?

    During my last appointment when I expressed my fears, with tears threatening to ruin the visit, my doctor grabbed my shoulders and looked me square in the face. She said “This is temporary. It’s temporary. You’ve got to remember that.”

    I’ve thought of those words and leaned on them many times in the weeks since she told me that. I want to encourage you to take a moment, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “It’s temporary. Remember that, and hang on.” Repeat every day.

    You have made it this far. You made it through the last week/day/hour. You can do it again. Just take each moment by itself and relish in the fact that you are a warrior, teaching by example to others who may need to be warrior someday too. <3

    I think you may have seen this post before, but I want to bring it up for you again, and others who may need the support right now: If you ever feel that you’re in crisis and these feelings are overwhelming, please remember that there is help for you doll.


  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi marlenerossman,

    I understand how difficult migraine can be and so sorry to hear you are suffering right now.

    May I ask how often you take something to relieve your pain? We all want the pain to go away so it’s easy to get into a pattern of taking migraine abortive medications and/or over-the-counter medications more often then we should. A huge problem can occur if we continually do this, in fact if we take migraine abortive medications like Imitrex and/or pain relievers, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription more, than two to three days a week we could sentence ourselves to cycle of daily pain that’s hard to treat and migraines that are much more difficult to treat. This is called medication overuse headache or moh. Let me share information with you on this;

    Please try not to lose hope. Many of us have tried many different medications for migraine and have seen numerous doctors. We can’t give up – there is a doctor out there for you. As frustrating as it is, it may be time for yet another doctor, but one who is certified in headache medicine. Even if you’ve seen a headache disorder specialist, please think about seeing another one – they are not all created equal! Have you seen this information on this type of doctor? and to look for one here is that link;

    We do understand and are here for you. We also have a discussion forum you may be interested in joining;


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