How do you know when postdrome is over and your brain is back and ready for work?

When you consider yourself a smart, capable person who is good at taking initiative and getting things done, it can be hard to put on the brakes.  I can definitely use business-speak to describe myself:  I’ve always been a “self-starter,” you see, so much so that I eventually realized that one way for me to be really happy and empowered in a career would be to start my own business.

I’ve blogged before about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur who has to juggle work life, home life, personal relationships (friends, family, and partner) and more with the reality of what it’s like to live with migraine disease.  I am extremely grateful to my employees (whom I tend to think more of as coworkers much of the time) for not only picking up the slack when I’m struck with a migraine but also watching out for me so I can help prevent a migraine from setting in or getting worse.  My partner, Jim, is a fellow migraineur so is in the unique position of being able to be truly empathetic when I’m down for the count. My immediate family, all of whom now live within a couple miles of me (this is a good thing) are wonderful, and my friends are just fabulous. All in all, I count my blessings pretty often and know how lucky I am.


Turns out the person that expects the most out of me is myself.  Turns out the person who puts the most pressure on me, who has the highest (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations, who pushes me to work when a friend would tell me to rest, is ME.

Over the years, I have gotten much better at pausing projects when I feel a migraine coming on and keeping my work load to a more realistic level.  I’m not great at it, but I do find that I am learning to not take on quite as much and to be a little more gentle with myself when I can’t tackle all the projects I want to work on.

One area I really need to improve on is my post-migraine behavior.  In my early days of taking triptans, I bounced back almost immediately when I took my medication. I vividly recall being out to dinner with friends, feeling a migraine kick in, and popping my Imitrex without any worries about the evening being a bust. I was back to myself within an hour or so without needing to think about how to get home immediately.  My drugs don’t work as quickly now, and between the drug’s side effects and the postdrome that accompanies the end of the pain phase of my migraine, I don’t bounce back to my “regular” self quite as fast as I used to.

Herein lies the problem:  I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that I try to act like I’m at 100% as soon as the medication starts working.  The most notable examples happen when I have had a migraine much of the day and finally start to feel better in the evening. My mind is still hazy and my sassy self might not be as quick with comebacks, but my head pain is gone and I feel SO much better than I did earlier. So I do what I want to do: I try to do some work tasks.

Inevitably, I screw up something that is pretty straightforward to a person whose brain is functioning normally.  I’ll try to process an order for a long-distance bookshop customer and end up having to do it over three times before I get it right (don’t worry—it always ends up working out!).  I try to use QuickBooks to pay some publisher bills and end up totally confused about the invoice numbers.  It’s only once I’m mid-task that I realize that my brain is not quite ready for more nuanced, complicated jobs quite yet.

How do you know when the postdrome is over? How do you know when your brain is again capable of the tasks that your healthy self can do without incident?  I have had trouble knowing when I’m good to start work again and when I need to just put my feet up and relax for a few more hours.  Does anyone out there sympathize with this problem?  For those of you who have figured out how to handle this: any tips would be great.

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