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Looking Back at an Old List of Challenges

A few days ago I flipped open a sketchbook of mine to quite an interesting page: a list of migraine challenges from a little over a year ago. We are often focused on goals like “identify triggers,” “find a doctor who will take me seriously,” or “reduce my headache or migraine frequency or severity.” But this list was about transitioning back into a life of episodic migraines. At the time I was starting to see a real break in my migraine pattern, which I will be talking about in an upcoming article. The thing that struck me most about this list is how the items on it felt hard to accomplish, but I realize in amazement that I have completed almost every item on it. So I thought I would share.

First at the top of the page I wrote,

Foundation to build good health on:

Does this list sound familiar?  I feel like these are some of the keystone topics we touch upon at and in the general migraine community. I bet you have a similar list of the things you must do to stay on top of your migraines.

Next I wrote two levels of challenges: Level I Awesome, and Level II Awesome. Next to each item was a little box that I could check off when I completed it. I will take you through the list.

Level I Awesome:

Why are these two items important? Aren’t my TheraSpecs glasses helpful? Yes. But I wanted to see if I had become more tolerant to my biggest trigger–light. Turns out I do still need the extra protection they give me in many situations, but I am much more tolerant than before.

  • Exercise through pain a little more than I think I can handle

Not in the “tearing a muscle” sort of way, though. Since chronic migraines I have been a bit gentler on myself. I wanted to see if I could push it a little again. The result was that I started to jog for the first time in years, and I enjoyed it!

  • Beat 15 days record of no migraine (small ones ok)

This is probably the most important item on my Level I list, and I am happy to say I’ve done it. I’m not sure my exact record at the moment, but I know I’ve beaten 15!

Level II Awesome:

This has been a long-term goal for me to see how I do without Botox treatments. Right after I wrote this my doctor said she would approve extending my treatments to every 4 months. The first time didn’t go so well but it wasn’t horrible either. We’ve kept it up for 2 subsequent treatments and it’s going really well now. I will be getting it in 5 month intervals next–fingers crossed!

  • Get 1 or less migraines a month

Though I averaged about 3 migraines a month in the last year, I am happy to say that for the first time I beat that goal this month!

  • Start up a Martial Art or complete an Obstacle Course Race

Though I didn’t sign up for classes at my local dojo, I did complete the Warrior Dash, a 5K obstacle course race. I was by no means the fastest or strongest, but I finished it and had a lot of fun. I remember being sore after a 5K walk just a year before that.

I feel like this journey from chronic migraine to episodic migraine can be a tricky one. There are guides to becoming episodic again, but no guides for how to reclaim your life. I wonder if I was a bit timid on the spectrum–do most people who reduce their migraine frequency leap back into a normal life? Or do they take one cautious step after the next? Though I’m happy to see how far I’ve come, I feel like I’m on the cautious end. If you’ve been fortunate enough to reduce your migraine frequency or severity, I’d love to hear about your strategy to approach improved health, or how you think you would approach it if you do start to feel better in the future.

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.


  • body
    5 years ago

    Love your approach, Lisa. As someone who has gone from chronic migraine with medication overuse headaches to infrequent episodic migraine, I would say for me, it was a gradual process and I work daily to maintain my episodic state. Along with diet, exercise, trigger management, good sleep and other lifestyle habits, I practice daily biofeedback exercises and stress management strategies like meditation and diaphragmatic breathing techniques. I also have acupuncture on a regular basis to help keep my nervous system balanced and my serotonin levels stable.

  • clover
    5 years ago

    I am celebrating with you on completing so many of your goals! I am a list maker also. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to look back on a list made months(or years)ago and see the progress not necessarily noticeable on a day to day basis.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks Clover!

  • Anne
    5 years ago

    Nice to hear that you have gone from chronic to episodic – that is my dream. I am going to go from 8 hours of sleep a night to 9 and see how that works. My friend suggested that I focus on how many days since a migraine (like how many days without an accident in a workplace) – today it is one, but a couple of days ago it was three. I can’t wait until I can get to 15! Thanks for sharing your hope.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks Anne!
    Actually I am trying the sleep thing too (for fatigue not migraine). I hope it helps both of us. It’s not that easy to get everything done in time to be able to get a good night’s sleep.
    Hope your migraine free days keep adding up.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Lisa- great article! I have similar lists. The one I have the most trouble with is sleep, but I’m working on it!

    It’s good to not only have goals but to reevaluate them.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Katie, thanks! Sleep is a tough one for me too… I think I need a 26 hour day because I’m never ready for bed when I need to be!
    Agreed, a periodic re-evaluation is helpful and why it’s great to write them all down.

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