When the migraine-free time comes to an end...

When the migraine-free time comes to an end, what do you do?

Have you ever thought you were pretty much in the clear with migraines, that the illness was a thing of the past?  And then did you have the experience where the dreaded illness came back full-force, leaving you with many migraine attacks, wondering how you ever could have thought migraine disease was gone from your life?

Recently I wrote a post about realizing all of a sudden that my migraine frequency was WAY down compared to the same time frame (April – July) of years past.  I am grateful for a reprieve from severe attacks (the majority of the episodes I’ve had in this time period have been mild and easily treatable) and am savoring the time I have before migraine makes itself known again.  You see, this illness is chronic, meaning it comes and goes, surfacing, hiding under the water, and resurfacing again when things line up just so.

Many years ago, I was feeling so incredibly good I wondered if I might have to leave this blog all together.  After all, how could I call myself “The Migraine Girl” if I never had any migraine attacks? If you’re wondering if I wrote about it, you’re right:  I did.  (Check it out here.)

Who would I be without migraine?  What sorts of things would I change about my life?  These are the types of questions I pondered the longer I went without any attacks.

And then they came back.

They always come back.

For awhile they were sporadic—maybe one every two weeks. In retrospect, I can only guess what made them appear again, more and more frequently. Was it because I was feeling so good I no longer was as careful as I should have been regarding self-care? Did I not exercise as much? Did we experience a particularly tumultuous few months of weather with accompanying barometric shifts? Or did the migraine just find a new way in via emerging triggers I hadn’t dealt with before?  It’s hard to know.

Here’s what I am finding myself having to learn over and over again.  It’s a lesson learnt best when I’m feeling ill, and it’s a lesson I tend to forget during those rare periods when I am migraine-free for more than a few weeks.  This illness is chronic.  Migraine disease has no cure, and its ebbing and flowing, its waxing and waning, are attributes that will be part and parcel of this illness forever.  The best I can do is make good use of my migraine-free times, do my best to treat my body well (exercise, eat right, make time to relax, and avoid known triggers), and be cognizant of the fact that it’s more than likely that migraine will be a part of my life until I pass away.

It’s hard not to be disappointed when they return after a period of good health, though.  I understand that.  I have a question for those of you who have been fortunate enough to have migraine-free periods of time: how did you cope when the migraines came back?  What sort of attitude do you have toward your illness now? Do you hold out hope that someday this illness may release its grip of you? 

 

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

Comments

View Comments (14)
  • pligthart
    4 years ago

    I have high episodic migraines. Triptans always work for me but if I go over 10 to 12 Maxalts a month I sometimes take the plunge and don’t take any rescue meds. It will mean 48 hours of not being able to drink or eat, vomiting and of course a lot of pain. The good thing coming out of this is a period of approximately 2 weeks without any migraine attacks. I feel great then and it feels like it will never come back but it does. Do others have this experience as well, suffer through an attack without any rescue meds (triptans) and being migraine free then for about 2 to 3 weeks?

  • deborahvan-der-harst
    4 years ago

    I am a chronic migraine suffer. After a couple of years of taking preventatives and abortives, I was feeling like nothing I did made a difference in whether or not I would get a migraine. I loved being active, but it brought on excruciating migraines. So, did doing very little. I made up my mind to start exercising again since nothing was relieving my migraines anyway. I worked out and ate healthy for five weeks and lost 10 lbs. I was so happy. During the fifth week I started recognizing migraine symptoms, but ignored them. I didn’t want to stop being active. Everyday the symptoms became more difficult to ignore until the end of the fifth week. I had a full blown mother lode of migraines.

    During the 4 weeks that I had no migraines, I thought I was going to live a migraine free life. It has hugely disappointing. I haven’t had so many migraine free days in a row since then.

    I recently developed GI issues which cause almost constant nausea. It is very difficult to find foods to eat that I can digest. It makes the migraines worse, but I am hoping my Gastric Emptying Study will shed some light on treatment.

  • Happiness_Despite_Pain
    4 years ago

    I am in my mid 20s and have had a chronic migraine for 9 1/2 years. It has become part of my identity. Sometimes I feel like my accomplishments are more admirable because I did them despite the pain. I know that my life would be greatly improved without the chronic migraine, and I am extremely proactive about taking steps to treat it, and I Wish all the time it would leave me. However I fear that my subconscious mind may be holding onto the pain because it is who I have identified myself as: A woman with fortitude and perseverance to accomplish things with out letting the pain stop me. What would it mean if I were to be successful without the pain? Would that mean that my accomplishment meant less??? Does this make sense? Can any of you relate?

  • thisisendless
    4 years ago

    Ugh. Hope you try not to have when a new med seems to be working. The utter crush of realizing that it, too, only worked for about a month. This has always been my pattern. And the heartbreak when the pattern begins again is overwhelming.

    The med I am currently on has given me more wellness time thus far in my migraine journey which began summer of 2013. Every time I get a little tingle, a bit of nausea, or dizziness I panic that the daily sick will start again. But for now I just enjoy my time without migraines. It would be better if my other pain issue wasn’t flaring up in its place, though.

  • thisisendless
    4 years ago

    Sorry, “The hope you try not to have”

  • Kippieloo
    4 years ago

    I’m chuckling to myself, because I thought it was just me, and my personality. I tend to minimize pain, thinking that if I just had a little more willpower I could defeat a migraine. And alway, after the worst of the attack is over, I realize how bad it was and then think “Maybe this will be my last one.” But now I’m thinking it has to be part of the migraine mentality. When mine are gone, it’s like they never happened. I think that’s called denial. In my defense, though, I’ve had friends, acquaintances and family members tell me over and over through the years that I’ll “outgrow” them. I’m 66 years old and I’ve had them since I was 13. I’ve been through menopause and still they keep coming, so I’ve given up on the “outgrowing”. I had a Neurologist a few years ago, who also had migraine (God bless him) and he said “Having migraine is like having blue eyes. It’s not a disease. it’s a condition. Your migraines can get more frequent or less frequent, more intense or less intense, but you have the potential for migraine until the day you die.” Needless to say, I sat in his office and cried. But I’m grateful for his honesty and his understanding.
    Just a couple of comments. I used to joke about barometric pressure. When I couldn’t find any other reason for something that triggered a migraine, I would say, it must be the barometric pressure. Imagine my shock when the medical community started to list it as a possible trigger! For me, though, my brain loves the lows. It loves the rain, humidity and cloudy unsettled weather. The first brilliant summer day, the first crisp fall day, the first warm and sunny spring day – I’m writhing in agony in the dark with a pillow squeezed over my head to hold it together. In frigid weather, the cold can trigger a migraine if my head and face are uncovered. I can’t take anything cold to ease the migraine pain, I must have heat.
    Interestingly, in the past 5 years I have had zero migraines from May to the end of August. Just enough time for me to start thinking that maybe.. they might be going.. And then Fall arrives and the attacks start up big time.

  • GailV
    4 years ago

    About 10 years ago I received a diagnosis of breast cancer. (Don’t worry – today I am cancer free!) The silver lining to my chemo was that it put me immediately into menopause and I went from chronic migraines to one or two a month. It was wonderful. I could have adult beverages (oh boy! hadn’t had alcohol in years – would nearly always bring on a migraine.) I had three glorious years nearly migraine free.

    But as others have said, it is a chronic disease and mine was triggered into full force when I developed Graves disease. It was hard to deal with since I had felt so good. But I worked with my doctor and we tried many different meds and physical therapy and biofeedback, diet, etc. so i could continue to work.

    I also developed fibromyalgia, which took several years to diagnose. I had a pretty good outlook until the second chronic illness and I found that it really knocked me down and this time I just couldn’t “cheerlead” myself back up again. I started seeing a NeuroPsychologist who worked with client in chronic pain and she helped me accept that I had chronic illness that was not going to end (it might get better) until there is a CURE. I don’t think I had ever accepted the fact that there is not currently a cure for migraine or fibromyalgia. I think somewhere I thought it must be my fault. Once I could see that I had “stinking thinking”, I could finally accept my diagnosis. Now, I celebrate the good days and on the bad days, console myself with the knowledge that tomorrow (or the next day) is another day when I WILL feel better.

    I have also learned to live in the moment (which is now called “mindfullness”).

    Finding ways to cope and learning all I can about migraines has helped me so much. This is a great website. Knowing you aren’t alone in this and finding out others experience is so helpful.

    Thanks – everyone who shares on this site! You don’t realize how helpful your comments are to everyone else.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    I too felt like you when I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia on top of my chronic migraines. It really brought me down for a time.

    It’s intersting you mentioned Graves’ disease. Migraines can often flare up during an autoimmune flare. Here is an article I was reading on the connection the other day:
    http://migraine.com/blog/triggers-and-comorbidities-autoimmune-disease/

    Lisa

  • thisisendless
    4 years ago

    Having more than one chronic pain condition/illness has brought me to the edge many times. Migraine was bad enough, chronic pelvic pain is bad enough, but having both has been leading to so much frustration. If one is under control, then the other flares up. For awhile both were bothering me severely, and I wasn’t sure how long I could take that.

    At the moment, I seem to have found a med to control the daily migraines. But I fear the day they start coming back.

  • MigraineSal
    4 years ago

    This article was so poignant for me because I got discharged by my Neurologist ( thankfully with an open invitation to return should I have any change in my symptoms, or concerns ) on 18 November 2014 and had a full week of migraines last week ! Luckily I had done enough research to understand that thinking you have your migraines under control with preventative meds does not mean that they are at bay for life so although bitterly disappointed I handled it much better than I may have done when I was newly diagnosed just over a year ago. I had to get up at 2.00 am this morning as an hours meditating did not take my mind off the start of ( hopefully ) just a headache . . . I am very fortunate in having my neck condition diagnosed as a major trigger for migraines and I know that tossing and turning when I am struggling to sleep is a definite no, no for me as I know for sure that this will lead to a migraine. I still have the tail end of the postdrome from last weeks migraine so could not afford to have this build back up to a full blown migraine . . . it will be a looooong day today after such an early start but hopefully being tired is better than suffering a migraine, although being tired could be another migraine trigger . . .

  • Jenny
    4 years ago

    This certainly grabbed my attention. I literally just joined this website minutes ago and what you wrote stood out to me so much that I have to comment. You are so right, gosh those periods of being pain free can certainly make you forget that you suffer from an actual chronic condition. Its like you are your real true self when you don’t have the pain of migraine holding you down and in those blissful times all you want to do is relish in the feeling of normalcy. It actually makes you believe that maybe the worst is behind you, or even more deceitfully, lead you to believe it’s not so bad and you don’t suffer from something that’s life altering. I play this cat and mouse game with my migraines all of the time. When I am feeling good, I put off treating the issue, and when I am feeling bad I reach for something to bring relief, and on and on goes this vicious cycle. Reading this article has brought me face to face with what I know to be true, that even when I am feeling good or pain free, I still need not forget that I need to always try and treat this chronic condition as a chronic condition. This means be prepared for an episode and always work towards relief. Thank you for this, it has been mind opening!

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    Wise words!

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    Haven’t had more than an occasional one day attack for 13 months. Never had a day completely symptom free. Always had some type or more of aura, and there are many types of aura. A month or so ago started waking up most mornings with stiff neck going into the base of skull making my head ache. This would go away after getting up and taking an excedrin. Thanksgiving morning it wouldn’t go away but I was still functioning so did my thanksgiving plans anyway. Well needless to say I’m still sick on Sunday but slowly improving. It’s not easy to keep positive when time crawls by. I know that migraines are a part of my life. They ebb and flow.
    I have a feeling that it isn’t always what I have done right or wrong. Except being around odors when i don’t feel good already isn’t smart. But it was a calculated risk. Could have had the longer attack even if I’d stayed home.
    I’ll tweak my diet and start taking minerals again. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I am a survivor. The only cure I know of is a miracle from God.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    Hope you’re feeling better now!
    Lisa

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