On the Other Side of a Migraine Break

On the Other Side of a Migraine Break

Autumn has arrived down here in central Texas. Though our leaves, if they fall, rarely change colors, the rest of Mother Nature spends these weeks putting on quite a show, oscillating wildly between summer and winter – our only real seasons. Flash floods are buttressed by month-long droughts and burn bans. Ice storms follow 80-degree nights and precede mid-90s days. Woolen coats and tall boots are exchanged for galoshes, then flip-flips and sandals. Finally the coats and boots come out again.

October and November are, inevitably, a time of extremes down here in the land of my birth, and that always spells trouble for my head.

Inconsistency is a potent trigger for my migraine disease. Whether it is a change in the weather, my stress levels, or my daily routine, the change itself inevitably wreaks havoc. This is why I was so amazed to have a break from attacks in those first fall weeks of September and October.

My disease, as many of you members here know, has often manifested itself intensely, including daily attacks for half a decade and more than one intractable period that lasted over two years. In fact, I hadn’t had a break between attacks of more than three or four days since 2007.

Until, that is, this September.

Starting in mid-September, I caught a break. For just over four weeks, I didn’t have a single attack. Not one. And, while I was overjoyed and deeply grateful for the break, I noticed some strange things during this time.


For one, it took me more than a week to recognize the change. I would have expected myself to notice it sooner, especially since I can still – six years later –vividly recall the morning I woke up after my intractable period and noticed the attack had finally lifted. This change, however, was much subtler, and with all the things going on in my life at the time (a book release, a move, and a break-up), I simply didn’t notice at first.

Then, once I did notice, it wasn’t joy I felt, but anxiety. What caused the migraine attacks to stop? Shouldn’t I know what I’d done or hadn’t done to accomplish this? And, the most important question of all: How long would it last?

This last one is something I think we all ask ourselves any time we experience a reduction in severity or frequency. As thrilled as we are at the improvement in our health, we can never sit quietly with it and appreciate it completely. This disease, we know, is chronic. There is no cure, and chances are good that if we have chronic migraine we aren’t going to magically move back down to episodic – at least not in the long-term. Any break we get, then, is temporary.

Knowing this makes it difficult to enjoy the break. To fully appreciate the days not suffering with nausea, the nights not crying in pain. But, figuring out how to enjoy the temporary and how to find joy in uncertainty and/or pain is part of my life’s work, and I decided this was an opportunity to test my skills.

So, for the next two weeks of my migraine break, I did just that. I kept the knowledge that my attacks could return at any minute at the forefront of my mind, and then I decided to appreciate my break that much more. I wasn’t going to live in fear of the next attack. I wasn’t going to worry about whether the attacks would come raging in all the more intensely because they’d had time to build. I was simply going to accept the likelihood of their return, and love every minute of their absence, especially because I know too well how many other migraineurs out there would pay dearly for even a fraction of the break I was being given (my 2007-2009 self included). And so I did.

I ate the things I can’t always eat. I drank what I wanted, without thoughts of tannins or hops. I went back to dance class and enjoyed the loud, thumping music filling my ears. I stayed up late and got up early. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and said to heck with my disease.

Then, of course, the break ended, as I had known all along it would. And it ended badly, as I had feared it would, the fickle Texas autumn ushering in an extreme attack complete with Alice-in-Wonderland distortions, purple spots, and pulling the car over to vomit. But, that’s okay. I’m thankful for my break, even if it it’s over, and I’m hopeful that someday, for whatever reason, it will return. Here’s hoping you all may receive one as well.

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 (19)
  • omymigraine
    4 months ago

    i had 10 months of no migraine after having an adenoma from hyperparathyroid removed. I have another adenoma now and the migraines have cranked up again. It is wonderful when they stop. especially for me no meds have worked so far.

  • wappaw
    7 months ago

    Sarah, I know these feelings exactly. A couple of years ago, after a number of rounds of Botox, I also had a one month period of no migraines, it was heaven. I also kept waiting for the sky to fall in. Things were so good I didn’t even have a panic attack when I realized I had left home without my emergency pack of pills.
    I have been having migraines for 54 years, chronic, 20+ a month for about the last 30 years. Normally, with the Botox, I can get down to 7 – 10 a month. Unfortunately every day starts with a quick assessment how my head, neck, shoulders, and back feel when I first get out of bed.

  • aprice4
    1 year ago

    Beautifully written, Sarah. Thank you for articulating what so many of us experience.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    1 year ago

    Thank you for reading and the kind comment. Happy Friday!

  • dianacb
    2 years ago

    I suffered with migraines until I saw a neurologist who worked with me to find a preventative medication to help me. I encourage anyone with migraines to see a neurologist or headache specialist and keep trying meds until you find one that works for you. Don’t give up!

  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    Preventatives, if you can find the right one, can be life changing. I’m so glad you’ve found one that works for you.

  • chere1020
    2 years ago

    I agree completely and it is so helpful to see others that experience the same thing. Once in a while I can pinpoint what caused a migraine, like last Sunday I hit my head on my car door jam and that caused a doozy. But most times I wake up with them or they are just out of the blue. So when you have a good week, like this week has been a good one, no migraines, no stiff neck since Monday, I am always leery of when the next shoe will drop or in this case when the next migraine will come. But like so many of you I try to appreciate every moment I am not in pain or ready to throw up. Someone mentioned crying, crying is the WORST thing I can do for a migraine, except for alcohol which is the absolute worse……hope everyone has a good week…thanks for sharing…it helps….

  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting. It really helps us all feel as though we aren’t alone. Strangely enough, crying can be a big trigger for me too, especially if I’m trying to fight the tears.

  • DonnaKay
    2 years ago

    I actually find the absence of symptoms to be disconcerting at times. Isn’t that silly? I guess I get so used to them that being without them is weird. How can miserable symptoms like pain and vertigo feel like “touch stones” that prove I’m still alive? I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m well, and then I want to do ALL THE THINGS! And of course, I get exhausted and collapse into a major migraine flare. My family and my doctor say to avoid my triggers, but that’s hard to do when practically everything is a trigger, right? When I feel well, I just want to live like a healthy person.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    I know exactly what you mean. It’s kind of like, wait a second, why do I feel weird? And then you realize the “weird” feeling is healthy, and that’s disconcerting on its own. I’m making an effort to rejoice in my good days and not let my anxiety over the next “bad” one steal my joy. I hope you feel well today!

  • Colorado4Now
    3 years ago

    Like walking a tightrope on those good days.

  • Maureen
    3 years ago

    It is crazy that most of the time we don’t even want to speak of it because the minute I do they come back with a vengeance. Hypothyroidism has made it so that I pretty much have one all the time now

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Maureen, I’m glad you said that! I thought I was the only superstitious one! I either skirt around the issue or knock wood. Thanks for sharing. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • cindyd
    3 years ago

    I have some anxiety when I have “good days” and wonder what caused the pain to back off too. Had a pretty good week this week and was able to be very productive at work and worked a whole week!!!! Have been trying some other things like magnesium and had a daith piercing but I am not sure if either one of them is partially responsible for my reprieve this week or not. When I wake up, I immediately take inventory and figure out what my pain level is and it feels somewhat strange to have relief if that makes sense. Some people even try to tell me to not say I don’t have a headache because I might jinx my break in the chronic pain. . . We laugh about it but it almost feels like there is some truth to it.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for sharing your story! I am in a break right now, and have started to reclaim my old self. I don’t know how my migraines will be in the future, if they will ever go back to chronic or if they will stay episodic. Either way, it’s wonderful and I definitely try to balance living in the moment/enjoying myself with also not pushing it too far as to not re-awaken the migraine beast!
    -Lisa

  • Sarah Hackley author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for reading and commenting, Lisa. I hope your break is long, and I’m glad you’re working to enjoy the moment. That’s all we can do, really. Warm regards.

  • Crystal
    3 years ago

    So inspiring. Whenever I have a break even if it’s only a day or two I am petrified to do anything! I don’t want to ruin it. I am afraid to involve myself with any possible trigger. Maybe I need to live a little. Thank you for the hope.

  • Trena Anderson
    3 years ago

    Enjoy the break! We can’t control our brain disorder but we CAN control our reactions to it. For me, we get so little enjoyment. Grab every day that you can!

  • Sarah Hackley author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for reading! I’m glad you found it helpful, and may your next break arrive soon. 🙂

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