Wading through the postdrome

It’s been awhile since I made a point of writing while in the throes of a migraine attack.

This afternoon, a migraine that had been creeping around for a good 12-15 hours finally set in for good, and I took my naproxen + naratriptan combo and lay myself down, hoping the pain and distractedness I was experiencing would soon dissipate. I was not sleepy, though, and I was itching to do something.

“I know!” I thought. “I’ll write a post for migraine.com during my migraine and see if I can actually capture what it feels like as the medication kicks in.”  I’m not sure what I’d hoped to accomplish with this self-assigned task, but it was pretty much a bust. It’s probably worth mentioning that my medication sometimes works within 25 minutes and sometimes within 2 hours (if at all), so my hope of capturing the moment the meds kicked in was kind of naïve.

Even after turning my computer monitor’s brightness to the lowest level it can go, the screen still felt too bright.  I put on my prescription sunglasses and breathed a sign of relief. I felt much better for a minute there, not having that piercing light shooting daggers into my left eyeball.  I bunched up some pillows behind my back and put the computer on my lap and opened a new blank document.

And then I sat there. My mind was blank, not able to think coherently enough to express the swirling symptoms and frustrating lack of focus I was experiencing.  I know many of you know this feeling, but I had hoped so much to capture it eloquently so I could share it with those out there who have never had a migraine.  No dice.

It’s now been nearly two hours since I took my acute medications and, thankfully, the pain of the migraine is gone.  I can imagine my non-migraineur friends breathing a sigh of relief.  Oh good, they’ll think. Janet feels back to her old self again. She’s better!

But here’s the thing:  just because the head pain is gone doesn’t mean the migraine is done taking its toll.

I am now wading through neck-high water. I can see the ground at my feet, but the light is refracted and reflected such that I can’t trust my feet to touch the earth where they need to to ensure I will not trip.  I tell my arm to reach out to touch something, and my brain waits a few beats before it will transmit the message to my limb.  When I do reach for the book, or the light switch, or the doorknob, my fingers feel floppy and weak—I am afraid I’ll lose my grip. I hear a joke that would ordinarily have me giggling, but the time I get the joke and try to laugh, it comes out warped and a full minute too late.  I wash my face to freshen up and the effort of those sixty seconds exhausts me—even picking the towel off the rack to dry my face requires more effort than my weary muscles can take.  (It took me about five seconds to think of the word “dry” in that previous sentence.)

What most non-migraineurs (and even some migraine patients) don’t always realize is that the migraine attack, for what seems like the majority of us, has very real effects even after the headache phase has come to a close and the nausea has passed.  Between this phase, the postdrome, and my medication’s side effects, all I can trust myself to do is lie down and stare into space.

What is postdrome like for you? How do you explain it to friends, family members, or even coworkers? What are your most frustrating or debilitating postdrome symptoms?

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.

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