What Animal is Your Migraine?

Let's face it, life with migraine isn't easy. Our plans change when the uninvited pain shows up, we search for years or decades to find the right doctor, and often people don't take us seriously.

In order to deal with migraine, sometimes you need to know what kind of animal you're dealing with. It can be hard because, depending on how your migraine is behaving, that animal can change.

I have thought a lot about what animal my migraine might be since I have gone through periods of migraine turmoil and periods of relative peace. Recently I looked back at a list of old challenges. When I wrote about the list I had accomplished many items, such as reducing my migraine frequency from chronic to episodic. Since then I accomplished the last two big items, tapering off Botox and starting a martial art. I can go weeks with little or minimal fear of a migraine. They come here and there, but I often can nip them in the butt with my abortive. I know this is a dream that many of us with migraines, perhaps all of us, share.

So, if my migraine were an animal she seems to be a meek little mouse hiding away in fear. At the slightest sign of a threat she scurries away to her hole. This is good, right?

But am I really sure what kind of animal my migraine is? She's been more vicious in the past. Is she a tiger, ready to pounce? Maybe if I learn to evade her, perhaps by tracking her prints in the snow, she’ll never be able to attack again. But who wants to spend their lives in fear of an attack? I don't. So the optimistic side of me thinks maybe she's a bird that migrated away for a season, bound back in my direction sooner or later, and if I study the flight pattern than at least it will be predictable.

Maybe she’s not a living thing at all, but a deep ocean, and when the tide comes back in I’ll become submerged, distorted and bloated in the water.

That would certainly explain why migraine seems to take away a part of me. My identity gets lost in the abyss. Everything is distorted. Emotions are stretched until they don’t make sense anymore.

The problem is that migraine is constantly changing. We have to continuously adapt to a shifting landscape and it's a jungle out there.

I do find some comfort in the ambiguity of my migraine’s form, though, because I can recognize the warning signs. These signs tell me when to slow down and give my body a break, and when to keep pushing a little bit more because whatever I’m pushing for is worth it. I have learned some tricks to taming the beast.

And most importantly, migraines have taught me my limits and also my limitless capacity to handle what comes my way. 

So if she comes again in a flock, a herd, or a storm, I’ll take what new lessons I can learn.

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