The Euphoria of a Migraine Reprieve
Last updated: September 2023
Last night I felt well enough to drive for the first time in six weeks. I went less than a mile round-trip to the pharmacy and back—and I was thrilled. I cranked up the volume on Dave Matthews Band, smiling at the feel of my nimble car taking corners.
It would have been a typical day if I were healthy. But I’m not. Instead, the simplicity of feeling normal filled me with wonder.
Rejoicing in the ability to do everyday things
It’s not the first time I’ve been overjoyed by the mundane act of driving. After 15 years of disabling migraine, I was euphoric when I got a reprieve. I didn’t take a big trip to celebrate, throw a party, or even go to a fancy restaurant. I rejoiced in the ability to do the everyday things of life with ease.
What did I do?
I went to the grocery store and was able to put away everything I bought without becoming overwhelmed by fatigue.
I connected with friends and made plans, happy knowing it was unlikely I’d have to cancel at the last minute.
I got fish tacos at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with my husband. (The picture of my excitement at getting to eat what I wanted for the first time in a couple of years is still my contact photo on his phone.)
I agreed to housesit in Seattle, trusting that I’d feel well enough to travel there by myself and take care of someone else’s home.
I began taking walks around the block and got to know the neighbors I saw every day.
Would I take every day for granted?
Before I got my migraine reprieve, I wondered if I would take every day for granted. Even after years of being remarkably functional (I still have chronic migraine, but it’s a manageable low-grade headache most of the time), my gratitude for being able to do the typical tasks of life without strife remained. I wasn’t euphoric in the same way, but I always recognized the gift of getting to live my life.
The heartbreak of disabling chronic migraine
The ups and downs with my health since that major migraine reprieve — sometimes caused by migraine, sometimes by other random things — have been frustrating, but none of them have caused the same emotional pain and physical disability of my migraine at its worst. I’ve had some grief, but spending some months barely functional hasn’t brought the same heartbreak as disabling chronic migraine.
A fungal infection in my lungs
Until I got a fungal infection in my lungs, it was terrifying at first — I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t breathe, but I had trouble finding relief because my symptoms didn’t meet any of the criteria for treatment. Once I got a diagnosis and learned ways to manage my symptoms, I was relatively sanguine. I thought I’d be sick for a few months and knew how to handle that. Then the symptoms resurged again and again. It is the normal course this illness takes for a few months to a couple of years, then it resolves. It’s a sign my immune system is doing its job.
Plunged back to the depths of despair
And yet, it plunged me back into the depths of despair I felt when chronic migraine was at its worst. I’m not fretting that it will never go away as I did with migraine. Instead, I’m consumed by the grief of losing more time. I’ve been here, done this. It’s not like I thought I’d be illness-free once I found an effective treatment for migraine. But I didn’t expect to lose another year or two in my 40s to a fungal infection I picked up by breathing on a walk in my neighborhood.
Robbed of a normal life
I feel robbed of bigger picture things, but mostly the normal parts of life, like seeing my neighborhood change with the seasons or having the energy to go to the post office. That makes the moments of joy in the normalcy of driving myself to Walgreens while listening to my favorite band so much more poignant.
Reveling in the reprieve
As I’ve said before, I will never tell you I’m grateful for having been disabled by migraine; the same goes for this brutal fungal infection. But the unbridled joy at being able to run errands is a beautiful experience. I’ll revel in the euphoria while I can get it.
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?