The Cyclical and Linear Nature of Migraine
Last updated: July 2023
Have you ever thought you had your migraine condition figured out? Even if just for a moment? Perhaps you had a handle on your triggers or your treatment protocol? Or that you knew what to expect with your pain pattern? Maybe like me, you even had enough confidence in your knowledge of the disease that you took it upon yourself to write an article or two on the topic?
Migraine is a complex disease
Well, there’s nothing like a wildly far-reaching, far-ranging complex chronic neurological pain condition to knock you back a couple of paces. Migraine has a way of robbing us of our confidence on so many fronts. It certainly took the wind out of my sails several times over in my 40+ years of living with the condition. While I have written about migraine for over 10 years on a wide range of topics related to migraine, I must give a nod to the fact that the disease is a constantly moving target.
Migraine is always changing
Indeed, there is still so much that is not known about the condition. And there is no ultimate lasting solution when it comes to migraine, at least not one that I have found. Articles that I wrote years ago, while hopefully still useful to some, may no longer apply to my own journey. At least currently. And that is because of the fact that migraine is both a linear and cyclical in nature.
Cycling through migraine
As migraineurs, we cycle. In a desperate attempt to seek wellness, we try treatment after treatment. If we’re lucky, we might experience a window of wellness during which we gobble up every crumb of life within our reach to consume its taste. Then, randomly, solutions that worked wonderfully for weeks, maybe months, suddenly cease their efficacy. Or, perhaps, our pain cycles along with our hormones - so each month brings a rise and fall of brutal intensity. Or, we are triggered by the weather and therefore constantly ride mini-rollercoasters of pain and sickness and cycle repeatedly as storms roll in and out of our towns.
An endless cycle of sickness and health
Regardless of the cause of the rise and fall, migraine creates a cyclical pattern of sickness and health back to sickness again. Eventually, our ability to manage this crazy-making cycle becomes a challenge in and of itself. The reserves aren’t always there. We become worn down and dizzy from the endless circles. There are times that we feel so engulfed in the condition that we can’t picture it releasing. But then it eventually does, and we can. We get a break, we have a chance to inhale, exhale and catch our breath. We are incredibly resilient. We reset and remember what the world is about; we look up and out and regain perspective before we’re walloped all over again.
Migraine can be linear too
Then there’s the overarching part of the migraine journey. As we cycle with each attack, we are learning along the way. We get smarter and more capable when it comes to knowing how to respond to the pain. We learn about our triggers and how to avoid them. We pick up pearls of wisdom with every step which enables us to grow and become more informed migraineurs who aren’t just reacting in the moment. We arm ourselves with awareness about the disease and learn that we aren’t alone. We see how many people are impacted. And in so doing we see the importance of applying compassion to ourselves and others. We learn so much about ourselves; how strong we are in ways we never knew. That is the linear part of migraine, the linear part of life, during which we become strangely grateful for the gifts this condition has to offer. The way it makes us dig so deep and reveals what really matters in life.
As we cycle through migraine, we grow and learn
It’s important to try to remember and respect both parts of life with migraine – the cyclical and the linear. When we are cycling through the unbearable parts of migraine - it’s good (though difficult) to try to remember that even though it takes everything we have in the moment - it is informing us on a deep level. We are becoming wiser along the way. While none of us asked for this journey we are on we can at least choose to incorporate the lessons is has to offer us.
How has migraine made you feel like you are stuck in a cycle? What are some overarching lessons the condition has taught you along the way?
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?