It Might be Time to Stop Asking "Why?"

It Might Be Time to Stop Asking “Why?”

Why?

Why did my migraine attacks start?

Why did I get so sick?

Why is it worse for me than others?

Why?

When my migraine disease became chronic in 2011, this was the biggest question on my mind—and what I wanted the doctor to answer for me. I had woken up Christmas morning with the worst migraine of my life. The pain and disorientation was so bad I couldn’t leave my bed. My husband and family went to visit my Nana. That would be her last Christmas and I would miss it.

Why was I so sick all of a sudden?

I’ve come up with an analogy that I think helps explain it. About ten years ago I was an English teacher in Japan and I drove a little red Honda. I decided it would be fun one weekend to take it on a road trip to Hiroshima. With three friends and iPods in tow, we took the 6 hour drive down and back, and had a great time. After I got home, the Honda was due for inspection.

The mechanic called me and said: “You’ve got to get new tires! Your tires are so worn I can see the wires poking through!”

Oh dear, I thought. I was just a millimeter away from a potential blow-out.

Why does this matter?

It matters because that’s where my body was in December of 2011. Except, despite having had migraine disease pretty much my entire life, I was unable to avoid a blowout. I had finally been diagnosed just a few weeks before.

That Christmas migraine kick-started a seemingly never-ending cycle of attacks. Every day a new trigger would lead to a new attack. I should mention I lived in New York City at the time—the city of lights, sounds, smells—the city that never sleeps. It was a recipe for disaster. I desperately clung to the question of why. I figured if I knew what caused my blowout, I could get better.

Cause isn’t everything

Once you’ve experienced the ramifications of a blowout, new tires aren’t going to cut it. The damage done wasn’t going to go away with a simple answer to the question, “why?”

No matter the “why,” I was working towards my solution. I tried many medical and complimentary therapies for my migraine. Some helped and others were a complete flop, but all I could do was keep plugging away.

Time to move on

It was important to move on from the “why” and get to the “what.” What could I do now that I was in the situation? Of course, it’s good to never stop searching for a cause—your doctor can help run any tests needed to rule out an underlying condition that may be contributing to your migraine attacks. It’s also always helpful to parse out any factors that can be important. For me it was identifying triggers and stressors that led to attacks such as light sensitivity, stiff neck muscles, and getting the proper amount of sleep.

But “why” only led down a long, dark road of self-blame, guilt and regret. Asking “why” meant asking what I or others did wrong to cause my blowout.

Once I moved onto action, onto asking “what” can I do now, that’s when the healing began.

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 (23)
  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    1 year ago

    Lisa,
    This is perfect. I had to go through the same thing. I had to change my mindset. Stop focusing on why and learn how to manage the symptoms I have.
    -Katie

  • PamR
    1 year ago

    Yes. Focus on managing the symptoms of each one as it comes. No matter how much prevention we are working with, they still come and we still have to manage them. And I’m done explaining them to people. Can people stop asking me what I do to cause them? I don’t cause them. I get them.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Yes, it’s really all about mindset!

  • jems
    1 year ago

    Interesting article – I actually do know sort of know why in my case – genetics and hormonal fluctuation / reduction of hormone profile (mainly estrogen) that lowers the ‘protective threshold’ allowing triggers to culminate and cause the perfect storm of migraine. Maybe the worn out tyres analogue could represent your lowering estrogen levels since 2011, just a thought. [I found eliminating wheat has helped somewhat and magnesium and B12 supplements.]

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Jems,

    I’m glad you know your own “why.” I do not know if hormones were a “cause” for me personally, though I know they are for many. Thank you for sharing!

  • Endless Search
    1 year ago

    I have wanted to know – why – for over 25 years. I feel that I have a right to know why I have chronic migraines and feel nauseated nearly everyday. People who have diabetes know why. People with MS know why. People with cancer know why. People with asthma know why. People with MD know why. People with CP know why. Damn it, I want to know why.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Yes, I agree, we need more research, more answers in general as a community. I think we will get there.

  • Endless Search
    1 year ago

    In addition, knowing why is the only way that the medical field will find “a cure” or will develop more effective preventative medications for chronic migraine. While asking why does seem extremely futile at times, not asking why is detrimental to all people living with this disabling disease.

  • Antzus
    1 year ago

    Interesting. This parallels an insightful TED talk I saw last week, on the dangers of asking “why”. Asking “what” tends to be better for psychological health.
    http://ideas.ted.com/the-right-way-to-be-introspective-yes-theres-a-wrong-way/

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing this! I love TED talks, and will definitely watch this one!

  • Holly H.
    1 year ago

    After 7 years of chronic/constant, 3 types, I am just worn out. Everything my excellent neurologist has tried and tested just hasn’t worked out or found out any “why.” “Why” is now just the answer-less question of what is my reality. And, if someone keeps on asking that answer-less question after I try to briefly explain, I just simply next say, “Why? Because I am alive today. And, because I am alive today, I have migraine.”

    For my own thinking, it feels like asking the “why” regarding my migraine disorder is like trying to take a drink of water from a sieve; there’s just nothing there and it’s a practice in frustration.

    However, there is still a thread of “hope” in my thinking. It’s tiny, but it still has enough substance to it to hold onto.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Holly H.,

    Yes I agree we don’t need to know “why” in order to continue to hope for better days.

    -Lisa

  • drmaryb
    1 year ago

    Good article. The more we focus on our condition, the more we suffer.

    Often we are reluctant to believe this as makes it sound like our illness is psychologically induced and we should be able to make it go away. This is not the case – or least not any more than it is with any physical illness.

    Focus on the why question keeps my discomfort at the forefront of my mind where I regularly check in on it.

    If I get absorbed in something outside of myself when sick with migraine, I do not notice my symptoms so much. I know this because, once I am no longer occupied, I feel them more and my “suffering” increases

    Acceptance is key. Not a cure but a way to life.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Beautiful post, drmaryb!

  • Cocodog
    1 year ago

    Such a good post. So timely for me. I’ve battled migraines and disability 9 years. Doctor to doctor to doctor. The last doctor I saw ordered multiple tests and referred me to two specialists.After that visit, I suddenly realized I don’t want to do doctors anymore. I’m tired. I’m finished looking for causes. I will never know why my migraines started or why they became chronic.I’ll never know why I go through weeks of migraines, then have a migraine free week just out of the blue. I found a good migraine pain specialists in Denver who is determined to get me back to work. Botox did not work. I’ve failed multiple preventatives. I just started protryptiline (sp?) to boost my energy in order to help aliviate fatigue and long naps. And to “help” the Botox treatments. But I’m done trying to figure everything out. I plan to have just a primary doc, if I ever find one in New Mexico’s severe doctor shortage, and my headache pain doc. No more why. It is as it is.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Cocodog, sending you lots of love and I hope you do find something that helps.

  • jkonsor
    1 year ago

    I get so tired of doctors, too. My primary doc always wants me to go see specialists. I would encourage you to continue with the Botox. It took years for it to work for me, but has finally started helping.

  • chica22
    1 year ago

    Yes, you are so right. The why only brings on blame and feeling bad that it happened. Feeling bad for cancelling plans or for being a burden. Thank you for saying that. I find myself still doing it and need to stop. It happens and I am never sure why…..never. Could be anything.

    I am on to trying new treatment like the Cephaly. Anyone tried it?

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    So glad the article resonated with you, Chica.

    You could post about the cephaly in our forums if you like, I’m sure others will be able to weigh in: https://migraine.com/forum/medications-prescription-treatment/

  • Luna
    1 year ago

    I have tried to leave behind the question “why” but at times it springs into my thinking. I just remind myself that “this is my condition”. It is the nature of the beast. I have had a lot of experience dealing with it. Just go on with what I need to do, living the healthiest I can and never stop learning but don’t obsess on it.

    The more I have learned over the years about the science of migraine have led me to realize how little control we really have. Science still doesn’t really know what is going wrong in the brain. Yes, we try learning what our triggers are and try to avoid them but sometimes it is just life. Anyway, there isn’t any avoiding certain conditions. Barometric pressure dips and rises or smoke from many forest fires being blown in on the wind.

    It’s not my fault. lol Courage and strength folks. We need them.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Lightweaver, yes that’s as good of an explanation we’ve got right now, but it works!

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator author
    1 year ago

    Courage and strength right back at you, Luna!

  • lightweaver
    1 year ago

    I went through this for some time. I have learned to live it and not over analyze.
    People will ask why I have migraines. I tell it runs in my . which it does.

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