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Migraine and losing your sense of time

Migraine and losing your sense of time

In the last few months, my migraine brain has been behaving a lot better than usual. I’m very grateful for that, and I’m hoping that whatever the secret key is keeps working. I actually had more migraine- and headache-free days than not in June, which is a significant improvement compared to the months prior (and compared to June 2015).

This is not to say I haven’t had some doozies in 2016. I’ve had a couple of multi-day attacks that left me nearly bedridden and totally unable to work or spend time with family or friends—I just checked out of my life for a few days each time.

There are so many strange sensations for a migraineur when the attack begins to pass and it’s time to reemerge.


Longtime readers of my posts know that I have expressed my frustration with the fatigue, grogginess, and dragged-down feeling of the postdrome—the “migraine hangover” many of us are familiar with. The pain may be gone, but my brain is not back to its full functioning yet. It takes me a second to collect my thoughts and to find the right words. I know it is frustrating for my husband to see me finally out of bed (yay!) but unable to be a mentally present partner when it comes to conversation or even simple household tasks (boo!).

One other migraine side effect that most doctors don’t discuss is how off your sense of time can get. If you’ve been in bed for a day or more, you know how discombobulated you can feel when you finally climb out.

On the one hand, it may seem like days, if not weeks, have passed. You’ve been in such pain and discomfort that you had to mentally and physically check out of your normal life—it’s hard to know how long you’ve been down. On the other hand, it can seem like the attack has been one long and terrible blink—it’s surprising to wake to realize that it’s the following morning, or even three days later.

Even when I’m back on track and am able to return to work after one of these bedridden periods, I am so thrown off on what day it is. It reminds me of when I was a kid and had summers off school—days of the week sort of lost their meaning. Even now, when a holiday observed on a Monday passes, it takes me awhile to realize what day it is.  And so it goes with migraine blackout periods. I will be talking with my staff at the bookshop and say something like, “Tomorrow we’ll need to do such & such for our event.” They stare politely back at me until one of them lets me know that the event in question was the day before yesterday.  Another example: in the book world, there are high-priority releases, new books that come out and cannot be made available to customers until their official publication date. That date almost always falls on a Tuesday. Sometimes after a sick period I will see new releases on the shelves and come close to scolding my staff: “Those shouldn’t be out until Tuesday! We could get in big trouble with the publishers!” Then I glance at the calendar and see it’s already Tuesday—I just lost some days due to migraine and got thrown off.

How many of you can identify with this? Do you ever lose days and have a hard time knowing what the date or day of the week is?

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

  • Hilda
    2 years ago

    I lose my sense of time a lot. Lately, its been really bad– in the last six weeks I have gotten three parking tickets.The night before a street cleaning day, I move my car so I don’t get a parking ticket. I check the signs thoroughly and I am relieved to have gotten it done.
    Three different mornings I have been literally shocked to find a parking ticket under my windshield wiper.

  • JayAnne
    3 years ago

    I call this type of day my “coming out of my migraine cocoon.” I try to explain it to people by comparing it to the first day you begin to feel better after a bad flu, but before you can you go back to work. Yep, today is one of them. Last week was a blur, and it was my daughter’s birthday too. I feel really bad about it.

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi JayAnne,

    Thank you for taking the time to post. I’m so sorry you have been struggling lately and are feeling poorly about it. Please know you are not alone! It can be challenging for many people to deal with the emotions that come up after the pain and distress of the actual migraine is over. I hope you can find a way to be kind to yourself! No one chooses to live with chronic migraine. I also appreciate your analogy which I’m sure helps people without migraine understand how you feel. Please come here anytime for support!!

    Warmly,
    Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • deadpool
    3 years ago

    Yes this happens to me almost every weekend when I am off from work. Luckily my Husband takes excellent care of me and will remind what day it is. My cell phone helps also!

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Deadpool, Thank you for taking the time to reply. Good to hear that your husband is supportive. We also appreciate you sharing the tip! The timer function on the phone can definitely be helpful in many ways! Please come here anytime for support. Best, Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • med1
    3 years ago

    I call it “going underwater” – it’s like you’ve drowned, died, and slowly come back to life. At least, that is what a multiple-day migraine, along with the pro- and postdrome feel like for me. A complete loss of days, time.

  • Francine
    3 years ago

    My heart goes out to you. I don’t really lose track of what day or time of the week it is, but my migraines take up so much of my time (eg. being in too much pain to look at a computer screenwhen I’d like to be doing something productive. At the moment they are so severe that I’m not working, and I admire you for being able to still do your job with evident conscientiousness. I hope to work again (I was a public librarian, very interested in collection development, reference service, and community relations before my migraines became bad.) Good luck to you.

  • ddnben
    3 years ago

    I just had this happen to me last night and this morning. Massive migraine, post-migraine today and I couldn’t remember what today was.

  • Nicci
    3 years ago

    I’ve managed to reduce a lot of the severity of the pain phase of my migraines, but these other symptoms like those mentioned here persist. Sometimes it really confuses me as to WHY I’m confused! I have to look for the other Schools, too, and ask myself, “You’re spaced out, are you light sensitive? What menstrual cycle day is it? Where’s the thunderstorm? What did you eat?” Chances are, I can find the triggers that are causing what has become a more “hard to pin” migraine syndrome. It’s “there”, much less intrusive, but I’m still far from fully functional, which confuses me AND especially other people!

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Nicci, you’re not alone in being confused about being confused. In fact, Migraine Girl jut that phenomenon in When I’m mentally checked out, it’s really hard on my loved ones. And Tips for Managing Brain Fog talks about ways to try to overcome that feeling.

    Hope those help. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we’re glad you’re here! -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Nicci
    3 years ago

    I totally relate to this… and I goof up plans sometimes as a result. My calendar has become really critical… especially the digital one, because the computer and phone know what day it is!

  • Pamela Baxendale
    3 years ago

    This is a very timely post for me! I just spent a day and a half in bed, literally sleeping for hours then waking up, raising my head and going right back to sleep, knowing if I moved another inch I would be in excruciating pain. I Haven’t experienced one of these major migraine attacks, for several months, now, and was hoping that I had somehow moved past this type of migraine. HA! Your email was the first time I looked at a bright screen in days, and I felt so thankful to read that others go through this “re-entry” phase. I know I have and eye appointment to face, today, before I go back to full time at the shop. I’m tempted to call and cancel the eye exam, as I know I won’t be 100%, but I know that I just need to get up and put one foot in front of the other, and give myself lots of TLC. I used to feel alienated from others, as I knew they wouldn’t understand what I meant by the hangover phase, and now, it doesn’t matter if others don’t get it. I am taking care of myself, and by doing so, I hope my employees and friends will understand, but if they don’t, I am not going to worry about explaining it, all over again and again, and If this comment doesn’t make sense, I know you all unsterstand why! Thank you Migraine Girl!

  • Nicci
    3 years ago

    Maybe consider rescheduling that eye exam and let your brain rest! Eye exams, with the bright lights shined in my eyes, just kill me. Almost a guaranteed migraine. If I’d just gotten over a biggie like that, you can be sure I’d be changing that appointment!

  • Pamela Baxendale
    3 years ago

    Thank you Brooke, for the links. They were very helpful.

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Pamela, Thank you so much for taking the time to post! Especially after a migraine that left you bed bound. I’m so glad to hear that you found this article true to your personal experience. You are certainly not alone in what you describe and your comment makes sense! It can be hard for friends and family to really understand what one goes through during a migraine. If you have loved ones who would like to learn more, I’ve included a few articles by our contributors on talking with family and friends about the experience of migraine: https://migraine.com/blog/dear-friends-and-family-confession/ for your review (if you haven’t seen it already) & https://migraine.com/blog/explain-migraines-family-friends-colleagues/. You have a great attitude about your goals for today. We hope you meet the goals you have set, and wish you compassion towards yourself if any setbacks arise. Thank you for being a part of our community and please feel free to post here anytime! Warmly, Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • Sharon Beckwith-Johnson
    3 years ago

    I can so relate to this. I just spent 3 days in bed…also feeling very depressed, this disease wreaks lives. Past 2 years have been chronic migrainers, the previous were episodic. Brain doesn’t work like it used to. I had been doing accounting and collections for the past 20 years. I can’t even balance my checkbook now.
    Hopefully something will come when I go and pick up my nightcard and retainer tomorrow.

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Sharon, Thank you for taking the time to post. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling especially the past few days. Living with chronic migraine can absolutely impact every aspect of one’s life, including mood. Clinical depression is not uncommon to go along with migraine. It can sometimes be hard to determine what comes from where. If you haven’t seen this article already on that very issue, it may be of interest: https://migraine.com/blog/separating-depression-symptoms-migraine-symptoms-frustrations/. I hope your day improved by being able to complete the task of picking up your retainer. Thank you for being a part of the community. Please feel free to post here anytime! Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • Alicia
    3 years ago

    I routinely lose track of what day it is, regardless of whether I’m having an attack or recovering from one. I figured it was work-stress related but maybe not. I’ve learned so much about my migraine brain just from reading this website’s articles and people’s comments. I’m so thankful to all of you!

  • scitro
    3 years ago

    I am so glad to see others go through the same thing I thought was just in my mind. Time seems to go so quickly. My family is not supportive so I am left to wonder what might be happening. The “blackouts” are so very real. It’s nice to know they have a name. I used to think about all the things I would get done when I retired. It surely isn’t happening that way. I am very thankful I can stay home and deal with these migraines and all of their parts. Teaching was so difficult even though my little bodies were so loving and helpful.

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Scitro! Welcome, we’re glad you’re here! I’m sorry to here that your retirement is turning out to be different than you have imagined and your family has not been supportive. It sounds as though being home helps with overall management versus your previous work. It’s normal to have mixed feelings though as you describe. Are you being followed by a headache specialist? If you haven’t already looked into meeting with one, it may be worth a shot to see if there are any treatment options you have not yet tried. Here’s a link to our “Treatment” page for further review https://migraine.com/migraine-treatment/. In the meantime, I hope you’ll find the community here supportive. You are not alone in this! Warmly, Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • Writermom
    3 years ago

    I certainly agree, Janet! Now that I am retired from my “paying job”, if I don’t look at my book for the day, I have no idea what day it is. The days when I have such pain, I lose track, also. Here we are, almost September. Where did the days go?

  • Luna
    3 years ago

    I really relate to that losing days during/after an attack. It always seems to me that a week ago was at least a month ago. The real world is so different from the tunnel the migraine attack sucks me down. Adjusting takes some doing. But now I have lost my sense of time during the day. I remember what day it is but those minutes either speed by or mostly creep by.

  • Blackethyl
    3 years ago

    I like that comment about the tunnel. It feels like I do lose track of time, esp. after I take medication. Before that, it’s just pain. And there is an after-hangover where I’m not fully myself for several hours after I wake up. Since I’ve stopped drinking coffee, because I’m allergic, I drink Ginseng Tea. But it doesn’t fully wake me up.

  • Deb Carpenter
    3 years ago

    I agree. I too lose track of what day it is. Migraines certainly take their toll on us. God Bless. Thankful for the good days.

  • kknight
    3 years ago

    Sadly I can relate. It’s so aggravating to know what you want to do or say and unable to retrieve or accomplish the task. Glad to see that you are having better days…must be something in the air because my head has been friendlier to me.

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