Migraines Have a Mind of Their Own
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Profile photo of Holly Baddour

anthropomorphism definition. (an-thruh-puh-mawr-fiz-uhm) The attributing of human characteristics and purposes to inanimate objects, animals, plants, or other natural phenomena, or to God.

Do you ever feel as if your migraines are a living, breathing entity? Somehow separate from you? It can be difficult to come to terms with this complex neurological invisible condition that is capable of wreaking complete havoc on life. Assigning migraines with human characteristics is one way to make better sense of it all.

An angry person with cruel surprises

I have found myself describing migraines as I would a person: stubborn, angry, and relentless – with a vendetta of some sort.  There are many times I that feel “it” is out to get me.  Almost like an abusive spouse, I live in fear on many days. My life has been shrunken down to a small corner of the beautiful tapestry it once was. I don’t dare go outside the boundaries that have been set for me.  I sense the migraine is lying in wait. It punishes me if I do too much – and yet it surprises me with another attack, even when I behave and avoid activity in an effort to remember who’s the boss. Ultimately, I’m left feeling like I am not in charge. And whenever I begin to feel like I might be regaining control, migraines pull the rug out from under me. The sense is that I’m under its thumb. It seems to have a mind of its own. And crazy as it sounds, sometimes I think it is capable of listening in on me with ill intent. How else could it respond with a tough run of pain right after I am so bold to mention aloud that I’ve had a few good days.

Or a hungry mouse?

One of the most fascinating things to me about migraine is its seemingly human capacity to problem-solve. When a new treatment protocol is introduced into the body of a person with migraine, very often there is a temporary reprieve from pain. And with that break from severe pain comes a responding psychological leap of hope that a corner has been turned with a solution finally found. However, after some period of time, the pain returns.  How to make sense of this process? In my mind’s eye, I have pictured migraine to be similar to that of a lab mouse trying to make its way through a maze to find a piece of cheese. The scientists move the cheese, introducing new challenges to see if that mouse is capable of finding its way to the goal. Migraine, like the mouse, has a mind of its own- and is similarly driven by a goal, a hunger. The mouse wants to eat; the migraine wants to cause pain. A new treatment strategy or roadblock is merely a temporary puzzle to be solved. Once it finds its way around the obstacle, the migraine/mouse can proceed on its way to achieving its goal.

Standing up to the migraine beast

Perhaps it’s odd to picture it that way, but doing so might make it easier for us to come to terms with something that is at once so invisible and yet has such control over our lives. Having migraines can lead to an interesting dynamic wherein we feel we are at battle with something inside of us. To me, acknowledging this dynamic doesn’t mean curling up, giving up, and assuming the role of eternal victim against a faceless attacker. But perhaps, when we seek to assign anthropomorphic qualities to a condition causing us such pain and chaos in our lives, it may be a simple and even healthy way to distance ourselves from the sense that we have an enemy within.

Have you ever thought of your migraines as a living thing?  Perhaps as a “person” separate from you? Capable of harboring negative feelings or ill will? Even if not as a “human,” something with human characteristics? Does it help you to do so?

 

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