Migraines Have a Mind of Their Own

Migraines Have a Mind of Their Own

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?

 

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 (10)
  • 27fv6n8
    2 years ago

    Oh boy do they take on human characteristics! Just before I read this, I told my boys that I had better slow down on yard work or I’m not going to be able to finish tomorrow. My youngest said, “Oh because then your head may get angry and sick”. I laugh told him he was right.
    It’s been so beautiful here in Nebraska and I’ve been so scared that I’ll make my head angry, by going out to enjoy it. I literally don’t say any plans out loud until just before I’m going to do it I think if I can start on it, then I’ll be almost done by the time the migraines realized they slacked off and allowed me to do something. It’s frustrating to live life like this but I try to live when it does “slack off ” and believe me it makes me pay for it for dais afterwards. Just hoping I didn’t make it too angry today shop I can enjoy the 70’s tomorrow in Nebraska in February!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    27fv6n8- Hope you were able to get out and enjoy the nice weather without pain. It is terrible to feel punished for being active, or enjoying an afternoon of yard work with your boys. Migraines do feel like they have a vendetta sometimes and we can’t figure out what we did to set them off! You are not alone, that’s for sure. It is 70 degrees today where I am and I’m stuck inside in pain. Frustrating stuff! So glad you joined the conversation. Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • nairpycikzdawaz
    2 years ago

    I’ve read that migraine is a kind of phisiological process. Like fear, it has it’s own needs and it punishes for trying not to comply with them. I also read that aborting migraine attack usually leads to another attack. Also blockin one way of attack progression leads to create another way of the attack progression. That all is very uncomfortable. I’m in a migraine state for at least 8 years now. Before that I had very often migraine attacks, but for the last years I live in a constant attack, that is hidden under pharmacological effects of various medicines…

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    nairpycikzdawaz- thank you for joining the conversation. 8 years is a long time- and you are so right, when we deal with constant pain, medications and their side effects begin to get involved in the mess. It can become hard to parse apart what is a symptom of the migraine or a side effect of the medication. Some are similar (fatigue, nausea) and tough to juggle along with the pain of migraine. Thinking of you. Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • magdalaina
    2 years ago

    Several years ago I waxed poetic about my migraines that always came with auras of different kinds. I saw the scintillating scotoma as a dragon just out of my line of sight. It traveled across my face and left pain in it’s wake.
    The dragon was because the aura sparkled and was crescent shaped looking slightly like a Chinese dragon. Vicious creature.
    My migraines now have less visual aura. Still nasty though.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    magdalaina- thank you for sharing such a richly visual image. It sounds both terrifying and fascinating. I’m glad that level of intensity of your aura has lifted slightly, although it still sounds tough. Stay in touch! Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • Carolelaine
    2 years ago

    I have never given my migraine human qualities, but have looked at it like weather. When I’m having a migraine headache, it’s like an electrical storm in my head complete with thunder and lightening. Migraine free days are like clear sunny skies in my head. I think the reason for feeling this way comes from the fact that I am extremely sensitive to the weather and how it effects my moods. I am much more likely to have a migraine on a cloudy or overcast day than I am on a sunny day, I also feel much more depressed on a cloudy or overcast day. Trying to imagine being on a bright sunny beach is one way of coping for me.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Carolelaine- what an interesting analogy. It is rich with imagery. I wanted to share with you this article I recently wrote on the topic of migraines and weather – in it has a link to all the articles on migraine.com about weather (and there are many) – you might find them of interest, given the symbolic connection you’ve made to the idea. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/hurricanes-pain-migraines-change/ Thank you so much for sharing. Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator
    2 years ago

    I call my migraine “Medusa” and imagine it has a humanoid monster who is very clever. I do often refer to it as “outsmarting” various treatments. When I was little, I had a (meditative, in retrospect) method of calming myself while dealing with pain in imagining fuzzy bunnies with cotton balls gently rubbing the inside of my skull. Your hungry mice reminded me of that. Thanks for the great article!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Elizabeth- I love the imagery of the bunnies with the cotton balls! Amazing that you created such a soothing idea as a child without the guidance of a counselor to help you. I have had repeated dreams of a tiny turtle living in my head, floating just behind my right ear (from which much of my pain radiates). The idea always is that the turtle is not there to cause me harm, it’s just swimming around in there and if anything I should be gentle and kind to it. The dream has made me drawn to turtles for years. Who knows what that’s about. Mice, bunnies, turtles, oh my! Thanks for chiming in! My best to you- Holly Baddour (migraine.com team)

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