Migraines Lessen Under Extreme Stress
This summer has been a particularly stressful one for me. And strangely, during periods of extreme stress- when my life is asking a lot of me, my body seems capable of temporarily pushing my chronic migraines aside. Stranger still, stress (normal, everyday tension/hassle) is one of my migraine triggers. However, during periods of major stress or emergencies I surprise myself by how capable, productive and responsive I can become. I don’t shut down and cower in pain. I’m generally very able to step up, navigate and even lead the way through highly challenging situations. This is in direct contrast to my normal daily experience, with mere ordinary stress on board, when my migraines are consistently present and can be a dominating force in my life.
I’ve spoken to other migraineurs who share the same experience of chronic migraines taking a backseat during times of trauma. I’ve also consulted with migraine specialists on the topic who have said perhaps there may be a correlation between a temporary decrease in migraines and the body’s boost of cortisol levels during times of major stress.
Logic would follow that after the stress clears, those cortisol levels would fall, leaving us once again vulnerable to migraine. This cycle is indeed what occurs for me. Once the emergency resolves, I am hit hard by migraine, often downed for days. What’s not exactly logical is the extreme increase in pain severity that seems to accompany the migraine that follows the reprieve. It almost feels as if I’m being made to pay for the migraine-free window I enjoyed when I needed it most. Or, that during the time I had no sensation of migraine, the pain was still there, just under the surface, building like a wave waiting to crash. And the moment the stress finally clears, and I can turn my attention back to myself, I get walloped and sucked under, unable to come up for air, caught in the undertow until I’m almost drowning. These migraines- ones that follow periods of stress are known as let-down migraines.
Who knows whether it is cortisol levels or something else. I certainly know the power of steroids after having them injected into my head and taking them by mouth countless times over the years to stop my worst migraine attacks.
Migraine is a neurological disorder- not something I can outwit
Whatever the cause, the reality of repeatedly watching my chronic migraines take a backseat to extreme stress is emotionally confusing. It leaves me wondering if there could be a way that I could tap into a part of myself to push my migraines aside. Could I trick myself into believing I’m facing extreme stress and make them stop? I want so badly to control this wholly uncontrollable thing. But of course, I cannot. I know, in my logical mind, that migraine is a neurological disorder, not something I can outwit.
The dynamics surrounding migraine can be crazy-making. We all try desperately to make sense of the condition and fix it by evaluating every little break in the pain to look for a pattern that might lead to a solution.
When do you notice a break in your migraines? Have you noticed the pain taking a backseat during periods of extreme stress? Share your experience below so we can learn from each other!
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?