A colorless woman is laying on a couch, while the rest of her surroundings are in dark colors.

When Is the Last Time You Were Pain-Free?

A few days ago, I experienced a complete break from pain. A three-hour window of zero pain. It was shocking, incredible, and ultimately, heartbreaking. As someone who has experienced some level of 24/7 pain related to migraine for decades, the break was both wondrous and disconcerting. I honestly had forgotten what it felt like to be 100% pain-free.

When did the pain disappear?

As I lay on my couch watching a movie on Saturday night, I felt my constant pain suddenly lift. It was heavenly. I felt lighter. I noticed myself breathing deeper and more slowly. I stood up to assess what was happening. I felt young again (perhaps because it’s been decades since I felt this way). My mind shifted to what it would be like to feel this kind of wellness every day. I imagined all I could accomplish. The immediate lift and burst of energy were dramatic – perhaps because my energy wasn’t being used to navigate pain.

What is it like to take wellness for granted?

I thought about all the people in the world who haven’t experienced relentless or even frequent pain. I wondered about what it would be like to not even think about pain or wellness every day. How many people take their wellness and their productivity for granted because they’ve never known a different reality? This thought made me envious of people who are well. I knew that if I was given a chance at wellness I would embrace and celebrate it every second of the day.

What could I do during this pain free period?

As every moment passed, I thought of more things I wanted to do with this window of wellness. I had no idea how long it would last so I wanted to pack as much as I could in until it passed. I thought about traveling – about being able to be adventurous in ways that have been out of my reach. I made a list of those dreams. I started stretching my body and then dancing around my house – moving my body in ways I haven’t in years. I pulled out my music recording equipment (dusty from lack of use) and played instruments I haven’t touched in years.

Did the fear of migraine hold me back?

But the fear of migraine lingered. I wanted to literally jump for joy. But I knew doing so could trigger a migraine. I wanted to stay up all night but knew that losing sleep would increase the likelihood of an attack. I couldn’t feel fully free to experience this pain-free time because I kept waiting for the migraine shoe to drop. I limited myself. I did not jump for joy. I went to bed by 11.

Did the pain come back the next day?

When I woke up the next day, the pain had returned. Just like always - there to greet me when I opened my eyes to start the day. But this time, my heart was heavy. Knowing what wellness felt like was such a high - such a lift – that the comparative experience of pain was that much harder.

What caused this break from the migraine pain?

I’ve tried to figure out why that window opened for me for the first time in so many years. Was it because I took two of my key prevention medications fell on the same day earlier that week? Botox, which cycles every ten weeks and Emgality, which cycles every 4 weeks, rarely line up to be administered on the same day, much less week. In fact, this was the first time they ever have. Was that it? How to recapture this moment? How to extend it? My loved ones tell me I should be happy to have experienced it at all. And perhaps that it is the bearer of times to come. Still, the elusive nature of the experience (in timing, length, and reason) is maddening.

Did the taste of wellness help or hurt me?

With all its wonder, in some ways, a taste of wellness made it more difficult to resume my 24/7 life with migraine. Like starting over in grieving all I’m missing rather than where I was before – having accepted my reality, however harsh it was. Still, what I experienced during that three hours was a gift. It enabled me to access thoughts and feelings about my hopes and dreams that I hadn’t been able to entertain in years. A symbolic and literal deep breath which had to be good for me.

What kind of feelings would arise for you during a pain-free window? What would you want to accomplish? Do you think it’s harder to toggle between wellness and pain than to live with pain 24/7?

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