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Postdrome: Is it Really the End?

Postdrome is the last phase of a migraine attack that can last for hours or even days. It is also referred to as the migraine hangover. During the postdrome phase, people experience fatigue, inability to concentrate, inability to comprehend things, mood swings, and a general feeling of malaise.

Postdrome and an endless cycle of migraine pain

I suffer from chronic, intractable migraine so for me the postdrome is almost never the end. It serves as a pit stop on the way to my next inevitable attack cycle. I liken it to Tarzan swinging from one vine, or migraine phase, to the next in a seemingly endless cycle of pain and whatever else migraine wants to throw at me. You see for me postdrome is not the ending, but I’m thankful that for many migraineurs it is just that.

Longing for relief in between migraine attacks

The sky starts to brighten up and eventually the sun comes out again once the storm has passed. That’s another thing that I liken to postdrome. I envy those who have such an experience, but this is migraine disease we are talking about. Migraine doesn’t like to fit neatly into the box. It likes to throw us curve balls and keep us off balance (sometimes literally)! It’s been so long since I’ve had what many would call a standard migraine attack that it’s almost like they never happened at all. I would love to have relief between my attacks that I could embrace and even enjoy, but migraine these past twelve months just will not let that become a reality. It is nice to at least have a brief reprieve before heading into prodrome where the whole cycle will start again.

Preparing as much as possible for the next migraine attack

It seems like a record playing with a scratch where one melodic line plays over and over again until you bump the turntable. Do I take time to count my abortive medication? Absolutely. Am I anxious that I may run out of medication? Sometimes, but I know above all else I have to be prepared for the next phases of the attack cycle. I keep my ice packs prepared along with my heat packs and essential oils. Everyone knows where my medications are in case I need assistance getting to them if the attack is severe. I make sure my support network is in place as much as I can. I have to stay prepared. I never know if I will cycle through a migraine attack quickly or not so I take advantage of the good days to set myself up for the inevitable bad days to come.

Enjoying the good days when possible

I may be in bed with ice packs and heat packs for days depending on what makes me feel a bit better during that attack. During postdrome, I still feel the harshness of the lights and the thought of food makes me queasy. I can’t have an intelligent conversation even if I felt like having one because I’m constantly grappling for thoughts and words. It’s awful. I just don’t have a sense of wellness, and that makes me more on edge around others. I lose my patience more quickly, and it takes very little time on a task before I become frustrated. The worst part is knowing that my reprieve will be small and I’ll be cycling into prodrome soon. It’s a sad way to live, but I also know it won’t always be this way. I will have good days and enjoy the sunshine, my family, and the life that goes on all around me every day. I am a migraineur and I live on hope, always.

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

  • Momwoneson
    1 month ago

    I think, man or woman, you’ve done a great service to me personally. I have had chronic intractable migraines for the last 10 years, with brief respites, and specifically went through this exact postdrome problem yesterday. Although I know in my mind it’s not just me, it’s easy to feel that way, but when you put into words EXACTLY everything I’m experiencing, I don’t feel so isolated. Additionally, it provides me with a tool and proof that I can use with my family and friends to help them understand and the pressure that relieves is immeasurable. I can’t articulate how grateful I am for what you’ve given me. I hope you receive blessings in the form of ultimate migraine relief. If you haven’t tried the new CGRP medicines, I encourage you to do so, for the first time in a decade I have incredible reliefs and am cautiously optimistic.

  • Bfmickl
    1 month ago

    Tom,
    It’s as if you looked into my soul and wrote this article. As a male, I know we fall in the minority of those who suffer with migraine. That in itself has brought it’s own degree of pain. As far as I can remember I suffered from migraines. My mother has a picture of me as a small child of 5 laying on our couch with a cold rag on my head. She told me that as far as she can remember I cried and complained about my head hurting. I suffered with them throughout my life. During my teen years I only had them about once every other month. About 20 years ago the severity and duration increased dramatically. They went from one every other month, to 3 or 4 every month. They generally lasted between two and three days with the hangover lasting anywhere from one to three days. Over the past 25 to 30 years I rarely went a day without a headache or the feeling of being in a fog. Thankfully I found a neurologist who is truly a physician. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic intractable migraine. Trying to work and function over the past 20 years has been one of the most challenging times in my life. The side affects from the various triptans and other meds used to treat migraines have in themselves been debilitating. The medications that I’m now on have at least given me a few days a month where I’m not in blinding pain or in the fog of a hangover. Unfortunately, they are so strong themselves that they leave me practically bedridden. At the age of 60 I’ve had to give up my ministry and my secular job. I’m trying to get on disability, but that too is a challenge for someone suffering from this chronic condition. Thank you for sharing this look into your life, as we share a condition rarely seen in men, but almost always misunderstood. Take care your brother in pain.

  • jlorimor
    1 month ago

    Tom,
    I can so relate. I’ve had migraines since my early 20’s. I’m now 46. The past 9 years I’ve had chronic migraines and my life mirrors yours. Thank you for putting it all into words and sharing.

  • RainyDay
    1 month ago

    Tom,
    Sounds like you and I have a lot in common, or should I say a life in common? I too suffer from chronic, daily, severe, intractable migraine and I always have a migraine. The only difference between one day and the next is the level of intensity the pain reaches. I maintain a constant level 6-7 migraine and have every single second of the last 15+ years. I used to experience an “extinction level” migraine 3-4 days a week, but over the past 9 years, that number has increased to 4-5, then 5-6, and now I just count the days each month that I’m not writhing in pain (in my freezing cold, dark as space bedroom) and I can always count them on one hand. I always feel like I never get a chance to recover from a bad migraine before another knocks me back down. It’s like migraine is the bowling ball and I’m the pins in an alley that never closes. I am very lucky for God has truly blessed me with an amazing support system chaired by my phenomenal husband who is also my full time caregiver, best friend and the light of my life, without whom I could not survive. However, living like this is not living, it’s just surviving another day. I always feel so guilty when I’m down for days and I can’t contribute around the house and then when I finally start to feel a bit better, I overdo it and the cycle starts all over again. Or, if I’m smart, I try to give myself some time to recover properly and don’t help out, but then I feel like a malingerer and the stress of that and the guilt from being sick combine and send me careening full speed off the cliff into another hellacious migraine. It’s so frustrating!! Of course, I don’t need stress or guilt to trigger an attack, all I need to do is be alive, it seems. As I’m sure is the case for most chronic migraneurs. Like you, I cherish every single, solitary second that I feel “good” and I am always restocking my emergency kits and relief measures so they will be easily accessible when I am floundering around in the dark with a rocket launch commencing in my head. I try to stay positive and believe in God’s plan for my life (even though it appears to include migraines ‍♀️), but it’s difficult sometimes when I feel like I’m orbiting a black hole from which even light can’t escape. Suggestions? Thanks for listening!

  • glassmind
    2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing. It sounds like such a great challenge to be always in some phase of migraine. I appreciate your bringing these challenges to awareness.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @glassmind some days are tougher than others, but I try to never lose hope!
    Tom(migraine.com team)

  • drmaryb
    2 months ago

    Tom,
    You don’t know how much your article means to me. My migraines are not as severe as yours in terms of pain but, over the last 6-9 months, they have been developing into the type of pattern you describe. The last time I remember truly feeling good was October 15. And before that, the beginning of September. I’m not saying this to complain as much as to observe how I don’t seem to feel fully free of one migraine before the next one is setting up.

    It changes my perspective on my life, at least for now, but I’m trying to limit how much I let it do that. I find myself naturally becoming more hypervigilant: when is the next attack starting – how and when will it hit me? I experience a good deal of variation in my attacks so I don’t know if I’m going to wake up in pain or suddenly start feeling nauseated while at work.

    I’m going to start a new preventive today. Whether or not it helps, I want to take each day and each moment as it comes – to cherish the ones that are good (or not too bad) and grow through the suffering that comes with the rough ones. Even when we think we do, we never know what is coming in life. It is important to learn how to live with whatever rolls our way.

    Thanks for living on in hope. I’m with you there.

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @drmaryb I’m glad the article resonated with you. I’m like you said, hypervigilant! I really don’t like to be caught off guard by an attack so I made some lifestyle changes to keep me mostly on top of this disease. I would encourage you not to forget about the importance of self care when dealing with migraine. I’ve found a little extra me care leads to more good days! Wishing you migraine free days. Tom(migraine.com team)

  • Crystal.Harper
    2 months ago

    Hi Tom,
    I know it can’t be easy to do, but I love that you’re making an effort to see the “bright” side and constantly reminding yourself that the sun will come out again. It’s so important to keep that hope.

    Thinking of you,
    Crystal

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @Crystal.Harper is I didn’t have hope or faith in God I would surely be lost in this disease. Never underestimate the power of of hope! Wishing you migraine free days. Tom( migraine.com team)

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    2 months ago

    @Tom, I understand intractable headaches and it’s so frustrating, trying to break that cycle.
    Take care,
    Peggy (Migraine.com team)

  • Tom Picerno moderator author
    2 months ago

    @Peggy Artman the worst part of intractable migraine is that there never seems to be any real reprieve. Sometimes after a dose of steroids I get a breather. Aside from everything I still have hoped of better days to come! Wishing you migraine free days. Tom( migraine.com team)

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