Pulling Up Roots: Envisioning a Life Free of Migraine

Pulling Up Roots: Envisioning a Life Free of Migraine

Recently, in my fleeting well moments, I’ve been working on clearing the forest outside our house. My initial goal was to make some trails for our new dog to enjoy for daily walks but as I got into the task, I became obsessed. I decided I wanted to clear our land of the ivy that has overtaken it. As I dug into the ground to free tree after tree of this invasive plant I discovered endless similarities and symbolism connecting ivy and migraine. The process has been therapeutic.

Why ivy?

When contained, ivy can be a lovely plant. It’s a popular house plant because it takes very little care to maintain. It thrives despite minimal light and water – but when given those things, it grows like a weed.

Much like untreated, undiagnosed migraine, ivy, when left unattended, acts very much like an insidious weed, overtaking all that surrounds it. If not contained by borders or indoor planters, like migraine with no treatment, ivy will grow rampantly and voraciously. It spreads out and can climb higher than 30 feet, attaching to and twisting around whatever it encounters. As most migraineurs know, the disease has a tremendous reach as well. It invades almost every aspect of our lives and relationships. It gets tangled up into every part of our lives in strangling and messy ways.

Each time I pull a group of leaves up from the ground, I feel the roots pulling from every direction. Loosening with each yank, I think of the myriad of ways that migraine spreads into every aspect of our lives, attempting to choke out the joy from what nourishes us.

Under the surface

In the same way that migraine is an invisible disease, often leaving the pained migraineur looking fine, ivy’s shiny green leaves sit atop the ground, belying an ugliness that lies beneath. The roots of ivy spread underground and remain unseen. They are alien-like with tendrils that are slimy.

As I wrestle to loosen each tendril and feel under my fingers how tightly attached it is around everything that surrounds it, I picture the way migraine relentlessly reaches into our lives. One tendril killing off long-held friendships; another putting even the most solid and long-term marriages under duress. Tendrils challenge our ability to pursue health and exercise. Finally, they reach into our professional lives, sidelining many of us from our careers.

I am the tree

With every root I rip from the ground; every vine I tear from a tree, I picture symbolically loosening the grip migraine has on my life as well. It is so gratifying to cut the thick roots from the saplings being pulled down by the weight of the vines and watch them spring upward once freed. I wonder what it would be like to have migraine extracted from my life completely; to be able to spring back into life; freed from the weight of the disease. Just the thought of all of those symbolic tendrils loosening their grip to let life back into my relationships, career, and health brings a flood of emotions. Those feelings run the gamut from anger to sadness. As I work to free the trees, I let myself feel every emotion that comes and in so doing, the process becomes therapeutic for me.

While I know the likelihood of migraine being magically and completely lifted from my life is most likely out of reach, the process of freeing another living thing from being oppressed (not to mention the fact that the activity itself is one that is outside, in the fresh air, and includes some exercise), is a healthy and gratifying journey and one that I look forward to continuing.

Have you found any symbolic connections between migraine and anything you are encountering in your life? What activities do you engage in to help you work through the psychic challenges of migraine?

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