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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?

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

  • jaymf
    11 months ago

    @Holly – This is a beautiful piece, using ivy to describe the relationship with migraine. Anyone that has ivy on their property, choking out their trees, and migraine can relate deeply. And, I believe strongly in concentrating on anything to distract the mind from migraines – so this hits home in many ways. Thank you for sharing.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you so much for your kind words- I’m so glad this article resonated with you. I’d love to hear what works for you to distract from migraine. This is a great place to learn from one another. Thanks again!

  • Lori
    1 year ago

    Beautiful analogy, and one that will be useful in explaining chronic migraine’s hold on many of us. People understand ivy. They don’t “get” migraine. And I’m always looking for a useful way to explain. Thanks!

  • MarciaCooper
    1 year ago

    I find concentrating on something such as reading, watching a TV show, playing games on my iPad, etc. totally relieves my migraine.
    Granted it does come back when I finish an activity, and that is when I turn to my medial marijuana.
    I do not use the marijuana first because I might need to drive and I want to use it as little as possible!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @neillk and @shayanth– I’m so glad to hear that this article resonated with you both and that the analogy about migraine and ivy worked for you. Finding imagery that relates to this invisible disease can help us process on the complicated journey and relationship we have with it. Please stay in touch.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @marciacooper – Thanks for sharing what works for you. I have similar success with using TV as a distraction from the pain. It doesn’t relieve the pain for me, but it does serve to take my mind off it at times. Focusing on the discomfort only seems to increase it. Unfortunately medical marijuana is still not legal for many of us in the US. Very glad it’s working for you.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @thebynes– I’m so glad this article worked for you and I hope it serves to strengthen your support system’s understanding of migraine. I use many articles on this site for the same purpose!

  • Shayanth
    1 year ago

    I love your article. Your analogy using ivy and migraine, how perfect. I’m going to print this out and put it on my fridge at home for all to see. Recently I had a cluster of aura migraines which left me feeling so vulnerable, out of control, scared, and angry—the adjectives could go on and on. I love gardening and have much that I want to do, but I don’t have the energy. Putting a clematis vine in the ground last evening left me so frustrated. Everything was a bigger deal than usual—moving soil, hoses, fertilizer, ugh. I was glad when I was done instead of enjoying the process of gardening. Now I just feel sad. Your words help me acknowledge to myself how I feel.

  • NeillK.
    1 year ago

    Excellent post. A very good analogy of how invisible the creep of migraine is and how it invades different parts of my life.

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