Pushing Past the Small Life of Migraine
Living with chronic migraine can feel like living on a postage stamp. Through trial and error, we learn how much we can do in a given day before tripping the proverbial breaker. This literally means lights off for the rest of the day due to a migraine attack. In response, we begin proactively living in a framework that feels safe and somewhat small. Over time, we learn how much energy we have, what our triggers are, what is likely to set us off, and those many parameters create this postage-stamp-sized area in which we exist on a daily basis.
“The responsible thing to do”
We may even come to accept this existence because we grow accustomed to it. We know what to expect. There are few surprises, save for the triggers we cannot control (perhaps stress, hormonal, or weather-related migraine). Years may pass living within these limitations. We are, in essence, living in fear of the horrific migraine attacks we experience. So horrendous and terrifying, we never want to feel those again.
Living in fear
This has been my life. Living in fear, with such care. It has felt like the responsible thing to do, after all. The pain is so frequent and relentless atop my living so carefully. Why would I do something that would knowingly cause it to worsen? So, I keep my visits with friends and family on the brief side. I go to bed early. I stay close to home. I live cautiously.
Throwing caution to the wind
Earlier this year, my lifelong best friend offered to take me on vacation to the Caribbean. A 12-day trip. Just us. I haven’t traveled for several years. It’s on my list of triggers. I’ve never been to the destination she suggests. It’s a once and a lifetime offer for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
An understanding friend
I was anxious about being down for the count with migraine attacks the whole time we’d be away. Part of the reason I accepted the invitation is that my friend completely accepts my condition and has no judgment about migraine. She and I talked about what would happen if I fell ill, and she was clear she would go on her own adventures and let me rest. This would help me to avoid feeling guilty if I fell ill. I accepted.
A breath of fresh air
We went last week. I’m not sure if it was the change in climate, the change of pace, or what – but I was nearly migraine-free for the entirety of the trip (and I generally experience some level of migraine pain daily). I met with my migraine doctor before leaving and made a plan of action for my being away. We agreed to increase my use of triptans temporarily and proactively, and I’m sure that helped. We hiked and snorkeled and had a wondrous time. Each day I wondered, “Am I more capable than I previously thought?” Perhaps I’ve been living this small life without the need for such restrictions. Could I do more now? Had something changed in me? The idea danced in my head like the light of a candle on a windy night.
When I returned, I was eager to test my new theory. Perhaps I could lift my self-imposed restrictions and loosen my limitations. Fuller life, here I come!
My plane was delayed, and I got home at 2 am. The next day there was a thunderstorm where I live. Whether or not I was experiencing a let-down migraine or one triggered by barometric pressure or lack of sleep, I was hit hard for three days in a row — such a tough reality check. I tried at first to have a new attitude about it. Family members and friends wanted to see me and hear about my trip. I normally would’ve rescheduled given the pain I was in, but I thought I’d test my newfound confidence and capability.
Once again, I sat, straining to focus on my loved ones. The feeling returned that I had a crack in my energy tank that allowed everything to drain out with every thought I had and movement I made.
Pushing through migraine attacks
In the week since, more migraine attacks. Hitting like the waves I swam in just over a week ago. And I remember how migraines sometimes temporarily disappear when life gets shaken up just to return later. Still, I’m pushing myself more than before to say “yes” more than “no” when given a chance.
As I climb back onto my safe postage stamp, I’m grateful for the break and adventures I had while on vacation. For the taste of freedom it provided. I do feel different now than before. I now envision myself on my stamp, but instead of being all curled up and cautious, I’ve got my legs dangling over the sides, dipping my feet in the waters below.
Do you feel like you live on a postage stamp? Do you try from time to time to test the boundaries that migraine places upon you? Tell us about your experience so we can learn from you!
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?