Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Migraine as Tornado

Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Migraine as Tornado

Just like a barometric pressure drop foretells a tornado, a heaviness in my head tips me off to your impending arrival. I know you are on your way. I sense your danger as you come spinning toward me. I have no control as to when you come, or how long you will stay. You give little notice so there’s not much I can do to protect myself against you, but I do everything I can.

Duck and cover

I anxiously trace my fingers over my limited arsenal, the choices in my medicine cabinet, hoping something new will have magically appeared since the last time you were here. Is there anything that might actually save me from your wrath? My hands come up empty. No one, after all, has found an effective way to stop you. I rest and eat well to prepare for the battle. But ultimately, the best I can do is to duck and cover, brace myself, and hope for the best.

I close my eyes and listen. They say a tornado sounds like a train coming through your house. A migraine has the power to make anything sound as loud as a train.

Inevitably, you strike. I am pinned to my bed writhing in pain. I am terrorized and unable to speak. My body shakes and heaves as you circle above. Everything is dark as night except for the bright bolts of any light which blind me. I hold on tight, waiting for your storm to pass. Hours go by, or maybe days. Time becomes meaningless, except that it feels like an eternity before the intensity lifts.


Eventually, an eerie silence replaces the constant roar. Emerging from your direct hit leaves me disoriented and groggy. I am thrown far off course and I am not quite sure where I am. Any little noise makes me fear your return. So, I continue hiding until I’m sure the coast is clear. Only then do I finally feel brave enough to peek outside to survey the destruction.

Taking stock

Once again, you have caused widespread damage to my life. Much like facing the grim reality of cleaning up after a tornado, I don’t know where to start. Amazing the disorder that can occur in the blink of an eye. Like mobile homes tossed asunder in strong winds, you took my important plans and threw them aside. You wreaked havoc on my life and left an absolute mess in your wake.  My laundry, bills, and work projects were left unattended. They piled up and were tossed in the air until they landed in total disarray.

I’m exhausted, filthy and shell-shocked. And although you have finally dissipated, I continue to feel your aftershocks and lightning strikes. I’m left still struggling to see straight, while picking up the pieces of what’s left of my life.

A sense of desperation begins to drive me. I realize I am hurrying; racing, in fact. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m in a rush to restore order.

And then I remember why. I live in the equivalent of Tornado Alley. I have chronic migraine. I must regain my footing before the next storm hits.

“I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”

There is an upside to being repeatedly hit by these storms; of having life torn apart over and over again. Life lessons and gifts are earned in the process. Not unlike the characters from the Wizard of Oz.

I picture survivors of real tornados, who speak of being grateful for having survived and ultimately realizing that while belongings can be replaced, people cannot.  For those of us who survive repeated migraines, we also feel a deep gratitude for that which matters most. We’d have heart to spare for the Tin Man from learning that moments of wellness are golden. And so are our loved ones who stand by us as we weather each storm. These people can’t be replaced, and neither can we.

And while people with migraines might join the Scarecrow in wishing we could have a (new) brain, we could teach the Cowardly Lion a thing or two about courage, as migraines certainly do make us dig deep to brave each storm.

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

  • mrst53
    2 years ago

    I don’t live in tornado alley, but I live in VA where the weather shifts from rain to sun and temp from low to high. Most of my migraines are weather related so I live with migraines almost every day. I feel sorry for those of you who do live in tornado alley.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    Great way with words.
    “Hours go by, or maybe days. Time becomes meaningless, except that it feels like an eternity before the intensity lifts.”
    I always feel like I’ve been on a long trip to another dimension and readjusting to this dimension again is confusing and takes time.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Luna- good to hear from you. Love the analogy of returning from a long trip, only to return disoriented. The postdrome fog can be very, very thick. Very warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • 2boysMama
    2 years ago

    With tears in my eyes I am reading this, I just was in the ER this weekend suffering from a killer of a migraine. Your explanation of a tornado being equated to migraine was spot on.
    The path of destruction it continues to leave every time breaks you down. Sometimes it makes you stronger and sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily I had a wonderful support, group wonderful husband and family that can help. I think God every day for all of them!!!!
    I plan on sharing your words with my coworkers and hopefully they will understand better my daily struggles.
    Thank you again for your eloquent post.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    2boysMama- I am so sorry to hear of your ER trip last weekend. I’m hoping you’re feeling more stable by now. How wonderful that you have a solid and strong support network of family to help you. (I’m the Mama of 2 boys as well, by the way). Glad my article might help your greater network better understand what you’re up against every day. Keep in touch. Most warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • tinabobina
    2 years ago

    i too live in tornado alley. i am in kansas toto

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    tinabobina- There are many of you here. And I truly don’t know how you guys do it. Best- Holly (migraine.com team).

  • tinabobina
    2 years ago

    FINALLY i found what a migraine feels like in words. i try to explain to people how you want to scoop your eyeballs out with a frozen spoon. they don’t get it. i can now show this to people to help them understand. Thank You!!!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi tinabobina, Okay, so first, I have to ask you to go to this article and ask that you add your wonderful visual of the frozen spoon eyeball scoop to the comment section, please (it is too good not to be there!) :https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-if-migraines-were-visible/

    Second- I’m so glad this article resonated with you and might prove helpful in gaining understanding and support among those in your life who do not have the condition. You are not alone in struggling to find a way to get across what it’s really like. Although I have to say, I really like the eyeball thing. I’m going to remember that one.

    Thanks for joining the conversation! Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team)

  • hippiechick
    2 years ago

    What a descriptive and accurate comparison between the devastation and destruction left in the wake of a tornado and the devastation and destruction left in the wake of a migraine. You have described my life and migraine assaults to a tee. I too find that after emerging from the bedroom after a 4 day assault, the house, laundry and bills have piled up and are waiting to be picked up, sorted through and straightened out. I find that it’s a frantic race with the clock to get my life back in order, I usually have 2 “good” days between attacks and those days are filled with cleaning, washing, shopping, bill paying, returning phone calls and trying to get ahead of life before the next tornado strikes.

    I am fortunate and blessed to have a compassionate, caring, loving and supportive husband. He knows that any smell or sound adds insult to injury. So he tippy toes around the house like a little mouse. He would gladly cook, clean and wash if I would let him, but any sound or smell, no matter how slight catapults me deeper into the center of the storm. So he leaves his tidy little messes, which I gladly pick up, because for 2 short days I can be a normal wife, but I forever keep my eye to the Southwest sky knowing there is another storm on the horizon.

    PS- We live in SW Oklahoma, right in the center of tornado alley and have experience the devastation and destruction of an F5 tornado first hand. Our daughter is special needs and lived in a group home in Moore, Oklahoma during the May 20 tornado 2013. Within 150 yards of her home there was total destruction, homes and businesses completely gone. My husband and I had to crawl, maneuver and snake our way thru the chaos and devastation for several miles, to include ground zero to get to her. Thank goodness her home was spared and she was ok, but looking back in retrospect, the destruction of that tornado can easily be compared to the destruction left in the wake of a migraine tornado.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    hippiechick- it’s great to hear from you! I truly can’t imagine living in the path of a tornado. Worse- in tornado alley. The vision you describe of crawling through devastation to get to your daughter sounds terrifying. I can only assume you had that super-human-mommy strength driving you that day, and hopefully no migraine atop it all.

    Glad to hear you found my article relatable and also glad to hear you have such a supportive husband. Having an understanding, loving, and patient partner can be so helpful in navigating life with migraine. Here is an article on that very topic, in case you’re interested: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/navigating-with-your-partner/

    Thanks again for writing. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • Nanci333
    2 years ago

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You have eloquently put all my feelings about how chronic migraines have effected my life and the lives of so many!
    We all tend to live with a sense of fear that no matter what we do to prevent it from happening, we have no control when or how bad the severity of the storm/migraine will hit! Even pointing out that we can also feel the pressure in the air when it’s coming!
    My favorite read in a long time. The only thing that gets me through each day is being grateful for the people I have left. And I have lost a lot, but none of that matters. The support from family, loved ones, friends and fellow suffers who understand are why I keep withering this unending storm.
    Today I am grateful for you! Thank you!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Nanci333- Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot to me that my article resonated with you. You are so right that the people who stand by and support us are phenomenal creatures of flexibility and understanding. So glad you are part of our community. Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • Kristy
    2 years ago

    This is so well written and well put, I love everything you have said and can totally relate being a chronic Migraine sufferer myself. Ironically I also live in Oklahoma and know to well the path destruction tornadoes can leave. I had never thought of the comparison but it is spot on, you are exactly right. Thanks for sharing.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Kristy, I can’t imagine LITERALLY living in tornado alley in addition to having chronic migraine. My hats off to you. Thank you for the kind words about my article. Very warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team)

  • ChoctawCharli
    2 years ago

    Your description and analogy was SO spot on! That is exactly the way it is! Not only are my migraines cronic, they are near daily. It is simply a matter of degree as to if I can manage to stay upright, bed, or hospital. On the rare occassions they are at or below a 4 I try to get a few pieces of my life put back together before the next series of debilitating ones hit. My Dearly Beloved passed away about 18 months ago, but The Good Lord gave me a rock while he was with me. Then Blessed me with wonderful friends and neighbors who are willing to drop everything to help when I need it. I may sometimes wish for a new brain, but would NEVER wish for a new life.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    ChoctawCharli – Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your loved one. It’s wonderful that you can already feel such a sense of gratitude in the midst of loss. Also a blessing that you have a strong support network. You are an illustration of how chronic migraine often draws gratitude and appreciation out of us. The pain is so intense and constant that we feel so thankful when it breaks, even if for a brief moment. We become grateful for the big and little things in ways that many others cannot. I’m so glad you wrote today and that you are a part of the migraine.com community. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Wayne
    2 years ago

    Great story. This is perhaps the best explanation of a migraine flare that I have read. ” I must regain my footing before the next storm hits” is a perfect analogy to describe how I feel while trying to face the next storm. Thank you.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Wayne- just wanted to add a note of thanks for your very kind words. Glad my article resonated with you. Stay in touch with us! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Wayne! Thanks for taking the time to share your most kind words! We’re so glad that the article resonated with you. Thanks for being part of the community. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com, team)

  • philney14
    2 years ago

    Hello! Im new here, but I absolutely love reading this and have passed it on to every family member I have. It is wonderfully written and is also pretty descriptive for chronic migraines. I have longed for a way to explain to others how exactly these affect me and other, and how although they are ‘gone’ they aren’t really. Wonderful writing! Love the metaphors, even my 9 year old (who absolutely loves reading) loved reading this. Thank you for your piece as well as another version to explain to those who don’t or never have had migraine(s) or headache!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi philney14- I just wanted to add that I’m grateful to you for joining our community and thank you for your kind words on my article. A wonderful image to picture your nine year old daughter reading the piece. I must say, as a fellow mother- I also struggle to find ways to help my children understand my life with chronic migraine. It’s always a great moment when you find something that helps friends and family “get” your reality. This site is alive with those kinds of articles. Welcome! Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi philney14,

    Welcome! We’re glad you found us and that the article resonated with you. As you can see you’re absolutely not alone. Please feel free to share any of the articles on the site you feel ay help bring understanding.

    I also want to invite you to join the conversation on our Facebook page. We’re always here to share support and information. Thanks for being part of the community! – All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Erin
    2 years ago

    You have quite the way with words. I actually live in Kansas. I brave both kinds of tornadoes. I live less than 25 miles from Greensburg, KS, which was almost literally wiped off the map. Chronic migraines can feel that way. We just keep weathering the storms.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Erin- I truly can’t imagine literally living in Tornado Alley atop having chronic migraine. I know this week has been particularly active and I hope you’ve been okay. Thanks for your kind words on my article- and best of luck in continuing to weather both kinds of storms. Warmly- Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel moderator
    2 years ago

    Absolutely, Erin. I myself feel like I have been wiped off the map several times myself. We just have to keep picking up the pieces! I agree that hollybee has an amazing way with words. Take care! ~elizabeth (migraine.com team)

  • Lori
    2 years ago

    So well-written – love the metaphors.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Lori- thanks so much for the kind words. Hope you have a good weekend. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Poll