Hands hover over a crystal ball with question marks inside

Dealing With the Surprise Factor of Episodic Migraines

Lying in bed, I felt the pain in my head burning. If someone could just disconnect the feeling of the hot, portable grill attached to the side of my brain, I'd be forever grateful. But that wouldn't happen. There was no way to pull the plug on my migraine.

I had an unpredictable attack

I'd gone into crisis mode. The cool, wet washcloth on my forehead helped somewhat, and the dark room kept my pain from climbing — but nothing stopped my rising sense of regret. Dealing with episodic migraines was hard enough, but add to that their element of surprise, and I walked through my days a nervous mess. The sentence that ran through my head was: It's my body, so I should know how to predict these, right?

The uncertainty of episodic migraine

When my migraines turned episodic (later, they became chronic), they happened 2-4 times a month. There was no real pattern. I could be walking down the street, sound asleep, or laughing at my husband's jokes, and suddenly my head would start its warning twinges. My migraines were the worst, but it was their uncertainty that left me emotionally raw and on edge.

I can't plan around migraine

I'm a person who enjoys a good to-do list and feels safer with a plan, but migraines have a mind of their own. Their whimsical nature is not a quality I've ever enjoyed about them — among their other "stellar" qualities like sensitivity to light and sound, oh…and the burning in my brain. On days I felt well, there was this lingering thought sneaking around in the back of my mind that whispered: You could get a migraine today. I tried to remain in the moment and ignore future migraine possibilities, but this thought followed me like some sort of creepy horror movie monster.

I was looking for the trigger

I was constantly looking for clues as to why my attacks started — and didn't find any. Yes, I was getting enough sleep. Yes, I was exercising. No, I wasn't stressed out. I continually felt my body disappointing me — and then I'd have to disappoint everyone else.

Canceling plans because of an attack

I'm so sorry. I have to skip seeing you today. Migraine.

The text always came the day of and was always totally unpredictable. I worried the continual disappointment I gave my friends would turn into rejection. Eventually, it would be just me and my migraines making plans together. Then that thought came: Shouldn't I be able to predict them?

I can't predict the next one

It took time and the experience of migraine disease to show me my answer: No. I shouldn't be able to predict my migraines. My organized self didn't enjoy this revelation, but it was my truth. I did stay diligent looking for triggers or a pattern, and eventually, a good chunk of them settled around my monthly period. Finally, I had a tiny amount of warning to cling to. So now, I have a new sentence that runs through my head. I find this one helps take the pressure off predicting an unpredictable disease and it goes: Migraine happens.

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