Under Attack

Under Attack

Isn’t it interesting how migraine flare-ups are referred to as “attacks"?

This word, which is associated with war, brutality, and aggression, is an apt term for the way migraine causes widespread destruction through unexpected, unrelenting, severe pain. After being on the receiving end of these attacks repeatedly, the corresponding result is not dissimilar to post-traumatic stress that can occur for those who’ve lived through an attack or any kind of terrifying situation.

How does fear play a role?

Living in fear becomes a habit and means of self-protection. For many of us, fear can begin to rule our behavior even more than the attacks themselves. We find ourselves bracing for the next attack, terrified of when it will hit and how bad it will be. We may limit our daily plans and activities in desperate hopes of avoiding an attack or letting others down when we cancel plans.

We navigate a world that is alive with triggers (some avoidable, some not). And in so doing, we often find ourselves leading an isolated existence that risks a healthy level of social interaction. Additionally, our migraine specialists train us to proactively respond with treatment at the first sign of a prodrome. This is a safe, conservative protocol, but it also leaves us anxiously questioning every little sensation, fearing it is the signal of an impending attack.

Is constant self-monitoring healthy?

It is fully reasonable to want to try to do everything we can to protect ourselves from repeatedly experiencing an attack. However, constant self-monitoring can create a not-so-fun, naval-gazing existence (picture: self-protective fetal position).

How is our quality of life impacted?

Like ingredients of a recipe, the dynamics of living in fear and isolation, doing our best to avoid triggers, and constantly scanning the horizon for first signs of a flare-up can create a disastrous recipe for quality of life.

How do we find balance to manage migraine?

Ultimately, it is untenable to live under constant threat of attack. We each must find a way to make peace with the comprehensive challenge that IS migraine. Each day, it can be helpful to consciously make the choice to try to resist the urge to fold inward. We must instead unfurl both emotionally and physically. Even in simply picturing ourselves releasing the tension we are carrying, perhaps we are taking a small step toward finding a more healthy balance between managing migraine and living our lives such that we may have a more peaceful existence.

What else can you try?

Here are some other steps to try:

  • Take stock of how we are in that moment, and make note of the well-moments.
  • Set attainable goals, so we feel the day was not wasted.
  • Reach out to a loved one or friend in some small way.
  • Try to remember and nourish that which brings us joy.

What are some strategies that you have found effective to find a better balance so that migraine isn’t all-consuming?

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