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The Migraine Wave

The Migraine Wave

Surf’s up

Riding a wave toward the shore, the power of the ocean is underneath me. I see the horizon in the distance. My heartbeat is steady as everything is working perfectly. I have my bearings. I’m using skills I’ve attained through years of practice. I am capable of navigating these waters and feel confident in doing so. I’m happy and feeling good.

From out of nowhere a larger wave crashes over me from behind. I’m pulled under. I get a face full of sand and a shocking mouthful of water. The force of the ocean that I was enjoying just a moment ago now terrifies me. It’s heavy and it holds me under. It rolls me over so many times that I don’t know which way is up. As I hit the bottom, I’m scraped by shells. I can’t breathe. I am engulfed in water.

For a moment, the roiling waters loosen. I come up for air and quickly gasp to fill my lungs. I try to find my bearings. Where is the shore? The horizon? But before the salt water clears from my eyes, I’m pulled under again. I feel as if I’m being attacked. And I’m losing my strength.

Sucked under

The image of riding placid ocean waves before being sucked underneath comes to me repeatedly when I’m in a migraine storm. There is a calm before the storm, after all. A time when we appreciate “having it all.” That beautiful moment when life feels in balance. For chronic migraineurs, these moments can be so fleeting that we are often incredibly grateful for their appearance.

In the blink of an eye, that balance disappears and we are in the fight for our lives. Like a rogue wave, migraines can come out of nowhere and pull us under. They make a mess of things and can be terrifying to experience. The pain and related symptoms like sensitivity to light, sound, and smells, nausea and vomiting can be relentless. We are left feeling as if we are under attack from every angle.

Sometimes there is a break in the pain cycle. And in those moments, we breathe a sigh of relief. Perhaps we even take stock of the damage that was made of our lives during the attack. We begin thinking about all we need to do to catch up, lick our wounds, and restore that elusive sense of balance. Sometimes, just as we take a step forward, we get hit again. We are sucked back under for another fight. With each hit, we are weaker and less able to handle the battle. Our reserves dwindle.

Finding our footing

Hopefully the waves calm again and allow us to catch our breath and find our footing, as we try to make our way to shore. While we are all too aware that as long as we’re in the vicinity of migraine- we are in danger of another wave crashing upon us and causing the cycle to repeat, we have a deeper appreciation for all that we’ve just been through, and all that we’ve left behind. Oddly, it is precisely this demanding process of living with migraine, that helps us fully understand our tremendous strength and resilience.

What analogies have you found that work for you as you manage migraine? Share them below so we can learn from each other.

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

  • Lisa
    1 year ago

    Been taking Botox 9 months. 30 shots every 3 months. Using Dr Smiths Persaud at Huntsville Headache & Neurology Clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. My migraines are better than they have been in years & I love Dr Persaud.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @3jspt6 – Hey Lisa- what wonderful news to hear that botox is working so well for you! Thank you for sharing the information about your migraine doctor and this approved chronic migraine preventative. I’ve been taking botox for over a decade now. For me, it has also done wonders. I know for some, it stops their migraines altogether, or slows the frequency. For me, it does nothing to address the frequency, but it lessens the severity of the attacks. Without botox, I would be constantly bedridden. Again, we’re grateful to you for sharing what is working for you! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Dana
    1 year ago

    I have likened my migraines to the magic show trick where the put the woman in the black box and put many swords through the box, yet she comes out unscathed. Only my head is in that black box and those swords pierce right through my skull. I am not unascathed. But every single one of your descriptions is relatable.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @danadibs1979 – So great to hear from you- I love that imagery! Have you seen the article where people share what migraines would look like if they were visible? https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-if-migraines-were-visible/ The comment section alone is worth the read. What you described would fit in there perfectly! Thanks for staying in touch, Dana. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • catherinegove
    1 year ago

    I love this analogy. I recently wrote about my experience with migraine too. To me, it feels like a paintbrush painting red on my brain. I’m not sure if we can post links, but here is the essay I wrote: http://hekint.org/2017/12/27/discovering-migraines/

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    HI @catherinegove – Thank you for sharing your article, a good read. And I love your analogy re: the paintbrush. We ran an article recently calling for people to provide descriptions of what their migraines would look like if they were visible and we received some fascinating responses. You might be interested in checking them out here: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-if-migraines-were-visible/ Stay in touch. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @catherinegove – I’m so happy to hear you are enjoying being a part of our community. We definitely have a rich and wonderfully resourceful group of incredible people here and we love having you with us! Stay in touch! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • catherinegove
    1 year ago

    Those are all so interesting too! You are all doing such a great job creating wonderful discussion around this topic. I am learning so much about my own condition. Thank you!

  • mbabi1970
    1 year ago

    I am been suffering from chronic migraine for 10 years now. I just turned 48. Chronic migraine stole my career and so much of my life. I have 2 teenage boys in high school that were in elementary school when I got my diagnosis. Your article spoke to be because I am a NJ beach girl. The beach was always a source of great comfort to me but chronic migraine took a lot of that away because I cannot handle heat, sun etc. This was a PERFECT analogy for me. Thank you for sharing. Good luck on your journey.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @mbabi1970 – My goodness we share a lot in common! I also have two teenage boys who are currently in high school and were in elementary school when my migraines became chronic (going on 10 years now). I was also sidelined from my career. I’m so glad this analogy worked for you. I also cannot bear the strength of the heat and sun of the beach anymore. A real loss of what was once a major source of joy. I have since thankfully found other joys in nature that I hadn’t before discovered- which are more forgiving to a migraine brain. I’m typing this to you as I sit on my bench in the forest in the cool weather. A place that gives me respite and peace. I hope you have found some special places like this to carve out for yourself to help balance out the pain. So nice to have found a kindred spirit and be reminded, once again, that we are not alone. Keep in touch. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @mbabi1970 – still MORE in common. My oldest son is also college bound in the fall and I’m definitely thinking of all the ways he will be missed. Besides my gigantic love for him, the logistical ways he comes through are many and it will be an adjustment to figure out how to navigate the day without him here. Guilt is a huge challenge and very common for us chronic migraineurs. It is a real and ongoing journey. We have a number of articles on this enormous topic, in case you haven’t seen them all and might be interested: https://migraine.com/?s=guilt&submit=Go Thank you for taking time to let me know my articles resonate with you. That means a lot to hear. I will say that, now with more time passing, the dog choice has only become more positive and clear. Although she asks a lot of me, what she gives is exponentially more. I feel healthier and more balanced because of her. That said, it is an incredibly personal decision. I wish you the best as you weigh the options. Stay in touch and best of luck during the oncoming empty nest process! Very warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • mbabi1970
    1 year ago

    Thank you Holly for responding. Life is certainly different and so full of obstacles. And the guilt over what I am not able to do is something that still overwhelms. I’ve been working with my therapist a long time on that. I think all of your articles are great and very helpful. I’m struggling with the dog decision right now. We had a dog who past about 6 years ago and I’ve been tooo afraid to think about another one. My husband really wants a dog but understands the position we are in. My oldest son is a senior and heading off to college in the fall and that’s one less to help with the duties. But your article gave me some food for thought even though I am still so apprehensive.

  • Pete
    1 year ago

    I have a “status” migraine, since 2004, 24/7. I get multiple additional headaches 8 times a day, and can include up to 4 additional headaches.
    Two things: 1- many nights the only way I can get to sleep is by using self-hypnosis; it’s important to find the right therapist; 2- this is for the heavyweights only: many years ago I met a former top tennis pro who sustained horrible injuries to his back after falling during a free climb. Many surgeries, tremendous pain daily. I asked how he could stand it. His reply:”Every morning when I wake up, I tell myself that I have the right to end my life. I then say ‘but not today’.” That kept him going for 30 years (until he chose the other route) ; it has helped me stay alive for over 25 years. Yes, it’s hard on your loved ones to hear, but when they listen, or live with you, they know. It’s intense, but when your back’s against the wall, it’s good to have a “safety” in place, even if means living hour to hour , and day to day.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi there @Pete, I am so sorry to read how long you have had to endure this. When you can’t control your overall health and ability to simply just feel “well”, your second point you shared (for the heavyweights) that has kept you going can be a very harsh & dark thought that can creep in when living with such a debilitating disease such as migraine. But, when migraine impairs your daily function day in and day out and in your case 24/7, finding “positive” ways and/or thoughts to effectively cope and communicate what you are experiencing to others, we absolutely understand can be a challenge. Migraine can greatly impact and effect mental health and as we do with all of our community members, is stress the importance of getting the support that they & you deserve! Not just from your doctor(s), but from counselors, therapists, support groups, etc. which can help to inspire and motivate one’s state of mind. I see you mentioned having seen a therapist for the self-hypnosis and that is great. Stay strong and we are all behind you!! – Warmly, Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Ronan
    1 year ago

    I do my darndest not to think of the disease. I’m always prepared but I try not to live my life as if I have migraines. I do the same with the Cronic Depression. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    I do have more empathy for myself and others after I get to the other side of an attack. What I usually think of as “not that bad”, really was. I feel the relief of my body being pain-free. But I do try not to think of when the next one will hit. That causes anxiety, that I don’t need.

    I have had to make adjustments to my life for what it is, not for how I’d like it to be. It’s the only way I know how to keep going. I guess a bit of Buddhism helps me. 🙂

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @ronan– thank you for sharing some of your strategies and beliefs regarding how to approach chronic migraine. It’s very hard to live in the well-moment- not fearing when/if another attack might be around the corner. It’s a worthy goal for all of us. As you said, if we live in fear or with anxiety, it only increases the chances of another attack. Acceptance is a huge goal for many migraineurs- and it is a journey. It’s not something we attain and then check off our list, it’s something we try to attain and then might feel is in our reach- but struggle to maintain. We have countless articles on that topic- perhaps you might enjoy taking a look at some of them: https://migraine.com/?s=acceptance&submit=Go So glad you’re a part of our community. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Ronan
    1 year ago

    Thanks, Holly. 🙂

    The key here is the phrase, “try not to think about it”. If I have had a series of attacks it’s harder to live without the anxiety of the next one. But I do try to live like migraines don’t own me. Now, to read the article you’ve recommended.

    Thanks again,

    Ronan

  • Luna
    1 year ago

    Life for me is like the ocean waves. They crash on to the shore and retreat, over and over again. Then there is falling down a rabbit hole.

  • litoria76
    1 year ago

    I can count the number of migraine-free days per month on one hand. And the days without migraine I’m usually in the postdrome stage and too exhausted to enjoy them. It’s been this way for 3-4 years… I feel like I’m lost at sea, desperately kicking to keep my head above water…

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Dearest @litoria76 – your description of Migraine frequency is precisely that of chronic migraine. And that wash of postdrome symptoms that connects attacks is all too common. I hope you know that you are not alone in this It can definitely make us feel that we are drowning and that it is hard to keep our head above the severe pain and many other symptoms related to the disease. It becomes all the more important to connect with others — to hook arms, and stay afloat. Each time we share a comment, in my opinion, it is akin to asking for a life jacket and getting one from this Community of like-minded people who understand all too well what you’re up against. We are here. Alongside your migraine specialist and friends and family. For you. With you. Holding each other up. Holding you up. Please keep in touch. Warmly, Holly B. (Migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @luna – I love the image of the rabbit hole and the ocean waves, both. The way the ocean waves crash on the shore and retreat repeatedly resonates so well- because some are stronger than others, some stay for a while, some make a splash, others not. Besides the fact that they happen again and again, some migraine attacks can be more severe than others. Thanks so much for sharing your imagery with the rest of the community. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Ronan
    1 year ago

    Luna – I went down that rabbit hole last week. I was so happy and relieves when I came back up.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @ronan– The rabbit hole! Perfect image. And yes, the relief when we reemerge. Thanks for sharing. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

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