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Adjusting to Life WITHOUT Constant Migraine

I always imagined that if I found relief for my migraines, I’d be over the moon and ready to take on the world. Instead, I am cautious and disoriented. It is difficult to believe the magnesium will keep working — or even that my current good spell is the magnesium at all. I wake up each day having no idea if I will have a migraine or a headache and, if I do, what level of pain I will be in. Migraine has been entirely dependable and I’m a bit lost now that I can’t count on it to always be present.

When I awoke around 5 a.m. yesterday to a level 5 migraine, I felt not exactly relieved, but sort of comfortable. Like, after a week of the uncertainty of different head pain and unusually low migraine levels, I was in a familiar place again. Not that I was happy to be there, just that there’s comfort in a well-known situation.

But even that comfort wore off as I realized I didn’t know what to expect from the migraine. Will it worsen? What symptoms will I experience? Will pain be a major factor? These are not questions I typically ask, but I have felt so much better the last few days that I was acutely aware of every aspect of the migraine and concerned what it might mean. The most worrisome question plaguing me was: Am I back to the place where migraine is my default state?

Before I began the mindfulness for health course I took four years ago, I met with the instructor privately for biofeedback. She mentioned that she had just gotten good news on medical test results, but didn’t want to get swept up in thoughts about the results. She said she “didn’t want to be tied to that outcome.” I was puzzled by this and didn’t really understand what she meant. As I have become more familiar with the practice of mindfulness, I have revisited that conversation, never more so than the last week as I attempt to grasp magnesium’s effect on my migraines. The idea is that the teacher could celebrate that she’d gotten good news, but didn’t want to assume that the news would always be good in the future or that her happiness was dependent upon the news always being good.

Not being attached to the outcome relates to the Buddhist idea of impermanence — a concept that I was heavily invested in just last month when the migraines and depression were wearing on me. I kept telling myself that although it felt like the misery would never end, it would eventually lessen. I reminded myself that my migraines had been better as recently as November and that they would lessen again. Now I’m working with the flip side of impermanence. Just because magnesium is helping me now, it may not always help. The fact that my migraines have lessened significantly in the last nine days does not mean I am out of the woods forever.

A friend asked if I was floating around the house in bliss when my pain was at a level 2. Well, I was cooking and dancing and marveling at how little pain I was in, but I was doing so with great care. I don’t trust that I’m going to continue feeling this good. I’m still afraid I’m going to discover that this good spell is an unrelated fluke and the magnesium isn’t really helping at all.

Please don’t think I’m ungrateful or that I’m not thoroughly enjoying this respite. I am uncertain is all. I’ve learned to live with severely debilitating migraine. The possibility that it might no longer limit me so much is overwhelming and seems a but suspicious. I don’t want to get too excited for fear of being let down. Though I dread being wishy-washy, the phrase “cautiously optimistic” captures my attitude exactly.

10 Responses to Adjusting to Life WITHOUT Constant Migraine

  1. Melissa says:

    Omg I know exactly how you feel!! After basically 4 years of constant level 7+ pain and trying “everything” with my headache doctor, I started diamox after finding out I have idiopathic intercranial hypertension. I’ve been feeling the same as you! Before the diamox, i was in a bad place. Now it’s been two weeks of feeling good, with two cruddy days in there. I find myself on edge, waiting for it to sneak back in and catch me off guard. I once heard someone describe their migraines as having a Stockholm like effect on them. I hope you continue feeling better!

  2. Jamie says:

    I worry about this, too. I don’t get a whole lot of good days, especially in a row; but I find myself kinds uncomfortable and disconcerting to feel good. I think it’s natural to feel cautiously optimistic.

  3. Kathryn says:

    I can understand what you mean, but try to relax a bit and enjoy the relief!

  4. Kate says:

    migraines – can’t adjust WITH ’em, can’t adjust WITHOUT ’em, can’t kill ’em.

    Kerri, in my experience, chronic migraine is a chronic mind-effer. am i up? am i down? do i stay or do i go? (good 80’s song by the Clash – one of my theme songs for ten years now), am i being a scaredy-cat or a realist? Lazy or careful?

    a “good day” ALWAYS confuses me, let alone 2 or 3 good days, or a WEEK?? – fuggetaboudit! a few “good” HOURS can mess me up sometimes. sure, often i can just enjoy it, but that is not the rule, as outsiders might expect.

    and how about those “good days” when the pain is low but you still have to sleep/rest all day to RECOVER from the days that preceded it? those days aren’t exactly full of clarity, either. sometimes i’m 4 days recovering for 1 to 5 days of migraine. time just flies out the window and it pisses me off.

    so far, for me, the migraine beast always returns. often just when i start to believe in the other possibility. (that it won’t)

    OH! – and the “other possibility” is scary too! – how will i get back into the work force? what will i do? how will i make a living? will i work for a while and then just lose it all again when the migraine comes back? etc., etc., etc…
    my mind runs amok. i have to work hard to chill.

    and i totally relate to the “lost” feeling without migraine, that you describe. for the first several yrs of this thing, i WOULD have thrown a party if it ended. but that was back when i had memories of migraines that used to END. i still expected that would happen. but it’s been ten years now, and i would have to have a clear head for at least two years, i think, before i’d believe it. and DURING those imaginary two years, i’m pretty sure i’d be cautiously, VERY cautiously, allowing old normal life stuff back into my days and my heart. it’s just so completely demoralizing and soul crushing to believe in each new treatment, just to have the migraine prove more powerful once again.

    i keep trying, just like you do. and i have hope and belief each time or i wouldn’t go there. it’s what we have to do to ourselves, even though we know we’re taking a chance.

    i do love buddhism. it reminds me that one aspect of the reality of impermanence is that i can’t permanently hold on to the “not-holding-on”. it really helps, often. but equally often, this insane illness seems to take me by the hair and drag me every which way but peaceful. then, the practice is to gently and non-judgmentally bring my mind back. it’s great. i’m just agreeing that it’s very difficult, and i’m grateful that you so openly write of your struggles and experiences here.

    Thanks for writing, Kerrie. It really helps. -Kate

  5. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your post; I’ve heard wonders about magnesium, and took it in the form of Migraleve for a while, and you’ve inspired me to give it a more constant go, “i.e., not letting myself forget and skip a day.” My Migraines are all linked to the menstrual cycle, which makes me wonder if they are solely a hormonal thing.

    My one sure-fire migraine-killer is the UK Migralieve, which is something totally different, and whallops the pain and nauseau with codeine and anti-naseau meds.

    Thanks for writing, and I am sending you positive thoughts for your continued happiness.

  6. susan says:

    I’m so glad you have finally found some relief and hope it keeps up for you!

    Can you tell us what form and dose of Mg you are taking?

    I’ve been on and off remembering to take my Mg, and think I feel better when I remember. I bought a bottle of Mg Gluconate (less digestive issues) but was dismayed when I found out that while the bottle was labeled 500 mg – the actual amount of magnesium in each pill is 27 mg! Maybe that’s why i’ve been having more headaches that normal…

  7. Valerie says:

    I’ve noticed improvement when taking Magnesium on a consistent (& somewhat rigid) schedule.

    I can’t remember why, but I quit taking it awhile back.

    As I lay here now with a migraine creeping up, I’m feeling a sense of urgency in starting up again with the Magnesium supplementation.

    Can I ask–how much Magnesium are you taking per day?

  8. Timothy Bauer says:

    Kerrie:

    I sure hope that you are still doing well. One day at a time lady.

    Thought you or some of the readers may like this site.
    It covers migraines and other painful conditions. Once you
    register-it has a “wealth” of information. And I mean a
    wealth of ideas. Also below it is a link to an article from the
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    the advice provided from painaction.com. Kerrie-I know you
    are busy-but if think this site has value to others-please
    post. To you and all your readers good health!!!

    http://painaction.com

    http://americannewsreport.com/online-program-can-ease-migraine-pain-8813237.html

  9. Leslie Konshuk says:

    Reading all of this has truly brought tears to my eyes. I have had migraines since I had my second son. My dad had them, one of my sisters has them too. And, at 2 years old my oldest son was diagnosed with migraines. He called them his “fevers”…it broke my heart. I had a complete hysterectomy 10 years ago and was migraine free for 2 full years! But in the last 3 years, I have not had one day without pain. I have been to 3 neurologists, pressure point therapy, chiropractors,aroma therapy, acupuncture,hormone therapy,massage therapy,heart specialist,and now hypnosis! Not one of the migraine meds have helped me so I take 3 low dose pain meds a day to get by. I guess I didn’t realize how many other people are out there that have 24/7 migraines. I survive on my pain being a 3-5 most of the day, but when the pain pills start to wear off, I am nauseated and miserable for the next couple of hours. I have gotten good and hiding my pain so my family doesn’t worry about me. I bet many of you out there are doing that too. I had tried magnesium last year and it did nothing, but you have given me the encouragement to re-try it and maybe it will help this time! I have often said to people that are close to me and feel bad for me hurting…at least my pain is not life threatening. I don’t feel like I have the right to complain because there are so many people out there that are dying from cancer, and other horrible diseases. But reading this blog, I felt like its ok to bitch that my head hurts because all of you understand, and have walked in my shoes. This is my very first time I have written about it…so thank you for helping me feel not so alone.

  10. Julia says:

    wow, it is really moving for me to read all of your comments. I too have been suffering with my migraines for a very long time, since I was 13. I am now 22 and there hasn’t been a day without pain since I was diagnosed at 13. It’s hard for me to talk to people my age about my suffering because I feel like they don’t understand or won’t want to be my friend. Pain can be so isolating.

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