It’s interesting to think of what my doctor told me about the brain changing during a migraine attack in the context of chronic migraine. The longer I go without having a migraine every moment of every day, the less invasive my day-to-day symptoms are. Smells don’t always trigger migraine attacks (though most still smell too strong), I’m not bothered by sounds as much, I’m able to take my TheraSpecs off when I’m at home and not looking at a screen. It’s more than just not being in a migraine at the time—it’s that my brain finally gets to experience what it is like to not have a migraine.
“Migraines beget migraines” is a saying that used to give me a chill. The idea is that the more time you spend in migraine attacks, the more your brain learns that migraine is the place to be. If you have frequent enough attacks, your brain decides it’s supposed to be in a migraine state and that becomes the new normal. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphising the brain. It’s the clearest way to explain this complicated topic.) I always worried that my brain would never revert, that I’d never been migraine-free again. Fortunately, I’ve learned that’s not necessarily true.
Just like the brain can learn a pattern of migraine, it can unlearn it. Whatever slows down your migraine frequency helps this process along. This happens in a variety of ways, though preventives are a big part of it. When most people think of migraine preventives, they think they’ll need to stay on them for the rest of their lives. In reality, most people only need to be on them for a little while. (The length depends on how severe and frequent your attacks are, how long you’ve had them, and how your symptoms shake out, among other things.) Once your brain learns frequent migraine isn’t the place to be, it stops churning them out. It’s like a boot camp for your brain, a intense short-term training session.
Chronic migraine is stressful enough without adding worries that your life is irrevocably changed. Although it’s hard to keep those thoughts at bay, I hope my story is a little reassurance that it can happen. My brain is a long way from unlearning migraine, but it continues to forget more and more of the migraine pattern. With as severe as my migraines attack were for so long and with the presence of so many food triggers, I don’t expect I will ever be migraine-free, but I can finally see how I might one day have episodic migraine rather than chronic. That’s nothing short of amazing.