Chronic Migraine, Coping, Reader Stories

The Work of Chronic Migraine

The outside world either thinks writing is my job or that I don’t work at all. In truth, I work constantly. When I’m lucky, that work is writing; most of the time, that work is chronic migraine. I never leave work. Never. I never have downtime and I don’t get to leave my work at the office after a long day. My work wakes me up in the night and I check on it first thing in the morning. I imagine it’s not unlike the tireless, thankless work of a stay-at-home mom, without the rewards of giggles and kisses from an adorable little one.

When I was at my sickest, I expended all my physical and mental energy just to keep myself going. It may have looked like I was lying in bed, but I was giving it my all just to ensure I’d wake up the following morning. That may sound melodramatic to some, but any migraineur who can imagine being chronic will understand it’s not.

Now that I’m doing a little better, I work constantly to try to maintain or increase the improvement, monitoring my diet like a hawk, building up my physical strength, avoiding triggers, researching potential comorbidities, considering other treatments, attempting to maintain balance so I don’t push myself into a severe attack, working through the deep well of grief wrought by spending much of my 20s and 30s disabled.

I keep talking about how much better I feel these days. At my current peak, I function at 70% physical or mental capacity (not both) for a couple hours in a day. Most days I’m thrilled with a few hours at 50%. A so-called good day means I don’t have to focus all of my attention on my health and can instead tend to normal things of life, like cooking, doing laundry, paying bills. I’m tremendously grateful to have this much ability, while simultaneously angry that I work so hard for only partial functionality.

I may not have the money, social stature, or outwardly visible accomplishments associated with hard work, but my effort is commensurate with that of a self-made multibillionaire.


Pushing Through Migraine Attacks… More Harm Than Good?

What would happen if, as soon as I noticed a migraine coming on, I took meds and rested instead of pushing until I absolutely can’t do another thing and I’m beyond exhausted before sitting or lying down? “I’d never get anything done,” is my immediate response, and I’m guessing most chronic migraineurs would think the same thing. But what if the behavior I see as helping me cope with chronic migraine — pushing myself — is actually making my health worse?

What if resting at the first warning of a migraine would reduce the severity of that migraine attack? What if pushing myself to the brink actually makes the migraine attack worse? And beyond individual migraine attacks, what if my habit of constantly pushing myself to severe fatigue compromises my body and health in such a way that makes me have more frequent migraine attacks?

These are some of the thoughts floating in my head thanks to therapy and the article about validating pain that I wrote about last week. I have no answers, but asking these hard questions feels like a step in the right direction.