You know that feeling wrung out, spent feeling that follows the pain phase of a migraine attack? It’s technical term is “postdrome,” though “migraine hangover” is far more resonant. Read about common symptoms of the migraine hangover in my latest post on Migraine.com.
“This too shall pass” is a phrase people rely on to help them through tough times. It is one I often employ when a severe migraine spell lasts so long that I cannot see a way out. As I’ve learned through mindfulness meditation, it also describes the concept Buddhism calls “impermanence.” The trick is that it doesn’t only apply to difficult situations — every moment, good or bad, passes, whether we want to hold onto it or not.
And this, folks, is today’s lesson in chronic migraine.
Whenever I have a good week I expect it to last. I’ve reigned in that same need to assume one good day is a sign of more to come, but string a few good days together and I’m a goner. No, actually, I’m lying. No matter how hard I try to temper the anticipation, there’s always at least a little part of me that latches onto that glimmer of better days and believes I’m on the upswing.
I’m still clinging to the bliss that was the last full week of September, the week before my birthday. Well, bliss in the view of a chronic migraineur. Migraines still came on every night, but the postdrome (migraine hangover) lifted by 2 or 3 each afternoon, giving me many engaged, productive hours each day. I really thought every week of my life was going to be like that. I knew there’d be setbacks, but that week, in my mind, was the result of taking cyproheptadine and magnesium, as well as correcting vitamin D and B12 deficiencies. Not only were the migraines not too painful, I had energy.
Then came a setback, which didn’t concern me much. I totally overdid the birthday celebrating and pushed myself into a week of migraine attacks. It was the price I (mostly) expected to pay for pushing too hard. But the migraines continued to be debilitating the following week. This week started off with the worst migraine I’ve had in two months, followed by persistent level 5 or 6 pain.
That good week in September was not evidence of a general upswing in my health, but, apparently, a fluke. Fortunately, life is full of flukes. I will have more good weeks, though I can’t predict when they’ll be. I’ll have more bad weeks, too. In the bigger picture of my life with chronic migraine, even the bad weeks of the last couple months aren’t too bad, more like mediocre. I’m content with mediocrity in this case. Besides, it too shall pass.
“Breathe in deeply and exhale fully.” Inhale… Ugh, did that woman bathe in coconut sun oil? OK, Kerrie, focus. “Slowly move your head to the side on your out breath, inhale to center, exhale and move to the other side.” Whoa, that was quite the stabbing pain in my head. Every step the teacher takes sounds like Velcro peeling apart. Focus! “Inhale to center…” I wish this guy would stop sniffing. And the sun is so bright. “On your next exhalation…” TICK! TOCK! TICK! TOCK!
The clocks at my yoga studio are curious. Sometimes they are completely silent. Sometimes they demand I pay attention to their continual work. In reality, of course, the clocks tick at a perfectly consistent volume. Whether my brain is in migraine high alert determines if I hear them or not. Phonophobia is not subtle.
After a severe migraine yesterday, I spent today not knowing if I was being haunted by a hangover or if another migraine was coming on. Hearing TICK! TOCK! as I tried to settle into a yoga class this evening put an end to my questioning. Another migraine it is.
“Did anyone get the license plate of the truck that ran over me?,” the mom of my best friend in junior high used to ask when she was sick. That’s what I’m wondering today as I’m in a migraine hangover that has me feeling completely wrung out. Magnesium hasn’t brought me out of having chronic migraine, but it is no longer nearly constant. The experience of discrete migraine attacks and migraine hangovers instead of having one continually run into another is interesting.
Saturday brought the worst migraine I’ve had in awhile. It was a level 8 when it woke me up at 4:30 am and still an 8 when I awoke at 10. It remained at that intensity until 3 pm, then slowly tapered down to a 5 by 10 pm. Sunday, I was tired, dizzy, woozy and headachey. I wasn’t sure if I was experiencing the prodrome of another migraine or the postdrome of the previous day. I was pleased to discover that it was the latter, as we had people coming over in the afternoon for a barbecue. I felt decent and social from 3 pm to midnight, at one point even wondering if my pain was at a level 1! Then another migraine in the night and now, at 3 pm the next day, I am groggy, exhausted, nauseated, anti-social, and semi-brain dead and my head hurts.
I want to do some work — either respond to comments, input health expenses into a spreadsheet for taxes, or make chicken broth — but sitting on the couch, staring into space seems like my greatest capacity at the moment. Postdrome/hangover is so frustrating. I think I should feel fine because I’m not actively in a migraine, but I still feel like crap. Though technically I am still in migraine, it is just the post-raging headache phase of migraine. It is one of those times where I’m blown away by how complicated this illness is and frustrated that so few people have any idea that a migraine is not just a bad headache.
The need to be productive overcame me, so I forced myself off the couch to start laundry and fill the dishwasher. After 30 minutes of being upright, I am shaky and dizzy in addition to my other complaints from earlier. I’m now wondering if this postdrome is turning into prodrome for another migraine or if I simply did too much too soon.
This constant wondering is frustrating, but also fascinating. I’m so interested in better understanding the process of this illness that regularly overtakes my body. Now that the migraine attacks aren’t constant, I’m experiencing what an individual migraine episode is like for most people. I’m also getting a better grasp on how incredibly debilitating my degree of chronic migraine has been.
I spoke with someone last week who has chronic migraine, too. She mentioned The Day-to-Day Life of a Chronic Migraineur, a post in which I chronicled my life over several days. Though she has five migraines a week, she also has a lot of pain-free time. We are both diagnosed with chronic migraine, which is defined as 15 or more headache days a month, at least eight of which are migraine, but the reality for each of us is vastly different.
It is now Tuesday afternoon. I was indeed in prodrome for another migraine, then spent this morning in postdrome. Another migraine came on just after noon, but I was able to abort it with Amerge, so I’m out of the migraine-rinse-repeat cycle for now.
I feel a bit sorry for myself at the moment: I tell everyone that I’m doing so much better — and I am much improved from four weeks ago — but I also have to acknowledge that I’m still in some stage of migraine all but a handful of hours each week. I am thrilled to be doing as well as I am, just as long as I don’t pay too much attention to the fact that I still have chronic migraine that’s on the severe end of the spectrum.
The Postdrome: Migraine’s Silent Sister is an interesting article I came across while writing this post.
Horrible migraine last night. Can’t tell if it has let up temporarily and is going to resurge or if I’m in an ugly postdrome. Not up to writing much, but I’m excited about the posts I’m working through in my mind. A preview: My additions to Ellen’s excellent list of The Migraine Dirty Dozen – Things Not to Say to a Chronic Migraineur on Migraine.com and a summary of Head Agony, Science News’ fantastic article on current understandings of the physiology of migraine, which reader Timothy sent me.