t-t-t-tip on the tightrope

tip on the tightrope

A couple of nights ago, I had the most fanTAStic time. I was feeling good, being productive in a tangible way, and having interesting and important conversations with my BFF while using excited hand gestures, raised voices, swear words and everything! I hadn’t done yoga or worried about pain in, like, several hours, and even though I hadn’t left the house that day, I was ON TOP OF THE WORLD! It was just so much darn good wholesome fun. Wow.

Later that night, a nasty little hairy-under-the-bed monster of a migraine paid me a visit, and like those nasty little monster-migraines do, it invaded my whole body to the tips of my hands and feet and latched on all night and into the following days. ugh.

“But you were feeling so good last night… What happened?” asked my friend with whom I had had interesting and important conversations while using excited hand gestures just the night before.

“Er…I think I had too much fun,” I replied in my most dejected mid-migraine voice.

“So now you have to watch out for feeling too good on top of all the other regular-life things you must carefully avoid?” she asked.

“Uh, I guess so.”

We agreed that this is just. plain. stupid.

I’ve read in a few different places that migraineurs will sometimes experience a “surge of energy” or “feeling of elation” just before the onset of a migraine, but I’m skeptical that this is some sort of physiological pre-migraine warning. I (am not a doctor) think it’s more simply that when a person feels good after feeling like Oscar the Grouch for days on end, they might be tempted to go a bit overboard with the having of fun, thus overstimulating their nervous system and causing pain.

Furthermore, when I feel great after many days of feeling bad, it’s tempting to climb to the top of the nearest mountain, put my hands on my hips and scream “HA! Take that nasty little monster! All my complicated dieting and yoga and vitamins and trips to the neurologist are paying off, and now the Old Me is back with a vengeance! Watch me sing and yell and do cartwheels while listening to loud music, painting rainbows everywhere, and simultaneously blogging about the whole thing!!!” (Also, I will often try to do my neglected to do list all in one day.) This routine sure is fun, but so far it has not been at all sustainable.

So, what have I learned from this, other than the fact that migraines are stupid, and having too much fun is a no no? Perhaps that I should avoid the captivating charm of the Old Me, and learn to enjoy my good days by have quiet, calm fun as the New Me (who might be a bit less vivacious, but pretty rad nonetheless), thereby having more good days as the New Me, and less days feeling a manic tug between Old Me and New Me in a Lot of Pain.

This idea is not so terribly hard to grasp in the context of my social life, but in the context of the classroom? If being the most animated and whacky person in a room full of 30 tired and complicated hormonal beings is no longer my shtick, then what is? I’ve got until September to wrap my head around returning to teaching as the New Me, but I’m just so scared that it’s just not going to work, and I will have to re-think my whole career path that, so far, has remained unchanged since grade five.

And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure, here is the wise and stylish Janelle Monae:


p.s. If you like, you could leave your thoughts in the form of comments, below. I would like that.


  1. Laurie brown · · Reply

    You remind me of the Buddhist approach to life. The trick is to understand that there is no good and there is no bad. It’s only in allowing ourselves to assign preference and aversion that we throw ourselves into suffering yet again. Not getting attached to the good or the bad is what is needed. But it’s oh so hard!!!! Does that make sense when dealing with pain??

  2. Laurie! Thank you. That makes so much good sense to me, but clearly I don’t understand the concept well enough to practice it just yet. I will think on this some more.

    What I do know is that I’ve had just too much fun writing this blog post, and it’s time for more yoga.

  3. Thanks for this great post! I agree with Laurie’s comment re the concept of there being no good and no bad. Sometimes when I think of that in a more conscious way I’m able to accept my experience of the ‘yo-yo’ days where I did way too much and am left sitting with the consequences. Heck, there’s even times I kinda feel like it was almost worth it. The most important part of it all is that I accept myself 🙂

    1. Thanks Staysh! I never considered that yo-yo days might be worth it, because the ensuing pain always feels like a failure. Accepting myself in those moments is hard, and definitely something I need to work on.

  4. This happens to me all the time – going manic because the pain is gone. But I get so darned excited about being able to do things, I can’t seem to help myself. Like Staysh, most times I think it was worth it! And sometimes, I think the migraine comes just to make me slow down and rest when I ‘ve pushed it too far.
    The non-judgement that Laurie talked about really does help, as in not judging yourself as a failure because you got a migraine! Heck, I don’t even understand that one…be nice to yourself! Beating yourself up because you think you caused a migraine definitely does not cure migraines, and just adds to the misery.
    The other bit of buddhism that helps is non-attachment, as in non-attachment to the pain. Really, really hard to do, especially when the pain overwhelms all the senses. I try to get in touch with my spiritual center, and then dissolve into oneness with the universe and disperse the pain, or fall through the pain, or just recognize that the pain does not define me.
    I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you – I have a migraine right now and may be talking through the haze…

    1. Hi Lynne! I know the haze well.
      Yah, I am a long way from being able to detach myself from the pain. And you’re so right… the guilt aspect, or feeling like the migraine is somehow my fault because I exposed myself to triggers or whatever, is totally not helpful. I think it might come from the stigma/ myths/ ableism that surrounds chronic pain.

      My friend just shared a great article about migraine myths. I posted the link under “articles.” I found it very helpful.

      Hope your migraine hits the highway!

  5. pīwakawaka · · Reply

    I guess I have a different approach than the Buddhist way described in the other comments. I’ve always though of life around me as being good – even during the worst experiences. At such times I often have to search to find something good, and at times that search can be quite desperate. But so far, I’ve always been able to find something that’s good to grab hold of. Having been a migraineur for over 50 years and chronic form around 15 years I’m still able to see that the world is a wonderful place.

    With regards to manic episodes, I believe it’s a prodrome symptom. At least it is in my case. I often become hyperactive the day before a migraine strikes to the point where I am reckless. I always feel REALLY good at such times and often fail to recognise that it’s a precursor to a migraine. Other family members do recognise it and try to quieten me down – not that it makes any difference to the migraine when it hits. I’m guessing it has a neurological explanation, rather than a psychological one. Well, in my case anyway.

  6. Thanks for your insights, Piwakawaka.

    Regardless of the cause of the feel-good migraine precursors, I’m not very happy about having to watch out for feeling too good! What sillyness.

    I like your strategy of having something good to “grab hold of.” In moments of intense pain, it’s really easy to feel like everything is falling apart and that it’ll never get better, but it is always delightful little things that keep me going.

    Last night those good things were swimming in lakes (which I hope to do lots of this summer), and buying a beautiful piece of art…


    Thanks again… It’s inspiring to hear from people that have been successfully living with this stuff for much longer than me…

  7. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you
    are a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and definitely will come back someday.
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