The Waves of Chronic Migraine and Anxiety

By Brittany

I believe that “everything happens for a reason.” Whether or not I know the reason right away, in time, or never at all, I consciously choose to believe and accept that.

I used to be the girl who always had a smile on her face, who could light up a room in an instant with my energy. People called on me for inspiration, looking for the positive spin on a negative situation. I reminded my friends and loved ones to be compassionate. This too shall pass. Ride the ebbs and flows of the waves. Everything happens for a reason.

My life is nothing like it was 3 years ago and I often find myself riding waves of emotion as I continue to adjust to my new way of life since my TBI (traumatic brain injury). A year ago, the waves were like a tsunami. I didn’t understand why and it scared me.

One morning I woke up with no drive to get out of bed and go to work. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I opened up Facebook, and the first thing I see is a short video on high functioning anxiety, and it just clicked!

It terrified me to admit it to the world, but once I was able to put a name to why I was feeling the way I was feeling and the thoughts that came with it, it was easier to accept and be compassionate with myself.

As I spoke to professionals about it, I learned that there’s a direct correlation between chronic pain, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. My pain fueled my mental illnesses, and my mental illnesses fueled my pain.


Anxiety is definitely the frontrunner for me. It comes in waves without any warning. My anxiety tells me I’m not good enough, that no one understands, I’m weak and unworthy of love and belonging. It tells me that I’m a burden and I should be strong enough to get through this on my own. I did it for so long, juggling a hell of a lot more than I do now, so why can’t I do it now?

It tells me to isolate, to avoid interacting with people, that there’s no point in even trying because it’s inevitable that I’ll tank, not only ruining my time but everyone else’s around me. That there’s no hope of me ever getting better. This is my life now and I damn well better get used to it.

One day, I get a call from a world-renowned headache and pain specialist, one of the top in the world. As I schedule my first appointment, I cry tears of gratitude. The waves have now become quieter, calming and relaxing.

He tells me he believes I WILL get better, or at least 80%. But if I don’t believe it myself, it doesn’t matter what we do, I’ll never get better. So I start to work on my belief, on rewiring my subconscious. I pick up inspirational books that have been hiding for months. I start to get excited about life again and my belief in healing grows deeper. I watch the gentle waves and I have hope for the first time in almost three years.

After two weeks of treatment, I have my first day in 8 months without a migraine!!! I don’t even realize how good I felt all day until I start to tank at bedtime. Then the pain gets so bad that I can’t sleep, and I wonder how I lived like this for so long. I became so immune to pain, and after one good day, now I can’t function again.

Enter tsunami waves of emotion again.

I cry, I pick fights, I feel inadequate, isolated, unworthy, and like a burden. I crave the outdoors, to go to the gym or a yoga class, to drive my car, to explore my new city, to get all dolled up and go on a date. But I feel like I’m paralyzed, out of control in my body and defeated.

Eventually, I pick myself up, put on a mask, get inspired again and apologize for my behavior. But the cycle continues, the waves violently crashing against everything in sight and then becoming ever so gentle and relaxing again.


Last week I sobbed to my doctor that my emotions and anxiety are out of control. He reminds me that it’s a byproduct of my pain and the two fuel one another. He reminds me that some weeks will be better than others, and that I’m already having success in such a short time working with him.

Remember to celebrate all wins!

He cracks a joke, makes me laugh after I snot all over everything, and my partner gives me an encouraging, supportive squeeze of the hand as the next excruciating needle of a nerve block penetrates my skull. Grimacing through the pain, I begin to believe again.

Living life in constant pain is often debilitating. I used to feel stronger. It was once easier to separate myself from my migraine. I catch myself grieving for who I used to be, what I used to be able to accomplish in a day. It can be challenging to tune out my anxiety and release negative thought patterns.

However, I do believe I am on the path to healing. As frustrating and scary as these waves are, I remind myself that this is part of the process. They come in ebbs and flows, I just need to ride the waves. Everything happens for a reason. I look forward to the day I know what that reason is.



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