Migraines Are a Body-wide Disorder

"While the focus has long been on head pain, migraines are not just pains in the head. They are a body-wide disorder that recent research shows results from 'an abnormal state of the nervous system involving multiple parts of the brain.'" Dr. Charles, U.C.L.A. Goldberg Migraine Program

How Does My Brain Affect My Nervous System?

I've reread this New York Times article about a newly released migraine study again and again. The growing awareness that migraines are a "body-wide" disorder involving chemical reactions in the brain feels like a newly revealed puzzle piece. 

My annual jigsaw puzzle. I'm only allowed to do one in December cause addict.

My annual jigsaw puzzle. I'm only allowed to do one in December cause addict.

Sadly, it's just another puzzle piece in a sea of puzzle pieces. 

It can be so hard to make sense of something that even doctors don't understand.

  • My brain triggers my nervous system in ways that people without migraines don't experience.
  • If I take neurotransmitter-boosting medicine every day, I can nearly entirely avoid migraines. 
  • My neurologist said to me just last week, "There are chemicals at play with migraines that no one fully understands yet."

It's hard not to ask: How would understanding the intricacies of the brain and the nervous system help with the pain

It might not make any difference. As of now, the knowledge I have hasn't helped me with the pain. Meds have helped. I yearn to complete the puzzle because I'm impatient. I want the world to understand and accept that people's brains and nervous systems vary wildly, and that there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about it. 

Completing a puzzle the day before my daughter was born. December, 2009.

Completing a puzzle the day before my daughter was born. December, 2009.

I also believe a deeper understanding of how the brain triggers the nervous system might help with mental health acceptance. This, in turn, feels like it could be a virtuous cycle that leads toward improved mental health for all. This is my idealism speaking.

Thank you for reading this. It's giving me the chance, in my own small world, to be the change I want to see. If I can help demystify the brain's relationship to migraines, I'm doing the work I'm meant to be doing at the Beautiful Voyager. Though the nervous system may be a complex, fragmented, misunderstood mystery right now, I don't believe that it will always be. In the meantime, let's share knowledge and experience, and help each other feel as good as we possibly can.

beautiful voyager

A version of this post was originally published on the Beautiful Voyager newsletter. Subscribe here.