10 secrets of successful chronic migraineurs
Chronic migraineurs face horrific attacks day after day, along with painful co-morbid conditions that disable them to the point they can no longer work, need help with house work and can barely care for themselves. Some of these same migraineurs struggle with paralyzing anxiety and depression so strong they fight thoughts of suicide. Yet others seem to cope so much better. How is it possible for two people to face the same debilitating symptoms while one copes so well and the other struggles? What’s the difference? The temptation is to claim that those who cope so well “have never really experienced chronic migraine”. However, that statement is full of the very stigma well all hate so much. None of us likes to be told we aren’t really experiencing migraine.
Maybe there is another explanation. Maybe there are things that these migraineurs do and think that explain why they cope so much better. Granted, it is always much easier to cope when we have a good support system and high quality health care. These factors do make a difference, but they don’t account for everything. There are specific things that successful chronic migraineurs do that help them cope so well.
These patients accept that life will not return to the way it was. They have released that fantasy and found ways to incorporate chronic pain as a permanent part of their lives.
Successful patients are committed to learning new ways of living with pain. They are open to trying a variety of coping strategies without expectation of a cure. They are also open to continually trying new treatments when the old ones fail. They seem to always know what their next step is going to be, never running out of ideas.
These patients take responsibility for their own health care. In their minds, the doctors work for them. They do not accept statements like, “There is nothing else that can be done.” They have no problem changing doctors or filing complaints if treatment is inappropriate or they encounter stigma. They recognize that ultimately it is their decision which treatment options are chosen.
They have the confidence to develop creative ways to manage pain. Unafraid to experiment or fail, they just keep trying. They are constantly thinking of more efficient ways to ease pain, plus they recognize that pain management is not pain elimination so they keep their expectations realistic.
They accept that they are vulnerable and have learned to manage the stress that increases their vulnerability. They are empowered to choose their personal level of acceptable stress, know how they will respond, and take responsibility for the consequences of increased stress.
They no longer fear the presence of pain. They have learned enough successful coping strategies to live peacefully with pain. They have made it their friend. They do not dread its next appearance because they know exactly how to respond.
Successful migraineurs make it their job to learn all they can about their condition, their triggers, and personal limits. They accept their own reality and have learned to live within it rather than fight against it.
They maintain an appropriate level of physical activity. They know their body well enough to accept when they must limit activity and embrace the days when they can do more. They do not hold themselves to the standard of their highest achievements.
Successful patients set and maintain healthy boundaries with others to preserve healthy relationships. They do not allow other people to manipulate them with guilt trips, threats, or bribes. They are more comfortable with losing friendships than with sacrificing their boundaries.
They have a variety of contingency plans depending on the presenting symptoms. They are rarely caught off guard or without their toolkit. They even have a plan if everything in the toolkit fails.
We can all learn from these successful migraineurs. Becoming a successful patient takes time, though. It may take months or years to master all of these skills. No one will ever understand what you are going through quite like another patient with chronic migraine. The best way to develop these skills is to find a successful migraineur whom you admire, then ask him or her to be your mentor.