20 ways we can sabotage our migraine progress

As this article was beginning to take shape, self-doubt almost kept it hidden in the folder of “unfinished projects.” A lot of time was wasted worrying about your possible responses.  The title alone is enough for some to react negatively or defensively. That doesn’t mean we should avoid it. Controversy and disagreement can be a good thing.  This time, I’ve borrowed the concept of self-sabotage from mental health theories and mixed it into a Migraine discussion.

Groans, face plants, and rotten tomatoes are expected and welcome. :-)

You are your own worst enemy.

Self-sabotage is universal. We eat foods that are bad for us, don’t get enough exercise or sleep, and conveniently forget to use our seatbelts. We talk ourselves into and out of good choices all the time. Much of this is done on auto-pilot without any awareness that we are putting ourselves at unnecessary risk.

We do it with Migraine, too. Self-sabotage doesn’t mean we cause Migraine and it certainly doesn’t mean we are to blame for getting attacks. Yet self-sabotaging behaviors do exist with regard to Migraine. When we engage in self-sabotage, it can increase the odds of getting more frequent and disabling attacks. It can even put us at risk for Chronic Migraine or Intractable Migraine.

Knowing and Doing are two different things

I confess. I have been guilty of every single self-sabotaging behavior in the list below. If you had met me just ten years ago, I would have been the poster child for What Not to Do when you have Migraine. Hmm…that’s kind of catchy. Do you think we could get TLC to start a television series? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ;-)

As the list grew, it dawned on me that I’d been guilty of every behavior I had intended to tell you to avoid.  Now let’s take a closer look at what I have done to sabotage myself in the past. Younger Tammy knew the risks of medication overuse and still took too many Excedrin every week. She hadn’t kept a Migraine Diary in years, so she no idea how frequent her attacks were or that she had developed some nasty new triggers. She was online nearly every day and didn’t once Google “migraine”. She ate whatever she pleased (processed meats, pickles, citrus fruits, MSG, and so much more). Sleep hygiene meant brushing her teeth before bed. She used the lack of health insurance as an excuse to prevent her from taking healthy, no cost, steps to improve her health. What a Migraine mess!

She really was an embarrassment to Migraine Advocates everywhere. Lucky for all of us, she shaped up long before she ever started writing about Migraine. Please don’t be like her. If I ever start acting like that again, kick me in the backside until I straighten up.

20 self-sabotaging behaviors

Let’s take a closer look at twenty ways in which my younger self sabotaged her chances for good Migraine management. She really did have a lot of bad habits.

  1. She didn’t keep a Migraine Diary.
  2. She would wait too long to take acute medications.
  3. She took OTC pain relievers and prescription abortives too frequently.
  4. She ignored the use of comfort measures.
  5. When she finally started taking preventive medicines, she skipped doses.
  6. She didn’t build or use a Migraine Toolkit.
  7. She didn’t always have abortive remedies with her when a migraine attack hit.
  8. She skipped meals.
  9. She stayed up too late.
  10. She didn’t seek help for comorbid conditions.
  11. She tolerated ineffective, uneducated doctors.
  12. She didn’t communicate the severity of her symptoms to her doctor.
  13. She resigned herself to living with unmanageable symptoms.
  14. She never spoke up when exposed to triggers.
  15. She never corrected people when they stated inaccurate information about Migraine.
  16. She tolerated and even believed stigmatizing myths.
  17. She didn’t take advantage of online support groups.
  18. She didn’t express gratitude to the supportive people in her life.
  19. She felt obligated to try every unsolicited treatment.
  20. She didn’t put her own needs first.

Recognizing and correcting your own self-sabotage

Can you see yourself doing any of these? Nobody’s perfect, so it’s likely you’ve been guilty of more than one, just like me. The good news is that I’m reformed and you can be, too. It didn’t happen overnight. Gradually, I made simple changes that eliminated most of these behaviors permanently. Some of them I still struggle with (like staying up too late and skipping meals). The more I learned, the better I got at preparing for and managing my symptoms.

HINT: Did you know that every one of these self-sabotaging behaviors has been addressed by at least one of our articles?  That’s what all the hyperlinks are for. Go surfing at Migraine.com and learn something new.

New readers

If you are new to Migraine.com, I’d like to encourage you to go easy on yourself. Make the changes slowly so you have a lot of practice time to make them permanent. Keep coming back to learn more. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break. It will all be here when you’re ready. And please, take advantage of our Forums and Facebook community. For some people, that’s their only source of support from those who truly understand what it’s like to live with Migraine.

Loyal veterans

I haven’t forgotten all of our veteran readers. Like me, you’ve made your share of Migraine mistakes, broken some bad habits, created some healthy ones, and read the basics so often you can recite them in your sleep. Sometimes, knowing a lot can be handicap, too. Resist the temptation to become complacent or cynical, falling back into old self-sabotaging habits. Recently I found myself facing down a migraine attack without access to any treatments. It took almost three hours to get home. By that time, the attack was raging in full force. I’ve been making so much progress with Botox that I had become careless about leaving home without my toolkit.

Hang on!

Researchers are learning new things about migraine all the time. It’s not happening fast enough to suit our liking, but it is happening.  It’s our job to keep on exercising good Migraine management so our brains will be ready when the next “big thing” comes around.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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