Acceptance, Not Resignation

Acceptance, Not Resignation

I will never be migraine-free.

You may read that sentence as resignation or giving up on trying to improve my health. For me, it represents acceptance and it feels a world away from resignation.

I haven’t given up on finding an effective treatment—I’m always trying new options and constantly tweaking my regimen—but I have given up on the idea that my life can only be good if I’m migraine-free. And by accepting that I will always have migraine, I have lessened its control over me.

By accepting that migraine is here to stay, I have stopped waiting to get my life back. Instead of wishing and waiting to feel better before I can laugh and play again, I’m more able to enjoy all that I do have and can do, even (or maybe especially) the small pleasures. I also take full advantage of my low-pain, low-symptom times because I know they won’t last. Good days are a scarce resource, so I maximize and embrace them.

Seizing the day and appreciating the moment are common themes in our culture, ideals many people strive to attain. For many years, I thought chronic migraine made them both impossible. On the contrary, it (and lots of mindfulness practice) has taught me to appreciate moments in ways I never before understood. By accepting migraine as an inherent part of my life, I moved from always wanting to be in a different place (sans migraine) to learning to be present where I am, good or bad.

Accepting that I will always have migraine has helped me stop fighting against and blaming myself. Illness is often conceptualized as a war: we battle it and fight it, we either win or are defeated by it. I used this language just like everyone else… until I saw that battling migraine put me in constant battle with myself. Migraine is part of me—not a part I’d choose, but part of me nonetheless. In rejecting it, I was constantly telling myself that I’m not OK as I am. And the harder I fought without winning the war, the more I blamed myself for being sick.

I have also begun to accept the limitations that migraine places on me. I’ve stopped pushing myself so hard that I pay with three days in bed. I allow myself to rest when I need to. Ignoring migraine or pretending like it doesn’t exist so I could try to live a “normal” life frequently put me in situations that triggered attacks or made them even worse. Accepting migraine’s role in my life and learning to work with it have given me far more normalcy than I ever experienced when I was straining so hard to deny its impact.

It is tempting to think, “If only I didn’t have migraine, I would have a prestigious career/closer family/better friends/more money/an abundance of happiness.” Tempting, but utterly untrue. No one is problem-free. If I didn’t have migraine, some other strife would take its place.

A life with migraine is frustrating and unfair, grief-filled and pain-ridden. It’s also the only life I’m going to get. I no longer use my limited energy to fight against reality, but to find the joy in the life I have.

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.

Comments

View Comments (30)
  • Ronan
    11 months ago

    Fantastic article Kerri!

    I’m a bit sarcastic by nature, and so is my humour. I do my best to keep laughter in my life, see the ironic side of life and to keep things light. Endorphins seem to help the pain, or at least bear the low pain days.

    The article deserves to go back in the cue.

  • Karen Rudd
    2 years ago

    I’ve known for years that I would never b migraine free, but never looked at it as you laid it out here. You’re right, I finally accepted that this is my life, the old one that I kept fighting for is just not available to me anymore. Thank you for that jolt of recognition, it was much needed. What we migrainuers sometime don’t see (because we’re too busy living and battling our disease) is that we all have to go through the traditional stages of grief … denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Only when we do do we reach a level of peace. Painful peace, but peace nonetheless. For me, that means accepting that there are doctors that will not accept my long established diagnosis and will put me through dozens of tests only to reach the same conclusion, there are friends and family that will still think I’m just trying to avoid them when I’m say my head is not going to allow me to to attend their ………insert your own holiday or event here…, my boss and co-workers will inevitably think I’m not carrying my load, even though I work from home and work unpaid overtime to make sure that I’m not only carrying my load, but a good portion of theirs so that my disease doesn’t create a burden for them. I think many of us are typical Type A personalities and one huge part of acceptance is realizing that while our minds are still running at that pace, our bodies have been signaling us for a very long time that we MUST slow down, period, if we want to survive. Again, thank you for sharing your realization so that we out here can make the same progress,

  • cindyd
    3 years ago

    I have recently (like yesterday) realized I will never be free from migraines. I have tried just about everything. I even had a hysterectomy in December 2015 for other reasons but wondered if it might help. I have lost 60 pounds and I alsoa exercising regularly. I feel better on different levels from these things I just mentioned and they have helped my overall well-being a lot but not my migraines. I missed work yesterday and thankfully it is over. I feel a little wasted but realize how bad yesterday was. I have three sisters and three of us have severe migraines. My dad had headaches and so did my grandmother. They don’t define who I am but they do play a big part in my life and I have accepted that. One of my sons has them now and I think his first one was when he was about 8 years old. I am just grateful for sites like this that can answer my questions and help me understand my condition.

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    cindy,
    We are so glad that we are able to provide that support and sense of understanding when it comes to migraine. Simply having a place to express yourself and listen to others who share similar experiences can be a huge comfort when dealing with chronic illness.
    Thank you for being an active member in our community- we are lucky to have you.
    Sincerely,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • jerseygirl57
    3 years ago

    Thank you for the article, Kerrie, I love this philosophy and strive to practice it daily. As many of us, I have experienced migraines from a young age. Over the past 20 years they have become chronic and debilitating. I had to give up a teaching career and many other things due to this condition. I believe the most difficult part of the journey (aside from chronic daily pain) has been the acceptance of the way my body and life have changed. I have always tried to care for my body and feel betrayed by this monster that has invaded it! As a result, acceptance is something I have to continue to remind myself about, some days numerous times. Along with that comes my practice of embracing the pain as opposed to fighting it, as Kerrie mentioned. I realize that may sound strange, but at 58 years old I’ve been doing this for a long time and it works for me. So, with that I thank you all for listening, send you all my wishes for your healing and good vibrations for as wonderful a day as is possible!

  • jns192 moderator
    3 years ago

    jerseygirl57,
    Thank you for your comment! We are glad you enjoyed the article. We are always here to listen 🙂
    Wishing you a wonderful day as well.
    Take care,
    Jillian (Migraine.com Team)

  • Windea
    4 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this. It was a very timely article for me.

    I had met with my 6th neurologist yesterday who had basically told me that there was nothing else that I could do about my chronic migraines and that I had tried all of the medications on the market. He basically confirmed that chronic migraines would be my life for the rest of my life.

    I finally broke down in the doctor’s office (I’m so glad my Mom was with me). I’m 28 years old and just want to have a “normal” life. It becomes exhausting acting like you are not in pain on a daily basis.

    I think that once I am able to get to a point where I can just accept that this is a part of me, I will learn to appreciate the days when my head pain is “only” at a 3 or a 4.

    This article gave me a lot to think about. Thanks again!

  • Kim Leonoudakis
    5 years ago

    Heather, my neuro stimulator is not only implanted in the back of my head at the occipital nerves but also in my forehead. I have 4 leads that I can control individually. Check out reedmigraine.com for more info. The trial is done for a week. It’s worth it to try it. I know another person who had it done there and it was successful. Unfortunately my insurance didn’t cover it. BUT WORTH EVERY PENNY!!!

  • Kim Leonoudakis
    5 years ago

    Heather, the Reed Center is in Dallas Texas. You can watch videos about it online. It’s amazing!!!!

  • marta
    5 years ago

    Great Kerrie! Congrats!
    I am 36 years old and suffer migrains since I was a girl.
    I feel your words like mine, and try to live my life the best I could.
    Migrain it’s a part of me, but I know if I take care from myself (body and soul), Migrain can be lower and not so hard and long.
    I practise Tai chi, and it helps me. Mindfulness helps me also for being present and enjoying the moment. Less frequently and intensity migrains is my result.
    Trying to find what helps you. Don’t feeling guilty.
    Love yourself and take care 🙂
    It is a pleasure to read you.
    xxx

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Kerrie
    Great article! My appointment today with my new neurologist here in Atlanta referred me to a therapist to learn more about mindfulness practice. That is going to take time for me as I have one parent failing with Parkinson’s and the other Alzheimer’s in Chicago. Not being able to go this weekend for fathers day is crushing me…and not attending the AHMA conference in LA the end of this month is really disappointing. I am already registered for a long time now…but my doc feels I need to stay home for at least 8 weeks to give the ketogenic meal plan a chance to work. After my first 20 days on the meal plan I did have 5-1/2 migraine free days!!!!! The first break for me in 13 years….however since the end of April we’ve traveled a lot and migraines regained their stride and overtook my life once more. Sorry to go off so personal. I will email you…but I wanted you to know the first time I read this article I dismissed the mindfulness practice as fast as I read it because I’m just a type A person..always have and..oh well….but Dr. Turknett agrees with your concept …so this I wanted to share…

    Blessings
    Janet

  • Heather Benton
    5 years ago

    Great post, I feel like sharing it with none suffers in my life! I am 42 and have had them since I was a child, with my 1st memory of a full blow one at 12. Have had Chronic Migraines since mid 20’s…but as I got older they got worse. And to the point where I could no longer work in the summers, then not work at all. I also was been diagnose with Fibromyalgia in early 20’s(following my 1st child)
    My oldest son was diagnose at 7 with migraine, however he had them much earlier. They were Chronic for him from about the time puberty start(which was around 7 so young) and as his hormones leveled out so did his migraines. Which from what I have read is how it usually is for boys Thank God! However boys can ‘GROW’ until they are in their 20’s and when he was 19 they started again.(he grew taller to our surprise at this time) He also was diagnosed with Chronic Pain at 12, after many years of fighting to get help. This pain he fights everyday, but FIGHT he does! He is active and works physical jobs. I share this as it is so hard to see your child in pain…but he is now very understanding, caring and protective of his MOM! WHICH I LOVE TO SEE IN A YOUNG MAN, ESPECIALLY MY BOY!
    My second son has had migraines as young a child and increased when he started school, then again when he started hockey and sleep overs…just couldn’t keep the pace. IT was so horrible to watch! He was very easy to talk to and explain what he had to do to control them. He also shows signs of some unusual episodes of pain, but know his MOM only as a MOM in pain, seeing his brother in pain…he is so good at avoiding situations and making smart choices.
    I am Canadian and I AM pretty sure this is American! I HAVE NO IDEA what a neuro stimulator implant is but sound amazing? We have less options here even though we have Free medical.
    Thanks for this outlet for sharing and learning.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Heather,
    A neuro stimulator is a medical device that is implanted under in the back of the scalp (not in the brain). When a Migraine hits you have a remote to turn on the stimulator which sends a signal to the Occipital Nerve to try and calm down the inflammed pain receptors. It’s a bit bionic, but it’s being used more and more for Migraine patients as well as Epileptic patients.

    It’s not for everyone and there is a trial period you can go through before the device is implanted to see if it will actually help you. If you are interested, here is some information:
    http://migraine.com/blog/nerve-stimulator-study-shows-potential-benefit-for-chronic-migraine/

    http://migraine.com/blog/curious-about-migraine-surgery/

    -Katie

  • Kim Leonoudakis
    5 years ago

    I have been a chronic daily migraine sufferer for over 17 years. I got a neuro stimulator implant one year ago (July 2013) and it has given me my life back. It is not a cure but a way for me to manage them. I still have the daily migraine BUT 85-90% of the time I can get rid of it. I accept that I still have them but I use the programs in my stimulator to get rid of the pain. I would recommend that anyone that is a long time sufferer do the trial to see if it works for you. I no longer take medications for migraines!!! No daily or abortive or nausea meds!!!!

  • Heather Benton
    5 years ago

    What is a Neuro Stimulator Implant?

  • JAR
    5 years ago

    Thanks so much for the great blog, Kerrie. I feel the same way about my chronic migraines and NDPH. I’m not letting these issues define my life!

  • hollygranofsky
    5 years ago

    Thank you for that thought. I have accepted The Migraine as a part of life. Unfortunately it is an uninvited guest that seems to come and go.
    Managing the bad relationship is how I get through the years.
    Your perspective rocks!

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Accepting there is no cure and pray to get migraine as much under control as possible for oneself is the battle…I no longer look for the rainbow…just take the days as they come as you say..don’t push..because we (I ) pay…pushing what isn’t possible for migraineurs brings us for a horrible fall. Sadly we ate the only ones who understand it while friends and family say ..”oh another migraine..rest up..oh please!!!

    Thank you Kerrie…

    Still struggling with that ketogenic meal plan. Follow up on June 12..I’ve wanted to give up…but I’m a very long time sufferer and will do this for a few weeks more…then I think my decision will be made then..I’ve had some improvement..unfortunately my kitchen doesn’t follow me everywhere if m fortunate enough to get out of the house.

  • tms
    5 years ago

    Thank-you. I now have something to print out to give to chronic pain “endurers” about acceptance vs. giving up. Frustration is so prevalent when trying to cope with chronic pain and only increases each time a treatment fails. On days with more pain than normal I tell myself “Okay today you’re going to take care of yourself” instead of “Oh crap here we go again”.
    Thank-you again for your posts.
    tms 85

  • jo17151
    5 years ago

    Thank you for this article Kerrie. I’ve lived with other chronic conditions for years (and chronic migraines since 2010) You put in to words the approach I’ve only recently taken.

    A few years back I dropped terms “battle” / “fight” / “gonna win” with reference to health. I look at it more as a negotiation and acceptance that despite my best efforts, migraines, flares (pick your condition) happen. By accepting that the pressure has lifted greatly.

    Mindfulness is very helpful – took me a while, but finally found some authors and apps that are calming and work for me.

    Thanks again.

  • mrsjane59
    5 years ago

    Great piece,Kerrie, thank you.

  • Essence 32
    5 years ago

    Thanks Kerrie like everyone else has mentioned you are preaching to the choir. Your words were eloquently stated and inspiring to me in so many ways. I am using mindfulness to manage my migraines as well as my other illnesses. It has helped me to pull all my broken pieces back together and live in the “now”. So, often I lived in the “what if’s” that a didn’t enjoy my little bit of pain lessened days because I was so stuck in my own head. Today, I am able to separate and place my energy in the direction I want it to go and not waste time fighting myself. Thanks.

  • karen
    5 years ago

    I want to thank you Kerrie, for writing the thoughts Ive always had about my life with migraine. You expressed everything I’ve ever felt.

    I have lived almost my entire life with my monster, called migraine. I was first diagnosed when I was 2 years old.

    I have lost so much precious time and moments because of my monster. It has dictated my life. Everything I do or have ever done, I do it either knowing it will give me a migraine, or not doing things or including myself, because of my stinking migraines.

    I’ve been married for 24 years and on the day I got married I had a huge full blown migraine. My family has never known anything different. In fact I have one child that completely resents me, because I “always have a headache”

    It breaks my heart, but cant change the facts.

    I need to be what you said in your blog, and not blame myself. Its my life, its part of me, its who I am..for whatever reason.

    I want to picture myself, old and grey with out a migraine.

    I guess I can dream, right?

    Thank You again for your eloquent words.

    Karen Kamauoha

  • MigraineSal
    5 years ago

    What a fantastically inspiring article . . . I have been practicing mindfulness and what an absolute turnaround it has made to my life. As you so eloquently put it . . . acceptance really is the key and most definitely does not mean that you have given up the fight.

    I am fortunate in that my migraines only started a year ago and I was very lucky to have been given a private pathway ( on an NHS basis so I didn’t have to pay ) which meant that I had a Head MRI very quickly, followed by a Cervical MRI which highlighted the problem which is triggering the majority of my migraines. I am on preventative meds, which I didn’t really want but they do make a big difference to me so I accepted them and traded off my reluctance to use them for their efficacy.

    It took an NHS Neurosurgeon showing me the MRI images for me to be able to see that my walking like a soldier to ( in my best efforts ) assist my cervical spine problem was the worst thing I could do ! The images revealed that I had lost the curvature in my cervical spine and it was too straight . . . not all crumbled as I believed from reading the MRI report, which stated that I had quite severe degeneration of my cervical spine . . . no wonder I was having soooo many migraines and neck / shoulder pain !

    With preventative meds, physiotherapy, mindfulness, meditation and a lot of ice I have managed to live just short of at peace with the migraine attacks and probably reduce the impact they have because I have ” accepted ” them as part of me, rather than fighting with them. I have come to the conclusion that acceptance and mindfulness helps because your mind ( and as a consequence you body ) is not full of stress / anger and tension as it is when you are frustrated and fighting against something. It didn’t happen overnight and I most definitely would not have believed that I could achieve what I have with mindfulness 20 years ago but that is one of the positives to come out of getting older !

  • Shelly
    5 years ago

    Thanks for this article. I need to read it every day.

  • carolyn20
    5 years ago

    Exactly!! Thank-you, Kerrie. One of the best articles I’ve ever read about migraine. I have recently come to these conclusions also. Thank-you for putting into words so well.

  • deon
    5 years ago

    Thank you for submitting this story. For it allowed me also to view my migraines world in a while new light. Every time I read about others who endure the same issues as myself, i still stand in disbelief. I never want anyone to go thru this daily PAIN. HOWEVER your right Acceptance it’s important, after 12 years and countless regimes I’ve just “Accepted”the Fact that this is me. I just wish that others would read these postings.

  • John Gould
    5 years ago

    I’ve been a migraineur for more than 30 years, and I’ve spent most of that time wishing for a life without pain. Your essay really makes me look at everything I’ve ever thought about my life in a different light. I have always battled against my suffering without giving myself a chance to actually be me. I’ve been working on acceptance of my other health issues, but I’ve never made the connection between that and migraine. Now that you have helped me bridge that gap, I am optimistic that I can start to live my life rather than fight against it. Thank you.

  • migrainestl
    5 years ago

    My words/thoughts exactly! I sometimes convince myself I’m actually better than I am because I’ve accepted my new life. I rarely push myself too much because it’s not worth the pain. However, I love my simple life & choose to be thankful for what I can do.

  • Luna
    5 years ago

    “no longer use my limited energy to fight against reality, but to find the joy in the life I have.”

    Thank you, Kerrie, for the excellent article. We may not be able to change our circumstances but we can change our Attitude. Somehow a positive attitude seems to make life better. I came to that realization several years ago during an acute attack. There are many thoughts in my head unfortunately they won’t come out coherently. I so love to see others talk as you have in this article. The realization that God has gotten me through every day no matter what it brings has made it easier to deal with.

    I do not dream of what life would be like being cured. I live each day to the best I can manage and let tomorrow take care of itself.

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