Bargaining to Get Rid of Migraine

“What would you give up to never have another migraine?” This question pops up online a lot, from social media to forums to drug ads. People usually respond to it eagerly.

When I was first asked this question nearly a decade ago, as part of a project a migraineur was doing for her master’s thesis, I gave my answers a lot of thought. My migraines were already severe and debilitating and I’d given up a lot, so I considered the flip side of the question: what would I NOT give up to get rid of the migraines? My answers were as honest as could be. I’ve regretted answering the question ever since.

Time after time, I’d have to give up yet something else due to migraine – reading, friends, living in Seattle, yoga, seeing live bands, travel, wheat products, writing… – then realize it was on that list of things I said I wouldn’t give up. The presence of that list intensified my losses and reminded me how hard I’d worked only to have my health decline. I wasn’t giving up these loves as a trade-off for fewer migraines, but as a result of the intensifying severity of my migraine attacks. I was giving up so much and not getting any relief in return.

However lighthearted the exercise seems, bargaining to make the migraines going away is an act of desperation. Such magical thinking reinforces false hope and can even feed a sense of passivity and futility. As tempting as it is to believe, hoping and wishing cannot change a medical condition.

In time, I’ve regained many of the things I though I’d lost forever. None of that came from wishing away the migraines. It came from persistent, grueling and often seemingly fruitless work at finding helpful preventives and determining my triggers.

The things in life that are most precious to me are not bargaining chips, they’re my motivation to keep moving forward even when it feels like I’m drowning. Instead of wondering what I’d do to get rid of migraine, I prefer to ask what treatment I’ll try next.

Magical thinking can’t make migraine go away, but relentless pursuit of treatments and management techniques just might.

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