Breaking Out of the Migraine Prison

“I want out” is a common mental refrain when my migraines are dragging me down. I daydream about unzipping my skin and stepping out of this body (not that ridding myself of my skin will do anything to change my nervous system, where migraine resides, but it’s a fantasy). I think of how accurate it was when a friend told me I must feel like I’m caged by migraine. And I hate that this is the body that I have, that migraine controls everything I do, that my life is so drastically diminished by an illness the majority of the population thinks is “just a headache.”

I know these thoughts aren’t helpful or productive. I know that I cope best with migraine when I accept that it’s a part of my life, one that I’m trying hard to change, but omnipresent nonetheless. Hating migraine and resisting it only get me down. And yet, sometimes I can’t help these thoughts.

I’d been mired in such thoughts for weeks, but they came on extra strong during a craniosacral therapy session that is best described as deeply meditative. Thinking “I want out” led my mind to the metaphor of migraine as a prison. I thought about how an actual inmate may want out of prison, but that thinking so doesn’t get them released any sooner. In fact, dwelling on the freedom they can’t have likely worsens the emotional turmoil. Migraine is no different in that regard. Focusing on wanting out doesn’t help me cope with this life that I have, it only makes me unhappier.

Recognizing this brought an onslaught of tears. I let the tears flow instead of trying to stop them or apologizing to the massage therapist. She responded by wiping away the tears before they pooled in my ears and stroking my face gently. It was the loving gesture of a mother to a child and made me feel worthy of love and compassion in a way I haven’t been able to accept in years. Over and over, I told myself how tough I am to live with chronic migraine and that letting another person, one I’d only met once before, see the depth of my emotional pain took tremendous strength.

What an incredible catharsis. These revelations will not be a cure-all, nor will they permanently eliminate my frustration with migraine. But they will help me move through each day more easily with a love and compassion for myself that’s been long absent. I am not a prisoner to migraine or to my thoughts. I cannot escape this illness, but I can choose to live as fully and richly as possible within it. That’s my choice.

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