Migraine, Stigma & Self Blame: My Old Friend is Back

In the past few weeks and months I've been doing a lot of thinking and writing about the stigmatization of Migraine Disease. Noticing times when the external form of stigma (that imposed by outsiders) has cropped up in my own life has been upsetting. What's been more difficult for me is facing up to internal stigma (self-imposed shame, blame, guilt, etc): Recognizing it, making some sense of it and ultimately learning to live with it.

My memory of my first Migraine attack is really most likely a collection of memories all patched together to form one coherent scene. I'm a little girl, probably around six years old. Resting on the couch in the daytime. It's summer. Cold, wet washcloth on my tiny forehead. Eyes shut tight. The couch feels good because the material is cool. Trying not to cry because Mom says that makes it worse.

My mind wondering why. Why me? Why this pain, throwing up, feeling so awful? Missing out. What did I do to deserve this? Thinking I must have done something very, very bad.

When we're children, we think everything has a simple cause and effect relationship. As adults we mature and realize it's not that clear cut. My adult brain knows life doesn't work that way, nor does Migraine, but my child brain still scans itself for confirmation I'm getting what I deserve.

This habit didn't have a great deal of impact in my life until my Migraine Disease became chronic 10 years ago. With their domination of my time and limitation of my choices came the search for an explanation. When medicine couldn't explain the change in my disease, my mind reminded me this is punishment, just as it's always been.

This habit of self-blame is so ingrained I hardly even noticed this is how I looked at my Migraine situation until it came up in therapy. I've come to notice that this faulty belief leads to a host of other thoughts that destroy my coping abilities. So I'm working on it.

The idea of letting go of my old friend self-blame still feels incredibly foreign. With time and practice and many more hours of therapy, I hope to eventually be able to wave goodbye for good.

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