The Things I Miss
While I don’t condone the notion that positive thinking solves all of the world’s problems, looking on the bright side is certainly important when living with migraine. I work hard to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for all the good in my life, and there is undoubtedly a whole lot of good.
However, I think it makes sense to also indulge my emotional side sometimes and shed a tear or two over all the stuff I haven’t been able to do since my body became susceptible to frequent and severe migraine attacks. Dwelling endlessly in my losses due to migraine is probably not a healthy exercise, but, I’ve found that if I try to put on a brave face and ignore those losses entirely, they catch up with me when I least expect it -- mostly in public – in the form of spontaneous crying and inevitable embarrassment.
Toni Bernhard, insightful author of How to Be Sick and contributor to Psychology Today, says this about chronic illness:
“…there’s a lot to grieve over—the loss of the ability to be as productive as we once were, the loss of friends, the ability to take part in cherished activities, and independence. Grief comes in waves, and can arrive unexpectedly. One moment, we can feel accepting of the changes in our lives. The next minute we can be overcome by sadness. A simple interaction can trigger it.”¹
Various places where I have lost my composure over loss-related-to-migraine include: a public park while on a romantic getaway when I couldn’t find a non-triggering meal; at a breakfast place after running into an old friend who asked about my career; on the subway after having to leave work early due to pain; and at a family dinner when everyone burst into song and it was so beautiful but also way too loud.
Maybe those emotional outbursts could not have been avoided, and maybe an adult crying in public is something that should really be more socially acceptable than it is, but regardless, each of those situations indicated to me that there were things lying beneath the surface that I really needed to address.
So, as part of a healthy grieving process, it’s important for me to at least occasionally acknowledge the really big changes in my life, and have some feelings about them in a safe space. Each time I do this, I find the load get a little lighter.
Feel free to join me in listing the things you have lost due to migraine. [Get the tissues.]
- Being spontaneous
- Listening to music more waking hours than not
- Singing loud and often
- Staying up late
- Drinking more than one drink in one night
- Red wine
- Dance parties
- Playing piano
- Travelling (without pain)
- Eating what I want, when I want it
- Working full time as a teacher
- Teaching music
- Making plans with some certainty I will be able to keep them
- Wearing myself out and feeling good about it
- Did I mention red wine?
I would be dishonest if I said that migraine has only detracted from the quality of my life. While I would give it up in two shakes of a lamb's tail if it were that easy, there are silver linings in a life with migraine that I value. However, I will leave those for another post. What I really want to say here is that it is more than okay to grieve our losses. It’s healthy. It’s necessary. It allows us to eventually let go and move forward. It can also help to show us how darn strong and resilient we’ve been despite everything. And maybe, just maybe, it will help us deal with emotions proactively, rather than leaking tears into our brunch amid a room of strangers.
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?