The Well of Grief

As I see it, you are dealing with two equally important issues: migraine and grief about what migraine has done to your life.

I was floored when the naturopath summed up our two-and-a-half hour initial appointment with that statement. Never before had any of the health care professionals, conventional or alternative, or therapists I've seen over the years validated the massive grief that's been a constant companion as I've struggled with migraine. Depression? Yeah, that's been mentioned and medicated, but the deep well of grief? It's never even been acknowledged, much less addressed.

I've always known I carried tremendous grief about migraine, but was afraid that if I let myself experience the extent of it, I would forever be stuck in the bottom of an infinitely deep well. Being from the Oprah and self-help generation, I knew I couldn't avoid the grief entirely, so I allowed myself brief pity parties only when I'd reached my absolute limit. Mostly, though, I tried to put a positive spin on everything in an attempt to hide my sorrow. That served it's purpose of carrying me through the days I wasn't sure I'd survive, but it didn't eliminate the grief. That's been waiting for me.

Although I wasn't looking for a therapist when I first saw the naturopath, she has become my weekly therapist (she trained as a counselor before getting her N.D. and maintains a counseling license) and the timing is perfect. As my preventives and diet are improving the pain enough that I no longer feel like my life is all about migraine, I'm able to process some of the emotional weight of the illness, instead of having to push those emotions aside in a bid to get through each day.

Migraine has altered every aspect of my life. It influences when and what I eat, when and for how long I sleep, the amount of exercise I can do, the type of body and cleaning products I can use, where I live, how I spend my time, if I can have sex, if I see friends, if I leave the house at all in a day or week, the clothes I wear, what hobbies I pursue (when I'm well enough to pursue them)…. I'll spare you the full list. Suffice it to say that if you name some aspect of life, I can tell you how migraine has changed it for me. And, whether I have recognized the extent in the past or not, I carry sorrow for all of these unwelcome changes.

With the help of my therapist and some predefined limits, I'm slowly allowing myself to grieve for all that I've lost because of migraine, for all the ways it has changed and continues to change my life. That well still seems infinitely deep at times, but I no longer fear getting stuck at the bottom.

I cannot recommend seeing therapist highly enough. Finding someone who is experienced in chronic illness is helpful. Check if any of your doctors have recommendations, ask for suggestions on online forums, or check the Psychology Today Therapist Finder, which you can refine by issue. It can be tough to find a therapist you click with, but finding the right person for you can bring immeasurable benefit. It's with utmost sincerity that I tell you working with my current therapist is changing my life in positive ways I didn't even know were possible.

The well of grief is deep, but no migraineur has to drown in it.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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