Wrestling With Self-Criticism and “Shoulds”

I should be writing more. I should keep the kitchen from getting so messy. I should call my mom more often. Some form of “should” is a nearly constant refrain in my mind. Thanks to cyproheptadine, the migraine pain is far less that it used to be. The pain tops out at a four or five most days. But the other symptoms still come on in full force and I still get a migraine almost every day, usually when I am asleep. It is nice to not have to deal with the migraines much — usually I just go back to sleep — but my days are spent in migraine hangover, physically exhausted and mentally foggy.

With the nighttime migraines and subsequent hangovers, I’m pretty useless until at least 4 p.m. Then I start moving about slowly, sometimes I don’t get much better than that, but other days I reach full steam by 6 p.m. or so. I am immensely grateful that the pain is less and that I can often get four or five productive hours in a day. But I have that nagging voice that says, “You’re so much better than you were. Why aren’t you doing more?” I try reminding myself that “better” is far from great, but I still feel like I’m not doing enough.


I see my husband working when he’s in a migraine hangover and question my motivation and work ethic. Then I think about a friend who recently had a migraine all day when she was at work and I wonder why I’m not pushing harder. Reminding myself that they both have episodic migraine is somewhat helpful. I tell myself that having a migraine at least 28 days of every month, no matter how mild, is physically exhausting. Each migraine is a trauma that the body has to recover from and my body barely gets enough time to recover before having another one.

No matter how many reassuring or positive messages I tell myself, I continue to believe my ambition/drive/productivity to be lacking. Meditation has lessened the input from this critical voice, though it won’t be silenced entirely. I am writing this post to try to quiet it down for the day. At least I’ll have answered one of my “shoulds” for today. But I can’t shake the thought that trying to accomplish more only feeds the beast of self-doubt and criticism.

I thought this post would be cathartic, but I’m near tears. If you also have chronic migraine and a not-so-helpful internal voice, I’d like your help. How do you cope with the loss of productivity that accompanies migraine attacks? How do you tame your internal critic?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com 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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