The "Yes And" of Migraine Coping

My migraine attacks have been fierce lately and I’m not coping well. I’ve had to take a leave from my job and am barely keeping up with my freelance work. I’m grateful that I’m able to get out of bed, but have spent my days sitting around, playing Best Fiends, and trying not to stew in grief and anger over what I’ve lost to migraine. While I still look for the good parts of each day, most days are dominated with hating what migraine has done to my life.

Contradictory emotions and thoughts

Ironically, in the midst of this turmoil, a comment on my article I Am No Longer the Person I Was When Migraine Hijacked My Life said that the article was “trying to bypass the suffering by being all Sally Sunshine about it.” It hit hard because it’s so opposite of my reality of being in a constant state of seemingly contradictory emotions and thoughts. Yet I totally see how the community member got that takeaway from reading just one article.

Finding the good with migraine doesn’t negate the bad

While it’s true I do think I’m a better, happier, more well-rounded person because of what I have learned from living with migraine, I still feel grief. The grief can be immense and overwhelming at times, like it is right now. I also still hate certain parts of my life. I find the good in my days because it’s required to keep getting myself out of bed. (No, I’m not being hyperbolic — the sadness would overtake me otherwise and I will do everything I can to avoid returning to thoughts of suicide.) But finding the good doesn’t negate the bad. And, of course, there’s bad when your life is so restricted by an illness that renders you nonfunctional.

Living with and “yes and” of life with migraine

It’s the “yes and” of life with migraine. Yes, I see the good in my life and I also see the bad. Yes, I feel joy even though I live with chronic migraine and I also feel massive grief because of it. Denying myself any of those emotions — even the heartbreaking ones — is denying myself the chance to live a full life. And my life is already so limited by migraine that I do everything I can to live as fully as possible.

Toxic positivity isn't healthy

Some people do try to bypass their suffering by attempting to avoid difficult emotions. The mantra to “stay positive” is rampant in American society. And it’s incredibly harmful.
When someone tells me they have trouble staying positive when living with migraine, the first thing I tell them is to stop trying to stay positive. It’s not possible to be positive all the time.

Don't "stay positive"

Being human means experiencing a wide range of emotions — whether pleasant, difficult, or neutral — and the only way I’ve found to live well is to let myself feel them all. The idea that we can make everything better by only pretending to see the positive side of everything is not only absurd, it’s a recipe for further emotional upheaval. Invalidating your own experience doesn’t make things better; it slowly suffocates you.

There's still joy and beauty in life with migraine

In particularly difficult migraine spells like I’m in right now, I keep fighting to see the “yes and.” I know how easy it easy to let loss overtake my thoughts (because it has many times before). I work to find anything good in my days, like with a three good things practice, because I know that finding glimmers of happiness in dark times will keep me going. I’m grateful to have articles like "I Am No Longer the Person I Was When Migraine Hijacked My Life" because they remind me that there’s still joy and beauty in this incredibly difficult life with migraine.

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