Living with Migraine: Good Choices, Bad Choices
One of the greatest challenges of living with migraine is trying to figure out choices. So many things that other people take for granted, frequently aren’t so easy for us. All too often we struggle with cost versus benefit, guilt versus realistic expectations, hopes and dreams versus life with a chronic illness.
The cost of making decisions with migraine
Questions such as these often go around and around in our heads:
- IF I do this then how long will it take me to recover?
- IS this activity worth the potential pain it will, or could, cause?
- HOW can I explain to family & friends that what I want to do often isn’t realistic?
- HOW can I balance my hopes and dreams with chronic illness?
- WHAT happens if I make a bad choice and the consequences are not good?
- CAN my body handle going to this event?
- IS it possible to make a commitment ahead of time?
- WOULD it be easier to simply isolate and live in my own cocoon?
The complex migraine journey
Sometimes it seems as though the choices we have to make are impossible, and trying to figure out what to do is overwhelmingly stressful. Maybe you can already feel your anxiety rising as you think through some of the choices you have to make today, this week, or this coming month! How do we navigate all this? How do we figure out what is a good choice and what is bad? Is it black and white, or is it possible that this is just another example of the complex migraine journey that doesn’t have any easy answers?!
Decisions & consequences
Honestly, I haven’t always made great choices when it comes to migraine! In fact, it’s still an ongoing struggle for me. I recently made a choice that turned out to have much worse consequences than I expected. Not surprisingly, I've really struggled with whether it was a wise choice or not. 'Was it worth it' is the big question!
Pretending to be healthy
Making the decision to “fake” being well for years or decades comes with a cost; often a high one. It impacts us emotionally and physically, often causing a disconnect with those around us, and frequently means we take more medication than is good for us.
Isolating out of trigger fears
Making the decision to isolate due to fear of triggers is understandable, but isolation decreases our ability to manage pain; the human to human connection is SO important!
Pushing ourselves too far
Good choices, bad choices
So how do we make good choices? Is there even such a thing? And how do we both survive and learn from our “bad” choices? For me it comes down to a constant balancing act. A chronic illness such as migraine impacts every area of our lives, not just the physical, and paying attention only to one part to the detriment of the others can be rough.
The consequences of choices
Physically it may be better for me to completely isolate from other people, but emotionally that is devastating. Keeping working full-time may help me stay afloat financially, but at what cost to my body both now and long-term? Saying “yes” all the time to my children, spouse, friends, extended family may reduce my guilt at not being present, but will it make me more sick? Not asking for help may reduce my sense of being a burden, but will I then have to deal with resentment, anger, feeling uncared for and worse pain?
Migraine is a marathon
There are no easy answers, and each of us has our own way of making choices while living with migraine. Sometimes it seems that we totally get it right, while at other times, it turns out that the choice wasn’t the wisest! The migraine journey is a marathon not a sprint. It’s hard to look ahead when trying to survive the present, but it’s so important to do that.
Some quick tips
Here are some tips that may be helpful:
- Most importantly, realize that migraine is not your fault and let go of that guilt!
- Try to make choices that weigh in ALL the factors, including your physical and emotional health
- Stay connected with others who have migraine and ask how they handle things
- If you make a choice that you know will make you sicker for a while, plan in recovery time
- Try to focus on the things you CAN do rather than those you CANNOT
- Finally, if you make a mistake, let go of the guilt, get the rest you need, and figure out what to do differently next time
Are there any tips you would add to this? Do you find it hard to make choices while living with migraine? What are some “good” choices you make? What do you do when you make a “poor” choice?
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?