When that Little Voice in Your Head Is Mean
You know that little voice in your head that narrates life from time to time? Unfortunately, that voice can be quite negative when it comes to navigating chronic pain. We feel bad about feeling bad and guilty about missing out. We fear letting down those we love the most. We fear that we are watching life go by while sitting on the sidelines. That little voice might try to tell us that we aren’t trying hard enough or that we are somehow weak. Society sometimes tells us that migraine is just a headache. It’s easy to judge ourselves too harshly, when in reality we are doing our best to manage severe pain and equally crippling, related symptoms. Finding a positive inner voice can lead to a more empowering and fulfilling life.
“What a waste”
During my most severe migraine attacks, I sometimes spend days on the couch watching TV as a distraction from the pain. My little voice tells me that time spent on the couch is lazy, unproductive, and a waste of a healthy mind. Unfortunately, I have chronic migraine and therefore many of my days are spent precisely doing just that: sitting in front of the TV for the entire day, waiting for the pain to lift.
If I have a break from my daily pain, I tell myself that I will never go back on that couch. I look at that couch and symbolically shake my head with disdain, judging myself for the time I have spent lying there. Again, the tendency is to be so hard on ourselves.
The power of positive talk
Beginning to think in more positive terms and replacing the negative self-talk with compassion can be a powerful and empowering step. It’s an eye-opening moment when we realize we are not speaking to ourselves with the same love and concern we would offer to a loved one. In fact, many times, our little voice is filled with judgment, hate and venom.
Therefore, when an attack arises, rather than telling myself that my migraine has once again rendered me “useless” on the couch, “wasting my life,” I instead look for the positive and think about what I would tell someone I care about. Through that lens, I am able to tell myself that on those days, I am assertively finding a place of comfort that provides the stillness and respite needed for healing. What a powerful message of love and support to offer to a person in pain. And when I have to cancel plans with a friend, rather than re-playing that old voice-in-my-head that tells me I am not a good friend and am letting down the people in my life, I replace it with the message that I am taking care of myself in the same way that I would want my friend to do if the situation were reversed. By using my inner voice in a positive way, I am cognizant of the fact that I am being resourceful, flexible, and responsive to my health challenges.
Patience, resilience, grit and strength
Having severe pain nearly every day is hard enough. We only further compound the challenge by giving ourselves a hard time with negative self-talk. In truth, managing life with migraine takes enormous patience, resilience, grit and a deep well of strength. Proactively shifting that little voice inside so that it acknowledges our resourcefulness and capability can serve to strengthen and uplift us. And doing so makes us better able to respond to the demanding condition that is migraine.
Are you aware of a running dialogue with your inner voice? Are you aware of your little voice being negative or positive? Have you found ways to be more compassionate to yourself?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?