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When that Little Voice in Your Head Is Mean

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?

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.

Comments

  • v3aep6
    1 year ago

    Thank you for your post. I’m getting over a bad migraine yesterday. Your comments are so true, easy to be cross with ourselves. My only consolation is that when confined to a darkened room and unable to watch tv or listen to radio I sometimes try to think of my neighbours and friends who are in pain everyday and be grateful that this will pass. At least I hope some good comes out of my very brief thoughts for others. So glad you made it to a coffee shop.
    Thank you. Margaret

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Margaret, your example of thinking of others during your own time of navigating extreme pain is a perfect illustration of the remarkable and unique compassion migraineurs tend to embody due to our very deep knowledge and understanding of life with pain. I wonder if in the same way that this disease turns up the volume on our senses (makes smells stronger, lights brighter, sounds louder, etc) that perhaps we are also more sensitive to and aware of the plights of those around us– tuned in, as it were. I believe wholeheartedly that it does help others when we send them energy, love and thoughts. And your example, of thinking of others, is a such a beautiful way to distract oneself from pain (much more heart filling than turning on the tv!). So glad you shared this with the rest of us! Stay in touch!

  • Savta45
    1 year ago

    Yes, of course, it’s much easier to have a more positive, balanced outlook when the “migraine monster” isn’t presently eating up ones life with pain, nausea, light & sound sensitivity, etc, etc.
    Today has been a pretty good day for me, I’m so happy to be able to say. I have had some pain, but nothing significant & Ive been able to have a normal day, no medication needed— SO FAR. (You never know what will happen or when) Two days ago was an altogether different picture. It was a complete wash.
    I still count myself lucky if I only have one day like that at a time. I’ve had as many as 10 in a row, more commonly 3-5, & THATS when it starts getting REALLY upsetting! Anger, depression, a whole world of awful, negative emotions.
    I have to say, finding this site has been fabulous for me. I mean, I know, empirically, that there are millions & millions of sufferers of chronic migraine like me out there, the statistics speak for themselves. But, to hear/read peoples stories first hand, to connect on a personal level, & really know that others understand, because they are living it also, well, it makes a huge difference. Thank you to the moderators, you are great. And thanks to all of you out there reading this & being there, commiserating, & trying to help each other. Just knowing you are there REALLY getting it, when most people don’t is INCREDIBLY valuable. G-d bless you.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    So glad to hear you had a good day. And yes, it can be so easy to lose perspective after a day or two, or three (or 10!) get washed away by an intractable migraine attack. (https://migraine.com/living-migraine/managing-multi-day-intractable-migraine-attack/). Accessing positivity in the midst of those storms can be awfully difficult. And the wild swings between being down for the count and getting back up again can be dizzying, too. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/wegetknockeddown/.

    I couldn’t agree more on your assessment of this site being a game changer for people living with migraine. What lovely affirming feedback. I’m so grateful for the way you described it – as helping to connect you with others and remind you that you’re not alone. You’ve done that for me today. So, thanks for chiming in!

  • Salanban
    1 year ago

    My negative voice is often about resentment ie, “why me?” and “It’s not fair, was I really put on this earth to spend half of my life suffering?” It’s hard to be positive. Usually on the days when I am headache free I am more inclined to be positive

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Getting caught up in the injustice of migraine is very common. There’s nothing fair about it. Your question as to whether or not you were put on this earth to suffer is a fascinating one and to me circles back to the many potential lessons that migraine has to offer. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/looking-for-the-bright-side-of/. When you ask yourself that question, what answers have you found? So glad you’re a part of our community!

  • Mare
    1 year ago

    Your posts are awesome Holly. When you describe the migraine pain, emotions and mental health you take the words out of my mouth. I always identify to everything you say and the way you explain things are so true. I have called my migraines everything from ‘Demon in my head’, ‘Monster in my head’, and they have robbed me from once a wholesome life, one that I could once contribute to society, work hard, be active, help others, but now I’m completely dependent on others, its the other way around!
    I have that little voice in my head and there is a war going on each day as I recognize how much I want to remain positive yet the pain takes over and then the mind games begin.
    Thank you for all your wonderful posts Holly. I know I’m not alone in this awful world of chronic migraine pain.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Mare- Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sitting here in a coffee shop and reading your words that resonate with me deeply. It’s so rare that I can even make it out of my house so finding myself out in the world feels odd sometimes. I love reading your descriptors for how migraine lives in your head. It reminds me of a piece where we asked people to visualize this invisible disease and the feedback we received was like yours, visceral. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-if-migraines-were-visible/.

    You are so right that migraine sidelines and robs us of that which we love. I have often thought of what this world would be like if we were all able to be set free of pain– the positive change that would occur as a result would undoubtedly be massive because migraineurs are such grateful people. Grateful for every well moment- we take not one moment of wellness for granted. And we are filled with compassion for others who are suffering.

    Instead we are held back in so many ways from doing. So, the task becomes searching for how to apply ourselves in a different way than we envisioned. My journey has taught me that it’s less about doing and more about being. More about how I’m living and treating others than what I’m checking off any list.

    You demonstrated your huge heart today by reaffirming the direction of positivity for both of us. It’s not a linear journey- migraine is incredibly challenging and painful- but we are earning great lessons in strength and resilience and gratitude along the way.

    So glad you’re here and a part of this community- and that we got to meet today. You are NOT alone. I feel like we shared a cup of tea. Please stay in touch!

  • Ctharp
    1 year ago

    This article says exactly how I feel and think every time a migraine appears. Thank you for sharing. I wish my family, friends and employer truly understood how I feel.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    I’m so glad this article resonated with you. It can be difficult for friends, family, coworkers and employers to understand what we’re up against with this complex neurological disease. I have found some success in raising awareness through sending links to some of the articles that resonate with me the most. Some people respond to statistic-driven articles while others might be more enlightened through a story. Either way, educating others can lead to compassion and increased support. I hope this idea might help you– perhaps others might ring in with other thoughts about how to help those around you better comprehend all that you are managing with migraine. One thing’s for sure- you are not alone in how you feel- this is a very common challenge. So glad you’re a part of our community. Please stay in touch!

  • mbabi1970
    1 year ago

    Holly every time I read one of your articles it is as if I am writing it myself. I thank you for taking the time to write them and to infuse some positivity when there isn’t any for so many of us. The endless black hole of chronic migraine is hard to deal with day in and day out. Staying positive is hard so hard but we have to try. Sometimes I want to scream at my tv because I hate it so much. I hate being in my bed so much (that’s where I watch my tv bc I can’t leave my bedroom). Right now my struggle is my oldest son is graduating from high school. I cannot give him any kind of grand celebration. The kind I always imagined I would. It breaks my heart but I’m trying to be realistic and honestly hoping that I just feel good enough to attend the graduation ceremony or his senior prom pictures. These are not definite in my life and although I try to take it Day by day, I become overly anxious that I won’t be able to go to these important once in a lifetime things. That is what I’m having a hard time reconciling with right now. Not the occasional lunch or dinner with friends but the really big stuff. It’s hard and it makes me sad.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi, again! I am so glad to hear from you and remember that we share many connections. First, thank you for your very kind words. I’m so glad this article resonated with you. I also agree that striving for positivity in the face of migraine is crucial. I also have a son graduating from high school this Spring. We managed to have a celebration for him for which I was even able to be present and not in the darkened bedroom getting sick to my stomach. It’s awful that we have to make peace with the idea that when we do gamble and plan events such as these, we may not be able to be there. But that’s my reality. And I’d rather try to proceed with plans than not try at all- and I’m lucky to have other family members present to carry the ball, as it were, when/if I have to bow out.

    I know you and I have the same condition of chronic migraine- I’ve been trying the gammacore device with some success https://migraine.com/video/gammacore-approved/ and am excited to try the CGRP therapy this summer https://migraine.com/living-migraine/worries-cgrp-drugs/ Have you looked into either of these new chronic migraine FDA-approved therapies for yourself?

    Thanks so much for commenting and please continue to stay in touch. It’s wonderful to hear from you.

  • mbabi1970
    1 year ago

    Hi Holly. Thank you for responding to me. I have tried the gammacore device and unfortunately, it hasn’t helped. My neurologist has sent in the paperwork for Aimovig and I have so much hope for that to work. I do agree that we can’t stop planning or doing and allowing this condition to rule us. I just know I wasn’t capable of a big graduation party for my son. Plus, I’m not sure about you, but my oldest son is such an enormous help to me. I’m so proud of him, but yet so sad that he will no longer be living with us come the fall. It makes me weepy even though I know this is part of life and he is taking this next big step. As always thank you for your inspiring words. Keep them coming. They are an incredible help to me and obviously to many others. Michele

  • Savta45
    1 year ago

    Thank you for writing this. I do get annoyed or more often depressed that migraines so frequently dictate how I live my life. I get all sorts of people who, with the best of intentions, try to help, by offering suggestions of what worked for them, or their daughter, etc. And it sounds like an “excuse” in a way, when I tell them that I can’t use that, because I have another condition, Chronic Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots), & am on 2 different medications for that, which has to all be taken into consideration. I’ve had 8 so far, & while the headaches are awful, the clots are really scary. And, before anyone asks, I’ve been checked MULTIPLE times, & there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two. Good news & bad news, & it’s the same news.
    Interestingly enough, my 97 year old mother is my greatest cheerleader. I feel horrible telling her I have a migraine, & would like to hide it from her, but we talk twice a day, routinely, & she knows me so well, that even my just saying Hi, Mom, how are you? is enough to clue her in if I’m sick with one. She tells me how much SHE admires ME! Imagine that! My Mother, a Holocaust Refugee from Nazi Germany, having lived thru the Blitz of London, as an “Enemy Alien”, learning to be a nurse & learn English as the bombs were falling, SHE admires ME?!? Yes, she says, for my perseverance, for my positive attitude, & acceptance of this condition, while still trying to fight it, to the best of my ability. Now THAT is EXTREMELY high praise, coming from the one person in my life who knows me better than any other, & who I consider my dear friend, & heroine. If she says it, it’s got to have validity, at least in my mind. And it keeps me going. Especially on days when watching tv to try to divert my mind from the pain is out of the question, because the movement & light is impossible to cope with. Reading is impossible. Sleep is so very wanted & needed, but elusive.
    But, today is good, so far. And I have Impatients to plant, dogs to throw balls for! So, I’m off this iPad for now. And I can only hope that my entry may have inspired someone, somewhere out there to feel like you are not alone. These migraines are horrible, we can’t let ourselves make them even more horrible by giving them any more power over us than they already have. It’s quite bad enough. I wish everyone migraine free GOOD days!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    I am so grateful for your comment. Thank you for sharing so much about your journey. You are right that we all get unsolicited advice from well-meaners which can get quite exhausting (https://migraine.com/blog/unwanted-unsolicited-advice/).

    It’s beautiful hearing about your mother and her unending love for you. It’s incredible how it can just take one person to give us this kind of support that can make all the difference. She sounds like a tremendous spirit with a huge heart.

    I also appreciate that you hint at living in the moment. You mention that you are okay, for now. And I think that’s so key- to appreciate the well-moments. Because for many of us, we no longer have well-days so we must strive to appreciate the well-moments.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your journey and inspire others in the community. So glad you are here!

  • mbabi1970
    1 year ago

    I’m sorry for what you are going thru. U r so lucky to have your mom and someone who is understanding on even your darkest days. I can see you cherish that and I guess that’s how we all have to get thru this by finding even one person that makes us feel better. I know we all having caring friends or family but the reality is if they haven’t gone thru what we are going thru they truly don’t understand. I’m so happy you have your person and that she’s your mom. Keep on going. Day by day minute by minute.., however it needs to be. We get you!!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    mbabi- thank you for offering such kind words of support- i just love the way our community works and am so grateful it is made up of people like you!

  • wappaw
    1 year ago

    I must say that watching TV is not one of my comforts when a migraine hits. I take an Imitrex, and crash into a dark room, a pillow over my ears, and my C-PAP machine. While I am in constant low-grade pain prior to a flare up, every time I read these post, I see how bad others have it compared to myself.
    Good luck to all

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi there- thanks so much for sharing what helps you find some comfort when you’re hit hard with a migraine attack. That low-grade pain you speak of, prior to the flare up – is an interesting kind of pain to manage. How do you find comfort during that window of time? Do you go into a dark room then? Try to find a way to distract from the pain? It can help to share strategies for managing pain so we can learn from one another- so if you have the time, we’d appreciate hearing how you handle it. Thanks!

  • Joleen1966
    1 year ago

    I try not to feel guilty but it does happen. Thank you for this article. My chronic migraine also has me sitting in front of tv. Sometimes it’s just enough of a distraction to take my mind off of the pain.

    I’m amazed at how many of us there are. Why oh why we can’t find something that helps?

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Joleen – Thanks for sharing and I’m glad this article resonated with you. TV helps me greatly to distract from the sometimes constant background noise of pain. If I focus on the pain, I find I can make it worse. And yes, even though it can help to remember we’re not alone, it is overwhelming to consider the millions of us that are living with migraine.

    As to your last question regarding desperately seeking solutions, I am trying not to get my hopes up, as they have been dashed repeatedly, but there are a couple of promising newly FDA-approved treatments for migraine (however at least for now they may be dizzyingly unaffordable). Have you heard of Gammacore (https://migraine.com/?s=gammacore) and CGRP: (https://migraine.com/?s=cgrp)? Certainly worth discussing with your migraine specialist next time you’re in. I’m having some success with the former and am looking forward to trying the latter soon. Please keep in touch as to how you are and thanks again for ringing in.

  • Ginalcb
    1 year ago

    Holly you could not have said it any better! I still have to work on that negativity. With help from my therapist, she says that we are our worst critics and have to learn to give ourselves a break. It is a work in progress.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    I’m so glad this idea resonates with you. It is indeed a process – and not something that we can ever say we have checked off our lists and completed. Something we strive for – compassion – a beautiful gift we give to ourselves. Thanks for your comment and stay in touch!

  • John1381
    1 year ago

    Hi,

    Your post mirrors my reaction to chronic migraine too. Recently I have managed to shift my negative thoughts, in particular about the waste of missing days at a time, and changed them to much as you have posted. It has taken time and few wobbles along the way but it is possible.

    I am really glad you are easier on yourself too. I hope all here can be to.

    John.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi John- I’m so glad to hear that you are finding yourself in a more compassionate place as well. So true that the journey is nonlinear- but, letting go of judgment and being gentle and kind with ourselves in the face of pain is a lovely goal.

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