Searching for a Bright Side of Migraine
Most times I see the glass as half full. That’s how I was raised. Life is good. The world has a lot to offer. I’m a naturally happy person who wakes up on the right side of the bed. So, even though I’ve had migraine since childhood, and even though they became chronic more than a decade ago, I’ve generally kept a good attitude. Despite severe daily pain, and side effects (like nausea and vomiting) that can be equally troubling, I’ve overwhelmingly kept my chin up and held onto a positive attitude.
It takes a slew of horrid days of intractable pain before I begin feeling down. After four or five days in bed due to intensely severe pain, I start to lose my perspective. My sense of purpose and place in the world disintegrates. That level of pain is terrifying. It can be impossible to talk, think, or move. It’s paralyzing on all levels.
My bright and positive outlook starts to dim. And instead of being filled with light and thinking of others, I begin to focus inward and think about all that migraine has taken from me.
After all, the condition sidelined me from my career and the pursuit of my passions. It has robbed me of many special milestones with my family. My two very active boys have grown up in the midst of my chronic migraine. I have missed more games, celebrations, and vacations than I care to count. Each time a migraine makes “being there” impossible, an emotionally loaded ping-pong ball game between guilt and anger starts anew.
Despite a tendency to revel in those emotions when I’m feeling low, I’ve learned that anger and guilt don't get me anywhere but worse. Wrestling with those emotions leaves me circling the emotional drain with nowhere to go but down. And for me, sadness and tears only leads to more migraines.
Help me if you can I’m feeling down
In all these years of navigating the challenging world of chronic migraine, I’ve learned a few things. It’s important to ask for help. When I begin to go down emotionally I reach out to my husband and my closest friends and family members with a brief statement like “It’s starting to get to me, I need some help.” That’s my way of waving the white flag.
In response, my support system kicks into higher gear than usual and checks in more frequently – sending texts, or stopping by, helping me - until the storm passes.
Eventually, the migraine loosens its hold, and I’m left wading through cobweb-like prodrome after-effects. I begin to slowly reacquaint myself with who I am at my core: that person with a bright outlook. But how to get there after being trampled by pain, anger, guilt, and sadness? I actively dig deep and pull my focus to the positive lessons and gifts migraine has given me.
Living in pain makes us so grateful for moments of wellness, however fleeting. A healthy body is astounding and can only be fully appreciated when one has known severe pain or illness. Outside of having migraine, I am so grateful to be healthy, and for the moments of wellness I do experience. I am also very grateful for the health and wellness of my loved ones.
Living through pain that lasts for days with no break has taught me patience on a level I could not have learned any other way. Deep breathing helps get me through the long stretches of pain.
Without migraine, my eyes would likely not be so widely open to the plight of others living with pain or other challenges. Many migraineurs live with depression atop migraine and for them- climbing out of a bad mood is not a matter of will but chemical imbalance. I live near a hospital and am reminded often of those who spend months inside fighting for their lives. There are so many people living with challenges far worse than mine. Finding ways to volunteer to help others when I’m feeling well enough to do so is a great way to keep things in perspective.
Living in the moment:
When pain is a frequent visitor, it is easy to waste our moments of wellness living in fear that the next moment will bring discomfort. I strive to live every well-moment to its fullest (even so, it is easier said than done!).
Focusing on the gifts that migraine has given helps to reconnect me with my naturally positive self. And doing so shores me up, replenishes my reserves and serves to strengthen my backbone. All of which serves me well when the next migraine hits.
What helps you stay positive in the face of repeated migraine attacks? How do you navigate the emotional challenges that come with chronic migraine?
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?