Not Dwelling In Sorrow (Even Though I Let It Visit)
“Sobbing on the Floor” and “Not Dwelling in Sorrow.” Those two Word document titles sat side by side in my writing drafts folder. The first, which has since been published on Migraine.com as "Overcome by Migraine Grief (and an Unexpected Glimpse of Strength)," was written one day before the second. The article you're reading now great out of the draft of "Not Dwelling in Sorrow." I'm sharing this behind-the-scenes look at my drafts because it feels like a poignant lesson from my life with migraine.
Painful migraine emotions
Living with migraine is difficult. I am at times overwhelmed by emotion—anger, longing, loneliness, apprehensiveness, despair, discouragement, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, disappointment, exhaustion, fear, frustration, envy…. As painful as those emotions may be, they are transient.
Learning to allow myself to grieve
I used to try to stay positive all the time out of fear that if I let myself feel the pain, I would never again feel joy. Instead of keeping the difficult emotions at bay, this technique caused them to become even more unruly. It was like having a disorganized closet full of pain. Every time I opened the closet to put away more pain, which I had to do often, the items I’d shoved in earlier tumbled out. I spent years throwing everything back in and throwing my weight against the door to close it again. Until I couldn’t handle the mess anymore. I had to try to organize the closet.
Organizing the closet is how I can now write candidly about grief so raw that I’d almost rather publish naked pictures of myself than share. More importantly, it’s how I can allow myself to feel that grief and then find the beauty in it. Feeling the grief (or exhaustion or envy or whatever emotion it may be that moment) is also how I can see my strength.
Chronic illnesses and heartbreak
I write about heartbreak because it’s too often an unacknowledged part of living with chronic illness. People brush their feelings aside by saying, “other people have it worse.” But the loss is real and grief is a natural, healthy response to loss.
I also write about it because I ultimately find beauty in my moments of utter heartbreak—in recognizing that feeling difficult emotions won’t destroy me; in the catharsis that comes in letting the grief overwhelm my body for a while; in how I move from feeling completely stuck and without hope to brainstorming ideas that can help me move forward. These are the times when my strength is most clear to me.
Sharing my struggles so others know they're not alone
And I write about emotional pain because it helps me manage the grief. Even when I start an essay still mired in grief, I’ve usually completely worked through it by the time I finish writing about it.
This article came about after several readers reached out to me, concerned about my emotional state after reading some of my articles. In reassuring them, I remembered that you all only get a small snapshot of my life. Most of my essays about painful emotions come around to a brighter place, but they’re still predominately about the difficulties. In case you’re worried, know that I’m content most of the time. I believe being honest about the hard times is how my writing can be most helpful for other people. We all struggle. I lay my struggles out in stark detail to remind others they are not alone.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?