What did you accomplish today?
When your day is lost to a migraine, and the pain and related symptoms sicken and paralyze you, it can feel as if you missed out on all the fun, or that you didn’t get anything accomplished. When you’re dealing with chronic migraine, a day like that can turn into a couple of days, or even a week. Life and all it has to offer, can begin to feel as if it’s passing you by.
You find yourself having to cancel plans left and right. You may need to call in favors to friends and family members to pick up your slack. You might find that you can’t adhere to even the most basic of life’s responsibilities: filling the car up with gas, taking out the trash, making a meal for your family, bringing in the mail, paying the bills. Your to-do list at home seems endless. And if you are employed, work-related tasks start piling up right along with your sick days. On top of the pain and neurological symptoms coming from every angle, the stress related to all that is left unattended builds as well.
After some period of this cyclical and difficult dynamic, perspective as to one’s purpose in this world can get lost. If I can’t get anything done without relying on others to do everything for me, what’s the point? We have to watch out for these absolute, everything, and always statements. When we hear those words in our minds or coming out of our mouths, it is generally a solid sign that our healthy perspective has flown out the window. For me, it is a signal that it’s time to reach out to my support system and reconnect with my headache specialist to perhaps revisit my treatment plan.
Indeed, when I checked in with my incredible headache specialist about this very issue some years back, he gave me terrific advice that I’ve never forgotten. He told me to take stock of even the smallest things. He asked me to make a list of what I did each day, because in doing so, I might surprise myself by how much I was actually getting accomplished. The document would also serve to provide a clearer picture of my reality to share with him in a future appointment. I followed his advice and found the tool to be useful on so many levels.
Days that felt like a total wash were actually full of a mix of little but important accomplishments. Some days my list looks like this:
- Made myself breakfast
- Went grocery shopping
- Took care of the laundry
- Picked up my son from school
- Made dinner for my family
- Took a shower
- Responded to emails
Many days I only accomplish one or two of these things. To others, what I am able to do in a given day might seem inconsequential, or even sad. But for me, because some days involve spending the entire day in bed, writhing in pain, incapable of doing anything but turning over to vomit into a bucket, it’s key to remind myself that even bad days aren’t necessarily a complete loss. While I might not have reached my larger goals, it feels good to remember that I got more done than I thought. By creating a list of how I spent my day, I grew an appreciation for what I was able to do and regained that all-important sense of perspective. I saw that migraine wasn’t robbing me of every single moment of my life. And in so doing, I gained an entirely different and beautiful perspective in the process.
Now, thanks to the challenge of chronic migraine, and the practice of keeping this list, I appreciate how much effort it can take to accomplish the smallest of life’s tasks and am therefore grateful for the days they come easily to me. Additionally, this process has filled me with compassion and empathy for those who have ongoing conditions that make everyday tasks a constant struggle. And lastly, I’ve heard so many people with migraine say that the one universally positive thing about the condition is that it makes us appreciate wellness and stability in a way that others can’t possibly understand. I wholeheartedly agree.
On your bad days, what strategies do you use to maintain a healthy perspective?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?