A Little Self-Care

I always dread sending that text or email with the familiar words “I’m not going to be able to make it. I have a migraine.” I can already picture the rolling eyes. Feel their scorn or disappointment. Hear the conversation among my friends, co-workers, family, or boss.

“She always has a migraine.”
“That’s the third one this month.”
“How bad could it be?”
“Do you really think she has a migraine?”
“Why doesn’t she just take her meds?”
“How convenient.”

Of course, I don’t know if any of this is said or not. But my mind immediately goes there: they don’t believe me. Or they’re irritated with me. Or they’re sick of hearing it.

It’s bad enough that I have to cancel an important meeting for work. Or not show up to my writer group. Or sell tickets to a concert I’ve been dying to go to.

But when a migraine hits, nothing else matters. There’s no way you can sit in a meeting or talk to people or listen to loud music or music of any kind. You can’t drive. Focus on reading anything. You can’t smile or pretend everything is OK. All you can do is lie down in a quiet, cool space with an ice pack and pray.

And I need to rest in my own bed when I have a migraine. Not in a noisy home of a friend on their couch. Not in an unoccupied corner of an office. Everything is set up at home. It’s all ready to go: ice packs, meds, eye mask, peppermint oil, lavender spray, and water.

So when I had to cancel on my writer group last night, all those criticisms and judgments immediately followed and plagued me all night long.

I tried not to cancel. I tried to power through it. Convince myself that I was fine and the migraine was just a mild headache. All I had to do was take my Triptan before I headed out and I’d be in good shape. By the time I arrived there, it’d be gone.

But the pain didn’t diminish. It increased the further I drove. The throbbing on my right temple grew angrier and more insistent. My right eye started hurting so bad that it felt like the migraine was ballooning behind my eyeball. I wanted to close my eyes so I wouldn’t have to focus on all the lights and movement on the road but I was driving.

Fighting a migraine takes a toll on me mentally and emotionally too. I play the Blame Game. What did I do wrong? What did I eat? Did I move my neck the wrong way? It’s always something that I did to myself. So already I’m in this self-critical “how could I let this happen?” mode.

As I drove further and further, I knew I had to make a choice: turn around, go home, and lie down with an ice pack and be good to myself? Or suck it up and join the writer group I committed to.

I went with the former: be good to myself.

I pulled over to the side of the road and sent them a text saying I have a migraine. In reply I got back:

“Feel better.”

I’m sure it was sincere and meant to be comforting. But I couldn’t help reading into it. It’s so short and abrupt. They don’t believe me.

For all I knew, they did feel bad for me and hoped I was OK. But the little voice inside my head said otherwise.

When I finally arrived home, I lay on my bed with my ice pack, relieved I had the entire night to myself to heal in the dark. I knew I’d made the right choice, yet that nagging voice continued. Each time it popped up with a worry or criticism, I mentally shut it down.

Not tonight. Not anymore.

We’re all so hard on ourselves. What we need during this painful time is not only for others to understand but maybe even more importantly, to do what’s good for us. Stop with the critical voice. Don’t worry about what others are thinking or saying. Forgive yourself. Self-care and self-compassion is so important in this healing journey. I have to remind myself of this daily. Even when I don’t have a migraine.

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