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Migraine: A Journey to Rise Above 8 of 10

Updated on March 15, 2012

This article continues my journey to overcome daily chronic migraines and the other conditions that go hand-in-hand.


Migraines & Coping Skills

I am not a patient person. I have difficulty with slow results or being delayed by illness. It’s hard enough to accept that I have a long-term chronic disorder. It also became deeply necessary for me to develop coping skills to handle stress, guilt, irritability and other emotions that surface during a migraine. I am open to self-reflection, willing to accept my flaws, and incorporate change. It is hard though; and sometimes requires help from friends and family.

It was also necessary to evaluate my belief system. Why was all this happening to me? What is the point? I had to find my true path. I believe that some of these daily setbacks were somewhat of my own making. So then, what must I learn, what lesson have I missed that causes me to be stuck here?

Life Lessons Learned

Mental stress can and will cause physical pain and suffering. Even when I think I am dealing with stress well, I still develop the physical symptoms of stress such as tiredness, muscle spasms, and of course migraine symptoms! My mantra to overcome this is “I flow with and trust the process of life”. Essentially, I accept the things I cannot change and change the things I cannot accept. Again, this requires work and self-reflection.

Remembering my sense of humor is crucial – “Patience, grasshopper, patience,” (from TV’s Kung Fu series).

Guilt is useless and it causes stress-like symptoms. I still find it hard to miss work, or tell my kids “I have a headache right now and cannot do this for you.” It is helpful to have a good support system. I had to overcome recurrent guilty feelings by accepting that sometimes I need to just relax. I can only do as much as I can do and forgive the rest.

Irritability can be caused by certain migraine symptoms such as light and sound sensitivity, or pain. I believe it is entirely unfair to friends, family, and co-workers to put up with grumpy behavior. Plus, the headache is worse for me if I cling to this state. This is one area that I have nearly tackled. First I accept that I feel grumpy, then I accept the reason for the grumpiness, then I let it go. While I may sense the touchiness under the surface, I choose not to act on it. Further, I notify the people around me that I am experiencing a migraine and ask they be patient with me. This notification step alone is often enough for me to process the acceptance of the negative emotion and function in my day.

Mental therapy or counseling can be very beneficial when coming to terms with chronic illness. I do find it more beneficial to “get real” with myself and take action. However, there are times that I was too overwhelmed. I have had very positive growth experiences with a counselor. I also found solace in several self-help books (Louise Hay, “Heal Your Body” and many others). I did not try any support groups. At times, it was too distressing just to get through my day, much less add a new task by attending meetings.

Hobbies are a great source of distraction. Even when I am experiencing brain fog, I find that repetitive tasks can be very helpful. Knitting, making jewelry, and other small craft projects are my favorites. I learned how to compartmentalize my pain and other symptoms and focus entirely on the task at hand. It also helps me feel accomplished when I might not be productive in other ways.

Meditation used to be nearly impossible when I had migraines. While I can break through a migraine to complete menial tasks, clear focused mental exercises are more difficult. Despite the difficulty, I discovered that learning to meditate when I felt well facilitated meditation when I do not. Practice makes perfect. Now, there are times I can literally meditate a migraine away with no other forms of treatment! I have not tried rapid eye movement therapy or emotional freedom techniques (tapping), but I suspect the principles are similar to traditional meditation (mind over matter).

Beliefs are an essential coping skill. I know that I shored up my foundation during this journey. I also believe that each person must learn what that means for themselves.

It was essential to do all this work to heal my migraines, but I did not realize until much later that it was not just migraines that I had to heal. My next article discusses conditions that often occur alongside migraines.

Thanks Dr. Piercy!

My neurologist gave me positive feedback on my articles. Her comments:

"it is so great that you were able to gain so much insight and experience...I think your story will be an inspiration for other patients in similar situations....Also, you should consider writing about Botox or Toxin injections for migraine treatment. This could be helpful and informative for other patients."


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    • Loladusk profile image

      Loladusk 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC Canada