I still remember sitting on my couch, curled up in a fetal position, semi-reclined with my head resting against the cool leather. It was the middle of the night, dark except for the streetlight shining from behind the curtains. My husband and one year old were asleep in their beds, and I was experiencing incredible migraine pain. I was in immense pain, scared, alone, and wondering if I should go to the hospital or not. Do I have a tumour? Am I going to have an aneurysm? These were all thoughts running through my red-hot brain.
Over the next six years, I have been on a journey to “fix” myself so that I no longer experience what are now recurring migraines. My doctor gave me a prescription to try which unfortunately, it made me feel more awful, and it didn’t get rid of the migraine. She said I might just have them for life. I switched doctors and got a similar story. From there, my journey to stop migraines has included a wide range of alternative medicines and healers – all beneficial, yet I still experience regular migraines.
I’m not intending to highlight the specifics of my challenge or to share that I have succeeded in overcoming them, what I want to share here is that I have come to realize that I do not have control over these migraines. As much as I wish I did, and as much as I persist in trying to “fix” myself, they continue. When they continue, I become angry, frustrated, mad at myself and the world. “Why me?” I have realized that it’s not about the migraines, but my relationship to my migraines and myself that is the true lesson and gift I have been given.
There was a point about three years ago when I decided that nothing works, nothing was going to work, and when I am in pain, there is no way to get rid of it, so there’s no point in trying. I was a victim to the pain, and it hardened my heart. Then, when I was away for a weekend conference, staying with a friend, I saw that love goes a long way. I developed a migraine, and my caring friend asked if they could rub my neck. I knew there was no point as it wouldn’t stop the pain, but I said yes anyway. As they rubbed my neck, chatting away quietly, I was so touched by the love that they were showing me. A love that I had stopped showing myself in these times of need.
I wasn’t criticized for being in pain. They weren’t calling me weak, irresponsible, or judging me. They were simply being kind and compassionate. Why would they have acted any other way? This is how I treated myself on the inside – cruelly, without even being conscious of it. I felt guilty for having created or manifested these migraines and being a burden on my family and colleagues when they showed up.
This was when I chose to shift my relationship to my migraines.
It was a transition that gradually happened with the support from my coach and loving friends. Although I still have migraines and am unsure if I will have them forever, I’m no longer fixated on fixing them and having them go away. I have acknowledged that I’m not broken, bad, or wrong. Instead, I am focused on practicing loving myself in new ways.
One of these ways is to reach out to ask for support: for loving words, reassurance, or a meal when I am in pain. It’s to treat myself to a bath, ice pack, or pain-relieving meditation when I feel the need—asking myself, “what do I need?” at the moment and honoring the response. Being compassionate with myself, knowing that I will have to reschedule plans or miss out on events, and being at peace with that.
The gifts that I have been given through migraines, which I offer to you are:
- Truly focus on being present with and celebrating yourself
- Ask for support, you don’t have to do it all and be it all
- Be at peace with what is
Although I have always envisioned writing this blog from a place where I can share that my migraines are gone, and I can share what the “answer was,” I am satisfied in sharing from where I am now, still experiencing migraines, and that they have been decreasing in intensity and are now almost predictable in when they will occur.
My heart reaches out to the many who have experienced and continue to experience migraines and other chronic pains. I know many of which are far more frequent and of longer duration than my own. I hope my experience finds you and inspires you to love yourself, even just 1% more, and notice what shifts from there.