For 35 years migraine dictated my life.
I would have denied it at the time. But it did.
Afraid to leave the house without my super-dark glasses.
Afraid of not sleeping ‘properly’.
Afraid of eating a cheese sandwich.
Afraid I was ‘giving’ myself migraine.
Driven by my desire to stop losing so many days of my life to this mystifying condition, I followed the words of wisdom to stick to a migraine routine. Be careful, to watch what I eat, to sleep properly.
It didn’t work. Not one bit.
In fact, on top of everything else, it just made me feel even worse.
I began to doubt myself.
Perhaps I’m doing something wrong?
Perhaps my migraine symptoms are beyond help?
Perhaps I’m beyond help?
Before I knew it migraine began shrinking my life.
“No, sorry I can’t meet for coffee. I’ll be up all night. Worrying that I’m ‘giving’ myself migraine.”
What tripped my rage today? Frustration. Hurt. Loss. And reading this:
“Prevent migraine by taking these simple steps…”
“Limit the impact of migraine by taking better care of yourself.”
“Simply sleep more, drink water, don’t skip meals, watch what you eat, exercise!”
It’s that simple, eh?
The risk when you follow the well-meant advice and it doesn’t help? Things twist into something a little darker in flavour.
Blame: If you don’t sleep well you’ll make your symptoms kick off.
Guilt: If I miss breakfast that the symptoms will come crashing my way.
Shame: If you don’t manage your routine you won’t achieve wellness.
One Trillion Ways Forward
Why would you not want to control the likelihood of a migraine episode? Of course you would.
But, what if the standard advice unintentionally does more harm than good?
Is there a different way forward? One trillion ways, perhaps.
Underpinning the ‘stick to a routine’ advice is the notion of the sensitive migraine brain. Not a brain that seems to be working differently, for reasons not yet fully understood. But a brain that is too sensitive, which quickly trips into the person who is too sensitive.
Why does that matter?
Your brain isn’t something you keep in a biscuit tin under the bed.
There is no separating you from your brain. You are the one and same thing. And migraine is not a personality flaw.
The good news is our ever growing understanding of the brain and pain.
All pain is real. All pain is created in the brain. Not in your head.
In your brain, where there are a minimum of 100 trillion neural connections.
Connections that neuroscience shows us we can create and erase using different methods.
Mind-Body Techniques are one method available to us for changing how our brain works. For changing our experience of migraine.
It isn’t easy at first. Things will get in the way. Family. Work. Lovers. Friends. Children. Even ourselves, unwittingly.
But, it is possible and with time, practice and support it becomes second nature.
My experience of migraine is now like night to day but, confession time.
While we can’t change being people with migraine, there is no cure, for now at least, we have the potential to around our experience of migraine. After 35 years, my experience of migraine is now like night to day. But, confession time.
Did I immediately and joyously dive in with care-free abandon and eat whatever the heck I wanted? Or quit carrying my sunnies around like a talisman?
No. I did not.
I think at first because I almost couldn’t believe it could be true. Yet, there is another reason, lurking deep beneath the surface.
I was afraid of what people would think of me. Would they think I’d been ‘faking’ my migraine symptoms for all those years? Would they judge me?
Just the thought of having to explain why now I could eat wheat and dairy made my heart sink. Now, my view is different. Why let judgmental people box me in? Not that it’s always easy.
How can you begin to safely expand your horizons?
But when you switch your attention from strict routines and protocols, at the very least you give yourself a chink of space to expand your horizons.
Why does that matter?
The Delight of No Longer Shrinking your Life to Fit Around Migraine
For me, reducing symptoms is not enough. I can say this now. But, three years ago my answer would have been very different:
“Just make this bloody pain, nausea and throwing up stop!”
That said, I knew that my way of living differed in some ways to people without migraine.
People who blithely leave things to the last minute, worry-free. People who’s most pressing holiday concern is: remember the passport!
Rather than, please don’t let me get ill and throw up on a packed flight. Again.
For me, above all else this is how my experience of migraine is truly like night from day. The melting away of soul-wearying fear.
Today, more often than not, I have the pleasure of embracing the humdrum beauty of everyday ordinariness.
I’ll take that.