Chronic Migraine, Coping, Triggers

Finding My Life After Years of Saying “I Can’t”

Telling me not to do something is a surefire way to get me to do it. My mom swears reverse psychology was the only way to keep me in check. So it seems laughable that my motto for the last two years was “I can’t.” There’s no laughter here, just sadness at the realization I’ve held myself down. In trying to not overextend myself and avoid migraine triggers, I have lost myself and my spunk.

I stopped reading in January 2008 when I noticed that it triggered migraines. I also unwittingly handed migraine control of my life. I could only think of it in terms of “I can’t read” and “I can’t work on the computer.” That was just the start. The list of what I couldn’t do grew quickly. I couldn’t go places with bad lighting or loud noises, do any exercise that raised my heart rate (including yoga), go to movies, play Rock Band…. Eventually coming to rarely being able to leave the house.

All along, I thought these were choices migraine made for me, not ones I made for myself. To a large degree they were. These (and many other) activities did trigger migraines. Ceasing all of them, however, didn’t make the migraines go away. I’d eliminate one trigger, then another would pop up. The migraines have only gotten worse.

Now I wonder if giving my power over to migraine worsened the illness. By abandoning activities I love, I crippled essential elements of my identity — an identity already ravaged by migraine and depression. Restricting myself so I don’t overdo it or not engaging in activities I love hasn’t made me feel better. It has curtailed my personality and fed my sadness.

Pushing boundaries is what I do. Actually, charging right through boundaries is what I usually do. When that didn’t help the migraines, I held myself back, playing it safe to a fault. Now I’m practicing nudging the limits, with good results.

  • Using the largest font on Hart’s Kindle, reading no longer triggers a migraine every time. If I want to read, I try it out for 10 minutes. If I feel worse than when I began, it is time to put the book down. (Though I am annoyed that I have to buy books instead of getting them at the library.)
  • The migraines aren’t always worse when I walk. Sitting on my couch or lying in bed aren’t my only options. I can stand in the kitchen. It may take an hour to load the dishwasher, but I’d otherwise spend that hour on my butt or back.
  • Showering often makes the migraines worse, but, again, not always. Two days last week it did. I had appointments both days so I meditated/napped for 45 minutes to regain my strength. I was able to enjoy the next four hours of both days.
  • Raising my blood pressure through exercise always triggers a migraine. Or so I thought. I’ve walked on the treadmill maybe 15 days this month and it has only triggered three migraines. Many days I only last 10 minutes, but yesterday it was 37. Quick I am not, sometimes I’m not even walking two miles an hour. But moving my body feels so good.

I got so scared of the migraines that I stopped doing things that bring me joy. I’m finally seeing the place between too much and not enough. Slowly, gently. I’m coming back to life.

5 thoughts on “Finding My Life After Years of Saying “I Can’t””

  1. I am *so* glad to see you again!! And yes, making changes, some good, some not, have helped me battle the migraines.

    Getting my own laptop has made a world of difference and *gasp* reading glasses. obviously not a cure-all for me or anyone but every little bit helps me feel less helpless.


  2. Kerrie,
    You write so beautifully about your struggle with migraine. I have had a 30+ year struggle with them myself. With help from many people, including medical professionals, and a lot of determination (and certainly my case wasn’t as bad as yours although I am still ‘down’ one day a week) I have built a life that I am happy with.

    In my second career I decided to become a professional coach, primarily working with executives. 3 months ago I decided to switch gears and coach migraineurs – not to play doctor-equivalent but to help them regain their self-esteem and enter the world of possibility again.

    These would be one to one, or one to several relationships. Do you think there are enough people out there who want to prevail in life regardless of their pain and would welcome this type of support?


  3. I was reading through your blog and read your ” About Me” section and I had the same story I had to end up quitting my job too… I applaud you for starting a blog about migraines! Thank you!!!!!

  4. Thanks for sharing your struggles. I wish they weren’t there to test you and force you to burst through them, however your sharing them is a balm to others experiencing similar things! I fight against Fibromyalgia and the stories sound amazingly similar! It’s such a battle to regain control of your life, and to rediscover who you are!! Thanks for sharing!!

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