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On Accepting Migraine: Your Thoughts?

“The most important thing I’ve done to deal with migraines emotionally is to accept that I have them and will for the rest of my life.”

That’s an excerpt from Larissa’s story of life with chronic migraine, which I shared last week. It registered with me as healthy statement of acceptance, but it didn’t sit right with a longtime reader. This reader’s unique insights and questions give me a different perspective and help me clarify my own thoughts, so his comments always catch my attention. He wrote:

Would be very interested what the readers thought of one statement of Larissa’s story: “The most important thing I’ve done to deal with migraines emotionally is to accept that I have them and will for the rest of my life.”

Why accept she may have them rest of her life? She is around 30 years old—she will probably live another 60 years or so. With new medical advances and because she is so young—is that a helpful perspective moving further? (No offense to Larissa in my query.)

What I love about this reader is that he hasn’t discounted Larissa’s perspective even though it doesn’t sit right with him. He’s genuinely curious to know about her point of view and what other people think of it. So I’m passing his question on to you.

What do you think of the statement: “The most important thing I’ve done to deal with migraines emotionally is to accept that I have them and will for the rest of my life”? Do you think it is a helpful perspective or not? Do you agree with it and operate under the same principle or do you disagree?

Please leave a comment with your response. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. I don’t want my thoughts to influence anyone’s response, so I’ll share my response a little later.

23 Responses to On Accepting Migraine: Your Thoughts?

  1. Trisha says:

    I think for me at 61 and with other illnesses that is a valid statement, but for a 30 year old I would be more inclined to fight and continue to hold out for advances in research and cures. Of course I’ve only had this for five years. If she’s had this for twenty (I’m not familiar with her history) it might be helpful for her to accept it after this length of time. Each person’s coping skills are different and it’s not for me to judge.

  2. Larissa says:

    As I said in my article, the reason this way of thinking for me is helpful is because: “Doing so has allowed me to move forward and focus on what I can do.” : ) It’s a realistic way of thinking that allows me to approach treatments and therapies from the reference point of reducing severity and frequency of attacks, rather than hoping for a cure every time and being hugely disappointed. Of course, I am totally open to getting better, that would be wonderful! Just a frame of mind that works for me.

  3. Chris Blair says:

    I remember clearly saying to my Doctor at one of our regular 2 monthly appointments “this months revelation is I have learned to accept it”
    It very much helped my frame of mind and eased my incessant desire to try and fix myself.
    Fortunately some time later after 6 years of torture I am now almost 100% free, but that’s another long story.

  4. Beth says:

    I agree with the statement. I’m almost 40 and have I’ve had chronic migraines for almost 20 years. While I hope I don’t have these migraines for the rest of my life, I believe I will. For one thing, while I do have migraines that are triggered by certain foods and certain light, most of my migraines are due to an old neck injury. I’m not sure there will ever be a medical way to fix my problem. So, for me, accepting that I will have these migraines for the rest of my life gives me freedom. I am no longer spending my time jumping from one doctor to another, one test after another, one physical therapist after another. What I focus on now is how to manage the pain and how to avoid my triggers. I no longer fear what pain tomorrow might bring, because I’ve learned to meet it head on and greet it, almost as a friend. As a Christian, I also know that without this chronic pain, I might not be so quick to rely on the Lord to get me through the day. So, I have found a way to be thankful for the pain knowing that my weakness makes Him strong and it is through His strength that I can go on. I have a migraine coming on as I sit typing this. But, I no longer look to the rest of my day with dread. This is who I am, this is my thorn. Accepting it has allowed me to stop hating it. Accepting it has allowed me to embrace it with peace rather than hostility.

  5. Michelle says:

    I’d like to thank you and Larissa for last week’s post. The article really has given me a lot to think about. It made me want to get there (to acceptance). My migraines became daily one year ago, so I’m still struggling to find my new reality. I have recently started meditating through a mindfulness class, and this article fits right into my new journey there, too.

    I would say that I still have not accepted that this is my new reality, but I completely understand that getting there could certainly bring me a lot of peace.

  6. Michelle says:

    Wait, I just realized I confused Larissa’s post with an article that you wrote, Kerrie: https://migraine.com/blog/acceptance-not-resignation/. Somehow I came upon your article on Migraine.com in the last week or two, and that’s what I thought you were referencing today. Sorry for the mix-up!

  7. Sarcozona says:

    Acceptance is the only way for me to move forward with realistic goals and plans. I don’t refuse a cure and I haven’t given up on improving, but to be focused on “fighting” for a cure means my life is on hold and utterly consumed by the disease. Acceptance makes room for other things.

  8. Newfoundlander says:

    I loved Larissa’s post. I sent it to several people because it clearly and accurately describes my reality. I thank her for that. I, too, have found that acceptance has been very important to my life quality. It has allowed me to grieve deeply about the life I don’t have. Unloading that heavy grief has lightened my emotional load, so life is better, even if the daily migraines are not. Simultaneously, I keep one foot in the door of hope. Hope for medical advancements, hope for new insights, hope for miracles for us all. That keeps me researching new possibilities. This balance of acceptance and hope is the best approach for me so far. I really appreciate this blog, because being part of a community of people who understand makes such a difference, too.

  9. Deb says:

    I woke with my headache 43 years ago this April 23rd. I truly never could have thought that I would be in this situation when I woke up that day. I pray for that young woman that there will come a cure, I too know that I will have to live with this the rest of my life. God bless and strengthen you to endure and family and friends to understand,though no one could EVER understand because they have not been in pain 24/7 for all these years.

  10. Kate says:

    I have accepted that I’ll have a headache for the near future at least (I’ve had a constant headache for 10 years now, NDPH). It has helped me to not place so much hope in every single doctor visit, medication trial, etc. I do have hope that in my lifetime I’ll be pain free (I’m 30), but I certainly won’t hold my breath. I’ve accepted my situation, grieved my former pain free life, and moved on best I can. However, I haven’t stopped looking for relief. Best wishes.

  11. Trish says:

    I agree that it is a healthy place for me to be when I can accept that I will always have migraines. I am 52 and have had them for 13 years. They aren’t every single day anymore but they are very often and get into cycles that persist for days and weeks very easily. If there comes a day that a cure is found or something else works for me, hallelujah!!! Until then, I do have them, I just need to get on with this thing I call life.

  12. KF says:

    There are aspects of it I agree with and aspects I don’t agree with. On the one hand it is good to accept reality as it now and not fight it. There is just more suffering from fighting reality as it is now. On the other hand I don’t agree with it from the stand point that she or I or anyone will have them for the rest of our lives. None of us knows what the future brings. It is possible that she or I or anyone else MAY have them for the rest of our lives BUT we don’t know that and so that uncertainty also gives me hope at any rate that I will continue to look and search for any new possibility of help. I was lamenting to a therapist friend of mine one day about false hope and all my hopes that had been dashed over the years in searching for a “cure” (any little help) for my migraines. She said something that has stuck with me. She said “Any hope is good hope, even if it is false, because it helps us get through life’s impossible situations.” So I’m going to continue to hope even if it is false hope because it gets me through at the end of the day and on to the next. I can accept the reality of now. And hope for the future.

  13. Natali says:

    My most recent and potentially final liberation from the torment of migraines is exactly the same statement of acceptance. That doesn’t mean that I don’t (still!) try new medications or new treatements, it doesn’t mean that I have lost hope and have totally surrendered to a life of doom and gloom-which is my life very often due to my chronic migraines anyway-a lived doomed and gloom reality. Acceptance of some short shifts the power back to the individual, you are no longer at the mercy of migraines, migraines happen and you may be severly affected but by creating the necessary space for them to come, stay and then go-with as much little drama as possible- is liberating. I am saying all this-I must admit-at a time when I have managed to greatly control my migraines throught 3 medications and Botox. So, I am not in the mess I was 3 months ago for years. However, one of my beloved spiritual teachers would repeatedly reply to me: ‘just accept it’ every time I asked him what to do to get rid of my migraines. 3-4 years later I started a kind of spiritual practice of knitting ‘just accept’ into a cloth and knitting it on my back pack in a place that I visually see every day so that the meaning ‘sinks in’ to my mind.

    ‘just accept’ is not about defeat, pessimism or giving up. It is the start of rising from the ashes like a phoenix. It is a very spiritual and pragmatic means of reclaiming one’s own inner strenght.

    I only wish, I had embraced the idea of ‘just accept it’ earlier in my life, to save myself endless days and nights of hellish desperation and pain. 50 or more medical and complementary treatments down the line, I am finally embracing something that liberates me from pain and allows me to experience my inner strength. It is a very personal and very transformative experience. I am not saying it is easy. It has been hard work, I have also been seeing a psychotherapist and recently started anti-depressants. Things can work together and help us, but the inner strength and wisdom is the key to liberation from chronic migraine suffering.

  14. I, too, have been thinking about that statement since reading Larissa’s story. I know from working in healthcare education that acceptance of a chronic condition is an important part of behavior change. Those afflicted with chronic health conditions often have a hard time caring for their condition because they’ve yet to accept it. This is especially true for people like diabetics, who have to do specific things on a constant basis to care for their condition. Pretending it’s not really happening only hinders this. With that being said, I’m not entirely sure I feel the same way as Larissa, only because I do hope that this is not something I deal with for the rest of my life, and I know that many people do “outgrow” migraine, namely those who feel relief after menopause. So, for me personally, I am trying to work toward acceptance… acknowledge this is something I have to deal with, and I need to take care of my body and mind as much as I can. But I’m not sure I accept the fact that I’ll have migraine for the rest of my life. I too am only in my early 30s and I can’t help but hope that some day I’ll live pain-free.

  15. Alicia Gostylo says:

    Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now makes an important distinction between acceptance and resignation. Acceptance is where you are right now in the present moment. He gives an example of being stuck in the mud. If you’re stuck in the mud, you don’t necessarily have to like it or resign yourself to being stuck in the mud. But until you acknowledge that you’re stuck in the mud, you really can’t take necessary steps to get out of the mud. I think that I can accept that migraines are a part of my life. But I don’t necessarily resign myself to them. In the present moment, even if I have a migraine, I try to accept it and then do the necessary things I can do to abort it or prevent one in the future. Acceptance means not adding extra suffering to the physical pain of the migraine, such as resisting it with phrases such as “I wish this weren’t part of my life”,” this will be my life forever,”” I hate this pain, etc.” Changing the way I think about it has given me a lot of relief–after all the psychological aspect of having migraines can be just as devastating as the physical aspect.

  16. Bibi says:

    Not accepting my migraines, – being innerly infuriated about how much good time was stolen from me, made me motivated to change my lifestyle, diet and how I arrange my work life. It can be hard to accept once in a while, that I have to maintain this healthy lifestyle to stay free of the migraines for longer stretches. Like a diabetic I have to avoid things, else my body gets totally out of balance. This was hard to accept in the start, because I felt sorry for myself not being able to eat chocolate and a lot of other foods or to binge on computer watching at night. I try to treat myself with different ‘goodies’ now, when I want to have a good time now. Perhaps saints can accept the crippling, depressing attacks – I couldn’t.

  17. Douglas says:

    I have also come to accept that I will have migraine for the rest of my life, my wife has yet to accept this fact. I do, however, still become angry and frustrated at some of the symptoms. When I stutter, stammer, or just can’t think of right words the knowledge that part of me is not there… It hurts.
    The acceptance does not mean that I am moping and not pursuing treatments. I need to keep ahead of the disease, I want to keep working and enjoying life as long as possible.

  18. Jennifer Stevens says:

    I was so angry at my migraines. I called them “the entity” as though they had a life of their own and were robbing me of mine. I was finally referred to a pain clinic after 30 years of chronic migraine whose philosophy is acceptance of the condition, that because I have had the condition for so long it was permanent and to get off the roller coaster of excitement at the prospect of a cure through a new treatment to the disappointment of the lack of success. It was a break through for me. I cried buckets. The condition is no better but the anger is gone. I let it go and I feel so much better for it. I however have not lost hope. I do still look for and try new treatments but without expectations. I think I have found a workable happy medium between being consumed with finding a cure and giving up entirely.

  19. Kate says:

    I have been trying to come to terms in some way, with chronic migraine, for fifteen years now. At least that’s how long it’s been daily. I keep thinking that at SOME point I HAVE to come to some acceptance of this thing. And sometimes I do. But then I get into a stretch of higher pain or lower energy, or some other kind of situation that puts me right back up to my highest levels of frustration and impatience.
    This morning, for instance, I want to throw this laptop right out the window and scream that I don’t know what to do about ANYTHING anymore. I’m in my bathrobe at nearly noontime and I can’t stand it. I’m sick of being so weak and exhausted all the time.
    I need to remind myself that I’ve just come through a really bad migraine month, and that I usually get some strength back eventually.
    So lately I figure that maybe the acceptance comes and goes. Sometimes all I see are the losses; and other times I can accept what is, and be grateful for all that I have.

  20. Nonnie Willing says:

    I have to admit that after 10 years of having chronic (8years of being diagnosed with it ) that I am not to the point of acceptance. I’ve read through all the replies above and can see how moving into that frame of mind could help me both physically and mentally . I just have to do some major work to get there. It doesn’t help that even through 10 years of multiple specialists, multiple neurologists, multiple diagnostics and many many medications, both eastern and eastern medicine- I have not gotten relief from my pain level of 5-8 daily migraines. I am almost bedridden and thank God I have the wonderful husband I do who takes care of me. I am currently under the care of the Mayo Clinic Headache Clinic in Arizona but they are already on what my Dr. Calls Plan C with no relief. If I could get any kind of relief I believe I would have hope. But when pain relief is elusive and your dark bedroom is your life it’s hard to grasp that brass ring of hope as it comes my on the merry go round. I hope and pray to get to acceptance at some point in my life and I will bookmark this article to look back on and read for assistance hen I get to that level.

  21. Traci says:

    I go back and forth with acceptance. There was one point when I had lost hope of ever feeling better. Really the pain was just out of control at that time and I was also experiencing depression as a side effect from a medication. A therapist helped me to evaluate if my negative thoughts that I had been telling myself were actually true or not. One of those thoughts was that “I’ve tried everything.” Three specialists had already told me that I had tried everything. I don’t think they should tell their patients that because it made me feel hopeless. Well the therapist helped me to realize that it is simply not true. There is always something next to try and even if there does not appear to be, there will be again with medical advances.

  22. Traci says:

    I think I also go back and forth on what the meaning of acceptance means.
    I definitely do not know how to stop trying to get better so that is good. At the same time I am pretty sure I will never feel 100% well since I have not had a normal day in many years.

  23. Chris W says:

    For me it comes down to this: acceptance means that I no longer believe that I can only be happy if I am pain-free (or if the pain is at a low level). It’s not. I really struggle with this, but as others have said, it doesn’t mean that I am giving up on treatments and self-care. Acceptance to me is a good thing because despite all my efforts, I don’t control the pain and I only suffer more when I get upset about what I call “how bad things are.”

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