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Readers Speak: Reflections on Acceptance

Thank you for your thoughtful responses on acceptance! I’ve loved seeing your thoughts on a topic so close to my heart.

Only three of you balked at the idea of acceptance. For a couple of you, it was seen as as giving up the search for effective treatment.

Debbie: “I’m not there yet after 35 years. I can’t accept this is going to be the rest of my life! I search regularly and often for answers.”

Rowena: “I’m also going on 30 years with chronic migraine and I refuse to accept that this is how my life will always be.”

The third dissension also defined acceptance as resignation, but believes that her anger about migraine is what motivated her to find relief.

Bibi: “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.”

While our motivators may be different, I don’t think those of us who accept migraine are saints, nor do I believe we are complacent about the “crippling, depressing attacks.” In fact, everyone who wrote about embracing acceptance also said the continue to try to find relief, either by trying new treatments or managing triggers.

Newfoundlander: “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.”

Natali: “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 treatments, it doesn’t mean that I have lost hope and have totally surrendered to a life of doom and gloom…. Acceptance of some short shifts the power back to the individual, you are no longer at the mercy of migraines…. [it] 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 strength. 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.”

Lisa: “I think acceptance can easily live next to still being open to what may help…. Well maybe not easily. It takes work, but it’s possible.”

Dawn: “Yes. This has been the biggest help in my life. I still keep my ears open for ideas, but my life isn’t about the search anymore.”

Trish: “I agree that it is a healthy place for me to be when I can accept that I will always have migraines…. 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.

Alicia gives a great example to differentiate acceptance from resignation:

“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.”

This response is in a similar vein to Acceptance, Not Resignation, a Migraine.com article I wrote, which several readers mentioned in their responses. I still agree with what I wrote several years ago:

I will never be migraine-free.

You may read that sentence as resignation or giving up on trying to improve my health. For me, it represents acceptance and it feels a world away from resignation.

I haven’t given up on finding an effective treatment—I’m always trying new options and constantly tweaking my regimen—but I have given up on the idea that my life can only be good if I’m migraine-free. And by accepting that I will always have migraine, I have lessened its control over me.

The reader who asked the question about Larissa’s comment emailed me after reading some of your responses. He said he thought that maybe the difference was semantic, so I pointed him to the Migraine.com article. After read it, he agreed that we were using different words to describe the same approach.

This is only a sampling of the responses. You can read more in the responses to On Accepting Migraine: Your Thoughts? and in the Facebook discussion.

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