Chronic Migraine, Coping, Mental Health

Migraine’s Life Lessons: Backup Plans, Optimism & Flexibility

Hart and I planned to go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History last weekend, but a migraine kept me from going out. Instead of sitting on the couch or going back to bed, Hart and I worked in the kitchen then watched a movie and the Olympics. We made salsa, hot sauce and cornbread. It wasn’t what we planned to do and I operated at less than full capacity. But it was a lot of fun and we got to spend time together. In the end, I wasn’t even disappointed we didn’t go to the museum. I still had a great day.

People often ask how I can have such a positive attitude about life with migraine. I always thought it was a joke when I answered “I’d be dead otherwise.” I wasn’t kidding. I can’t imagine how I could have gotten this far being this sick without my optimism. I think it is the lack of disappointment that keeps me going. I can be happy whatever I’m doing (if I’m in the right mindset).

In my “I can’t” phase, I lost the crucial ability to make backup plans. I assumed that if I couldn’t make my original plans, then I couldn’t do anything. Admittedly, this was often because I was so sick that I couldn’t do more than lie in bed or sit on the couch. Yet the art of making plans B, C or sometimes D contributes to the optimism and flexibility that allow me to enjoy life despite migraine and depression. I make lemonade through the optimism that I can still have fun and still do something even if it wasn’t what I intended. I need enough flexibility to come up with alternatives when necessary.

I’m not say it is easy or even always possible to have a positive outlook. I’m fortunate in that I was born a Pollyanna, but I also work hard at it. I try to look for the good (or not too bad) in all that I do. Sometimes it is as little as having the energy to put dishes away or enjoying an episode of Ugly Betty. This helps me stay in the moment and feel like I am truly living my life, not letting it go by in a migraine haze.

I often hear people say chronic illness has taught them to enjoy life. I’ve certainly come to that conclusion. What has life with headache or migraine taught you? How do you get through the days?

23 thoughts on “Migraine’s Life Lessons: Backup Plans, Optimism & Flexibility”

  1. I love the idea of patience to get through a headache… sometimes it’s a matter of “this too shall pass”. I have found that chiropractic care does help with certain cases, but there are multiple cases, just as all people are a little different from one another. It’s a chess match, sometimes, getting to the root of the problem, but totally worth it when you do.

  2. Too often, people wait until the pain becomes unbearable before they contact a chiropractor. Waiting can cause long-term damage, so it is important that you contact your chiropractor when the pain originally begins. Chiropractic goes to the root of the problem, helping patients live pain-free without the use of medication.

  3. Sometimes I wonder why we feel this pain constantly. I am 15 and have started them last year. It’s almost impossible to keep up with school and I have no idea how I got high honor role. I guess I am just learning how to deal with them. Still it stinks to get the already so young in life. I have already missed out on so much and no one understands.

    I try to keep optimistic but it is hard. I used to be just a happy person and now i just want to die because of the pain. Well, i don’t actually want to die I just want the pain to stop. If anything headaches have taught me how precious time is, how you should enjoy every good second you have. Watching the stars, running, laughing is the only way I don’t go insane. I wonder a lot why I am here if I am only going to live a hell on earth. It’s amazing how “normal people” take so much of life for granted. Sometimes people feel bad for me if I have a migraine, and I just want to tell them to go enjoy every second of their lives because they have no idea how lucky they are.

  4. I’m a chronic headache sufferer and i just came across your website. As i sit here crying in bed, I wanted to thank you for this blog and bringing me hope today. I try each day to stay positive, because as you’ve stated earlier, what is the other option? I won’t let this headache control my life as it seems you are not letting it control yours. Thank you so much again.

  5. If you are suffering from brutal headache over a period of time then you should take Imitrex tablet. This medicine is used to treat migraine headache stroke once they occur. This medication is not to be used for other types of headaches. One dose is taken by mouth at the first signs of a migraine attack.

  6. I’m 19 years old and come from a long family history of chronic headaches, terrible migraines, you know the drill. I thought I had it bad until one of my friends had a spinal tap because her headache problems were so unbearable. Keep in mind, she is 18. I wanted to share with you something I accidentally came across. I was googling what could help my headaches and found a bunch of suggestions for medicines, chiropractor, acupuncture, spa days, advils and other prescriptions. If they have worked before then headaches wouldn’t be a problem. But there was nothing that seemed to sound promising. My Uncle is convinced that doing the Yoga breathing technique for 10 minutes can help reduce the headache, although I’m not so much an optimist. In my research I came across the fruit Mangosteen from Thailand. There is a drink called Xango, I thought it would be a scam considering it is a Network Marketing company, however I decided just to get a bottle and start drinking it. My headaches were gone. WHAT?! I tried going off of it for another week and they came back, so I met the leading Dr. Templeman and had him explain the science behind the mangosteen with all of the xanthones and phytonutrients. It is absolutely incredible. If you are serious about getting rid of your headaches, I really recommend you give this a try. It works for me and thousands of others.

  7. Hi Kerri, just found this blog and found it enlightening. It’s nice to know there are others struggling like me. I have been to so many specialists and Dr’s, but still struggling with them. I’ve done acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, physical therapy but still struggle with them almost daily. I am now attempting to balance hormones. After a month on that program I went 8 days between migraines! Is it working maybe will have to see. Thanks again for the encouragement.

  8. Just found your blog and of course think we are kindred spirits. Chronic Daily Migraines since 1992ish… 20 a month at least… a life lost is exactly how I feel sometimes too. Doing my best to overcome these obstacles. I’ll be following and reading the archives. Thank you for this. 🙂

  9. Thanks for this post. I sometimes feel like this: “I assumed that if I couldn’t make my original plans, then I couldn’t do anything.” It can be difficult to make plans. When I’m on the better end of my pain spectrum, I feel as if I can do anything, then when I have bad days I sometimes fall into the trap of feeling that I can’t do anything. I like the idea of having a plan B, C, or D & being satisfied with that.

    Most of the time, I stay upbeat by focusing on what I can do, just like Kate said above. Even when I’m feeling pretty bad, I can still usually crochet, which is something I love to do. When I feel my worst, I gain strength again in focusing on what I can do. Just the simple things like I have hands & feet that work! Thank goodness for that!!

  10. This is a fantastic website about a devastating subject!

    For as many people that I see each day with headaches, I can honestly say I had no idea how many people are suffering.

    How frustrating is it to live your life with friends and family, who try to fix your problem? They HAVE THE answer?

    I like to think chiropractic care helps headaches, as that is the experience in my office…however, when I run into people on the street I rarely step in to suggest it.

    I do this simply because I don’t want to insult intelligent people who have struggled for a long time with their headaches, and it seems as adding to what they SHOULD do is only degrading.

    That being said, I am sure many headache sufferers can improve their health and headaches through diet and realignment of their spine. The difficulty is in the amount of experts and other things they have been promised to work.

    I am looking forward to following all these additional posts, and if I can ever be of help please let me know.


  11. Migraine is slowing destroying me. I throw up with the ones I call 10 out of 10. For the past 2 yrs I have tried botox injections. They help enormously with the throwing up migraines, leaving the lesser numbered out of 10 coming and going periodically at a dull roar. Life IS better with botox.

    Under a recent amount of high stress, I accidentally let my insurance year run out so am waiting for a new blessing to arrive on the botox injections. Until then, I am suffering at deaths door.

    I do not believe that television commercials do justice to migraineurs. These ads make us look pathetic. There we sit, in our louging outfits, back of hand to brow, peering out a curtain. There we are, leaning ever so sultrily back in a wing chair. Oh dear, the pain! What ever shall we do! We have the answer! An over-the-counter pill that will have us out there having fun with the rest of the world in minutes!

    If you want to see migraine in action, follow me as I crawl around my bathroom floor HEAVING on my hands and knees. Watch as I sit on the toilet bowl, pjs at my ankles, whist throwing up in a bucket. Visualise the ice packs I cry for as I repeatedly apply one after another as I desperately try to freeze my next and weary head. My unwashed hair pokes up like some beezlebub. My waxen skin and lips chapped from dehydration make me appear like the undead, I have now been throwing up for 17 hours … now THATS migraine.

    Where are the TV ads that show the real thing.

  12. I should write my own post on this 😉

    After 14 yrs of chronic illness (4 1/2 of CDH/migraines) you HAVE to have some sense of humor, even if it’s dark humor.

    My health has deteriorated over the last 2 years. So it’s taught me that my good friends and family are important. That my connections (internet/phone) keep me sane. I have to think outside the box when it comes to parenting.

    The little things mean so much–we’ll take a joke and run it for a week. Or I’ll pick up a new hobby even if it’s “silly” to some *role playing games on twitter is my new thing*

    I know I’m depressed. I accept it. I take meds for it. I mean who wouldn’t be? But it’s not who I am. it’s part of the package of my illness.

    It’s part fight and part acceptance and I’m somewhere in between.

  13. What I’ve learned from chronic migraines: PATIENCE. I still think I’m rather impatient (especially about getting rid of the pain), but in all other matters my patience has increased. Also, I have found that although I’m at my weakest, I have no doubt of my mental strength and my possibilities as a person. If I can get through this…I can get through anything; I can do hard things.

    How I get through the days — distraction, distraction, distraction. Blogs, reading, watching movies, crocheting. I feel the worst pain when there’s nothing to keep my mind off of it.

  14. Hi Kerrie –
    Wow. You write: “I often hear people say chronic illness has taught them to enjoy life”. I can’t even IMAGINE feeling like that.
    I have been struggling with the opposite: a nagging inner demon telling me that I don’t DESERVE to enjoy life if I’m sick.
    Kind of like as a kid, when you stayed home from school sick, you weren’t allowed to play outside that afternoon. Made sense, I guess. – Like maybe if you’re able to play, you weren’t REALLY that sick.

    So NOW, because I no longer pull my weight in society by holding down a job, (I’m on disability for migraine), I’m not allowed to have any fun. I don’t EARN it. It’s very punitive, I know, but I can’t seem to shake it. On a good day when, for instance, I can listen to music, I feel guilt and discomfort, like a big faker who ought to get off my lazy butt and get a JOB!

    I don’t know how to turn this around, but your optimism and perspective are very helpful. I need examples like you to help me see this whole thing in a healthier way. Thanks for all that you do here. -kate

  15. I think of all the things I can do instead of the things I can’t, as well as what I am grateful for. There is always going to be someone in a worse off situation than myself. I find little things that make me happy, whether it is a good book or some candy or listening to my husband tell a joke.

  16. Staying positive like this isn’t always easy for me simply due to the fact that my husband has never even had a regular headache and when our plans get messed up due to mine he gets very frustrated and angry. We have been together for 24 years so it’s better than it used to be but, still not great. I have a part time job and sometimes I am so sick with headache that I barely make it through and then he will lecture me about how if I keep this up I will probably eventually lose my job (nothing that doesn’t already worry me a lot!). I wish he could understand that I really don’t have any control over it but, I can see after all this time, that he never will. I just do my best with what I have and my best friends keep me sane and support me wholeheartedly. You are very lucky to have a husband who is so wonderful to you, never take that for granted! Someday I hope they come up with something that works for me (none of the traditional treatments do). Celexa is a lifesaver for me and keeps me from getting too depressed. I only recently started it and it has been a godsend.

  17. Thank you so much for this post. It’s so good to have you back blogging. It is folks like you who are role models for me; someone who with years of chronic migraines that have gone to CDH/migraine, I know that I too must try to keep a positive attitude-but it doesn’t come naturally to me. But I do keep up with my chores, I do manage work and I do manage my marraige and friends, even with migraine. And that keeps me going. Knowing that I can do things despite migraine has been a learning experience, it did not come naturally to me. Thank you to all the bloggers who have taught me this. Thanks Kerrie-infiniteknot (twitter)

  18. Reading your blog entry reminded me of myself and also reminded me that I, too, have found more joy in the simple parts of life because of dealing with a chronic problem and having to make other plans that somehow do end up being exactly something I would love do anyway (and actually are some of the things you do when you aren’t feeling 100%). Dealing with migraines really frustrates me and readiing your blog entries has been comforting. Thanks 🙂

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