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?