In September Jan shared her migraine story with the3rdimagazine. Here are her further thoughts on living with the condition.
Last week, I did something I’ve never done before. I gave myself just four days before the deadline to write this article.
Four days to think-up, draft, tear-up and re-write. For the first time ever. It never crossed my mind to do otherwise. Now, you may be reading this thinking, “So what? Four days is stacks of time. What’s your problem?”
Migraine. If you have migraine you know exactly what I mean. Get migraines, and you become a super-planner. Maybe it’s a clutching-at-straws upside to migraines, but you develop great time management skills. Because you need them.
Because if migraine strikes everything can get thrown out the window.
It’s five months since my last migraine attack. And, I’ve left behind the anxiety of migraine. Even after having migraines for 30 years. I can tell you it’s a wonderful place to be.
Then. Yes. I had a migraine attack. I’m at a crossroads.
Go one way and choose beating myself up. Go the other and choose acceptance.
Acceptance. It’s a pretty loaded word. Hear it and what comes to mind? Give up. Accept your lot in life. Weakness. Failure. Not so long ago that was my response.
But now I’ve changed my way of thinking. And my way of feeling. It’s a change I’ve made consciously. It hasn’t been plain sailing.
Like all new learning, it takes time and practice. The step change came when I saw acceptance not as giving up but as acknowledgement. This is what I’ve learnt.
1) Acknowledge Every Baby Step of Progress You Make
In our all too often crazy goal-driven society you can find yourself forever rushing forward. Do this and you end up chasing an ever diminishing point of ‘perfection’. You forget just how far you’ve come.
Now, I’m learning to look at me and my migraines objectively. As a neutral observer. So, I had a migraine attack. What were the ups? Well, it was the first crawl away into bed migraine for five months. For me, that’s a huge improvement.
And OK, it knocked me out of action but my symptoms were much less. Painful rather than excruciating. I only threw up once. Hallelujah.
That is all good stuff and worth celebrating.
Learn to pause reflect and acknowledge. And, above all else celebrate how far you’ve come.
2) Give Yourself Permission to Let Go
I used to tie myself in knots. How to say I was unwell without mentioning the dreaded word migraine. Exhausting. Plus, then had to pretend I had no crappy post-migraine effects.
Most people don’t know about post-migraine effects. The pain, nausea, aura has gone. Yet there is the tiredness. The jet-lag time lapse feeling. The struggle to speak fluently as the words get stuck in your brain. Friends and family tend to think that after having ‘spent the day in bed’, you should be rested and right as rain. Hmm.
Giving myself permission to let go of the guilt means I can speak truthfully. And that means no more hiding, no more pretending. What freedom that is.
3) Compassionate Curiosity
When you have a thought there is a corresponding physical response. Simply think of walking, for example, and the brain neurons that activate your leg muscles fire up too. Experience an emotion and the same is true. There is a physical response.
When I concentrate really hard, I clench my jaw. I have no need to clench my jaw. It doesn’t help me think better. Yet, it happens. The same goes for when I feel stressed or anxious. My jaws clamp together. For me that’s a problem. Because referred pain from my jaw muscles are a factor in my migraines.
By developing my body awareness, I’m able to recognise and swap this unhelpful behaviour pattern. The real knack though is doing this with a sense of compassionate curiosity.
Compassionate curiosity means you avoid falling into the trap of the self-critical evil head monkeys. The ones that whine, “You’re doing that wrong. Again”. That way you can well and truly kick those monkeys into touch.
“Jan Southern is a Myofascial Therapist based in Edinburgh. She specialises in helping people who are stuck with migraine because other treatments simply haven’t worked for them. Her pioneering body-mind programme integrates physical therapy with techniques that permit conscious access of the powerful subconscious mind. With this approach, Jan equips her clients with the fundamental skills they need to support and sustain their move away from persistent pain.”