How do I keep going?
That is the question I ask myself every single day. When I wake up each morning, my first thought is how I’ll get through the day ahead. If there isn’t some purpose to my day — something to work toward or look forward to — I risk falling into a depressive episode or becoming riddled with anxiety.
In the past, I would allow myself to succumb to the pain and misery of chronic migraine. The weight of my depression was impossible to lift. I had no direction and wanted nothing to do with life’s responsibilities.
This was neither healthy nor helpful; I knew I needed a change of perspective. Over time, I gradually started to change my outlook on living with chronic migraine. Developing new coping skills became my number one goal, and I worked hard at practicing them.
Migraine can sap your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Facing these challenges every day is hard, but over the years I’ve learned newer, healthier ways to manage them. Here’s what keeps me going.
I could not get through each day without my family. Having the support, compassion, and love of my husband and children sustains me. Their presence in my life provides meaning and purpose; I want to be my best for them, which means I have to take care of myself.
They motivate me to put myself first and take care of my own needs — something I neglected to do in the past. So, I take inventory of where I am mentally and physically and move throughout my day in a way where I stay as healthy as I can. When I show up for myself, I can show up for my family in the ways they need me to.
A sense of purpose
For a long time, I believed that I would not be able to live a fulfilled life because of chronic migraine. Daily pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment make it impossible for me to work. Not being able to pursue a career impacted how I saw and valued myself.
Feeling like a burden to my family and being incapable of contributing financially made me feel useless. All I had was my writing and my blog, but they didn’t generate income. At the same time, sharing my story and providing support to others was an important part of my coping process, and I kept at it because it gave my pain a purpose.
Eventually, I started to get small jobs reviewing products and creating sponsored posts. Then came paid writing contracts. Soon, I was being invited to participate in patient- advocacy events and discussion panels to speak about my pain journey.
I never expected chronic migraine to bring me to this place. I’ve been able to pursue something meaningful and better realize my value and am so proud of how far I have come.
Keeping a routine helps me stay out of my head. If I am stagnant, negative thoughts run amok. Even if I’m having a bad pain day, I try to do my normal morning routine anyway.
Staying on track prevents me from sitting in a funk. Unless the pain has me bedridden, I always do the same thing every morning. Even if I don’t accomplish anything else, I feel good about sticking to my routine.
My memory is not what it used to be. I forget things a lot. Being forgetful is a challenge for many of us living with migraine. My weeks are filled with due dates, appointments, travel dates, and scheduled calls. If I do not write them down, I will not remember them all!
The calendar and reminder apps on my smartphone help keep me aware of upcoming events and assignment due dates. They take the burden off of trying to keep track of everything all at once.
I love lists! My anxiety sometimes makes even the smallest task feel like climbing a mountain. If I am not organized, the anxiety takes over, and I’m rendered useless.
Keeping running lists not only helps me keep track of things, but it also provides a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I cross something off the list. Whether it’s a list for groceries, packing for a trip or what I plan to do for the day, my life is easier for it.
Learning how to quiet my mind and body has been a valuable and useful skill in managing not only migraine, but depression and anxiety as well. Whenever pain or my emotions become too much for me, I can turn on a meditation and help guide my body and mind’s response to a more positive and comfortable one.
Sometimes, just sitting quietly and listening to serene music and gentle gongs is enough to improve my mood and lower my pain level.
For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
MIG-US-NP-00125 APRIL 2019