Suffering is optional

I’m bound to get some blow-back just from the title of this article. So let’s start by acknowledging the truth. There is a lot of suffering in this world. Horrible, unthinkable things happen every day to people just like you and me.

For the sake of this article, let’s follow that up with a few vocabulary words. Language is meaningless if we don’t understand one another. Sharing the same definition for a word can be the difference between war and peace.

Suffering

Feelings of despair, helplessness, hopelessness, etc. These emotions drag us down and often occur when we perceive that we have been abandoned — either for real or imagined. We want to give up. We look for someone to rescue us.

Coping

A set of behavior and states of mind that focus on preparation for problems and work to discover ways to deal with circumstances beyond one’s control. This is not an emotion, but a mindset. Coping is learning what to expect and how to deal with it.

Suffering = emotions

Coping = thoughts, behaviors

All migraineurs have experienced suffering, but not all experience coping. If you’ve never been given the tools to cope with the uncontrollable, then you will experience suffering. Victims experience suffering. In the middle of an uncontrolled migraine, unable to access effective treatments, and surrounded by people who don’t understand, anyone experiences suffering and feels like a victim. A victim is desperate to be rescue, delivered from her suffering. A victim might say, “You just don’t understand what it’s like. I’m in agony here,” and she would be right.

Now here comes the part where I’m likely to make a few enemies.

Do you realize that being a victim is a choice?

I can hear the protests now…

I can’t find a good doctor.

I don’t have health insurance.

I can’t afford my medication.

Nothing is working.

My doctors gave up on me.

All of that is true. I have made each of those statements many times. The truth of the problem isn’t an excuse to wallow in suffering as a victim. You do have an option. Every circumstance, no matter how terrible, gives us the opportunity to choose. There are countless stories of people who experienced horrible situations and refused to become victims. They took charge of what they could, no matter how dire the circumstances. Will we be victims or will we learn to cope?

Let’s face it. Migraines will happen. We all have a choice, even when the attack is so bad that we can’t lift our head off the pillow. We can choose to suffer or we can choose to cope. It may not change the pain or the duration of an attack, but it will change how we see ourselves.

The next time you have an attack, ask yourself, “What can I do?” Resist the urge to scream, “NOTHING!” and just think. Take a deep breath and think for a moment. Even if all you can do is lay there and breathe, you do have a choice to hold your breath, take deep breaths, hyperventilate, breathe through your nose or through your mouth. Are you understanding this? The way you breath can reduce or worsen your pain. Notice what impact your choices have on your pain. Pay attention to the power you have. There is strength there.

Breathing isn’t your only option. It’s just an example of what you can do when you think you are a helpless victim.

Before you close that window or click the Back button in disgust, thinking I’ve lost my mind, remember this: I’m a migraineur, too. I’ve been broke, uninsured, abandoned by family, friends, and doctors. I know the desperation this disease can cause. I’m not trying to tell you I’ve always been able to resist the urge to choose to be a vicitm. All I’m trying to share is that we all have a choice. We have more power within us than we realize. When we take that small step to refuse to be a victim, we find our power.

Migraineurs are some of the most powerful, resilient people I know. If you haven’t found your power yet, reach out to those who have. Refuse to be a victim. Suffering IS a choice!

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