When I ruled the world
Do you remember what it life was like before your first migraine? I hear stories from many patients who continue to mourn the loss of that life even after decades of living with migraine. Others, like me, have never known life without migraine. Even they mourn the loss of what could have been. It can be so easy to get lost in our own pain, losing sight of all that is possible.
The grief process is difficult enough when faced with a single loss. When losses pile up day after day, the strategies we use to cope with the death of a loved one don’t work as well. A different set of coping strategies are needed when loss never really stops. There’s nothing healthy about living a life focused on what you were once able to do but never can again. Somehow, we must find a way to process our grief so that it does not destroy what life we still have.
Mental health experts tell us that while there is no timetable for healthy mourning, people who continue to struggle for more than 6 months should consult a therapist or counselor for help in dealing with their grief. It’s called Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder and can progress into a lifetime of destructive thinking that is filtered through a lens of loss. Patients who experience complex grief may spend an excessive amount of time thinking about what is lost, longing for its return, and put life on hold while waiting for their wish to be fulfilled.
I understand the need to occasionally wallow in self-pity when faced with a bad setback. We need to acknowledge and feel that loss before we can move on. It’s getting stuck that’s the problem. I am currently going through a difficult time with both Migraine and Cluster Headache — having not had a pain-free day in over a week. When it comes to actually getting stuff done, I’m pretty useless. Laundry and dishes have piled up. My family is living on take-out, frozen dinners, and PB&J sandwiches. I’m doing the best that I can with the situation. To be honest, I’ve had fears that my current treatment is starting to fail. The idea of returning to both Chronic Migraine and Chronic Cluster Headache is depressing and frightening. It would be so easy to just curl up and embrace the hopelessness.
Despite the very real concerns, I choose differently. The only way to get better is to take assertive, proactive action. The actual steps are different for each of us, so it’s pointless for me to describe my return path to wellness. What really matters is that I made a choice to do something about the problem.
Are you stuck in a pattern of helplessness? Do you feel angry about the loss of your pre-migraine self? Don’t put off doing something about it before it becomes a lifelong pattern. Does the idea of talking to a therapist trigger concerns that your migraine experience won’t be taken seriously? When looking for a counselor, ask for a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist who is trained in behavioral pain management. These professionals are specially trained to treat real patients with real pain. If you’re not sure how to get started, visit this page for some excellent resources.
Today’s post was inspired by “Viva la Vida/When I Ruled the World” by Cold Play.