When Tomorrow Looks Bleak Don’t Lose Hope
One of the biggest challenges we face in living with chronic pain, is fighting the “committee in our head” which tends to tell us all sorts of negative and, frequently, unhelpful things. Not that our thoughts are necessarily wrong, after all migraine and chronic pain are debilitating, discouraging, and fear-creating, BUT… ironically, the more we listen to the negative the harder it is to be strong, to persevere, and to keep on fighting. Hearing, “You can do this!” simply sounds unbelievable all too often – but really… you CAN do this! I know from my own experience not only with chronic intractable migraine, but also a whole rabble of other pain conditions, that losing hope or dreading the future is not in my best interest. “But what is our alternative?” I hear you say. “How do I face tomorrow when the future looks bleak and I don’t even know if I will be able to get out of bed?”
Honestly, there’s no great answer to that. However, here are some ideas that I know SOMETIMES work for me, and realistically, it seems as though “sometimes” is the best many of us are going to get, so let’s grasp that with both hands! I like to look at it as a toolbox. The more tools I have in the box then the better chance of finding SOMETHING that may help at any given time. These are some of the “tools” I have figured out for myself particularly over the past few years:
- Migraine Kit : I have one of these easily accessible and everywhere I go. There’s the whole megillah in a bag on my bedside table, a mini “rescue” kit in my tiny handbag, another little stuffed into my car’s glove compartment, a ziplock bag of everything I could possibly need for travelling kept in my suitcase (who needs the last minute panic of forgetting something?!), and drawers full of backup meds and OTC treatments for any given situation. Making this accessible, organized, and in multiple places has helped reduce my stress about being caught unawares.
- Friends/Support : Support is SUCH an essential element of managing our disease and honestly, I wish I had discovered the phenomenal online community way before I did. So many of us have little to no “in person” support through our friends and family (although if you do, then KUDOS to them for being there for you). However, the online migraine and chronic pain community really is fabulous. It’s supportive, inspirational, encouraging, & informational. There are folks who will laugh with you, cry with you, send you hugs, and who just “get” you! I’ve made some fabulous friends this way, some of whom will call when I go AWOL for extended periods of time, others who message me, and still others who are super encouraging to me saying that I’m encouraging them to keep going. If you’re not already reaching out to someone online, please do.
- Being Kind to Myself : This can be really hard. Many of us have that lingering tendency to think that resting is a waste of time and we are burdened with guilt. I’m very stubborn so learning to be kind to myself has taken a super long time, but hey… better late than never! What this means to you may be very different but here are some of the things that help when I’m not feeling good: staying in bed/on the couch watching Hallmark movies, zoning out doing a jigsaw puzzle, expressing my feelings in drawing/writing/painting, doing puzzles on my phone, reading novels that distract from the pain, taking a long (& I mean LONG) bubble bath with magazine or novel in hand, living in a variety of soft comfy pjs or leggings, sleeping all day, occasionally binging on comfort food, & so the list goes on!
- Learning to Say ‘No’ : Possibly the toughest of all, and not always black and white. Sometimes I say yes to something for my own mental health even though there’s a good chance there will be physical ramifications. Discovering the things that are “like chicken soup for my soul” has been transformative, as has learning to plan for the possible pain afterwards. However, learning to say “no” to the things that are not helpful, and are not or should not be priorities, has also been essential to learn and makes a world of difference! When we have so little control, these things can be incredibly empowering. And that’s good!
- Finding Value & Purpose : Yes, you are living a life that you did not ask for, want, or cause; a life that most people cannot even begin to imagine. Your dreams may had some major adjustments or possibly completely dashed, but… there is still VALUE and PURPOSE in your life. Discovering this can be a huge source of strength. Learn to put your pain to purpose, even if that is just relating to others who are struggling. In being a migraine patient advocate I’ve discovered not only the huge need to reach out to others, but also that in doing that I’m being helped. I’ve found value and purpose in my life again and SO CAN YOU!
- And Finally… Never Giving Up : Maybe some of you are thinking that it goes without saying. However, there enough posts and comments from people with chronic pain to know that the desire to give up is all too real. When the physical pain becomes harshly unrelenting it’s easy to get overwhelmed by fear, hopelessness, anxiety and depression. Holding on to hope is CRUCIAL! Learn to be gracious to yourself when you’re in a bad place, focus on your “toolbox” to help you rest and recover, then pick yourself up and try again. Maybe there’s something you haven’t tried yet or there’s something in the clinical pipeline that could possibly help. Find a doctor who will work with you, even if that means being a “squeaky wheel.” Attend the free online annual Migraine World Summit , watch the American Migraine Foundation’s live Facebook chats, join a migraine group , continually update what you know about migraine in this rapidly changing area of new research. In short, become your own best advocate!
Whatever the ways are that you find strength, you CAN do this. Your life has purpose still. You have value. You are not alone and we can draw strength by standing together or simply by stretching out a hand to another when they are unable to stand.
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