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photo by Cristina Warseck

I tried everything and nothing worked.

I frequently hear this statement in my practice, whether my patients are dealing with depression, allergies or chronic pain. Many of us come to this conclusion when we try a treatment (or many, many treatments) or a lifestyle change in order to address a health condition and we don’t get complete resolution.

In my experience with migraine disease, I too tried everything and nothing worked to eliminate them. I felt depressed, hopeless and overwhelmed. I felt like a failure because my body didn’t respond to treatments and I was anxious that I would live the rest of my life with chronic pain.

But then I started to question this statement and I realized that this wasn’t exactly true.

Although I wasn’t cured of the migraine disease, many of these treatments and lifestyle changes actually did work. Just not in the way I wanted them to.

I felt overall healthier from changing my diet. I felt stronger from exercise and I felt less stressed due to my yoga practice. Getting regular acupuncture treatments lifted my mood and kept my neck in alignment which decreased the frequency of my migraine episodes.

I also made a huge shift in my thinking. I asked myself, “How can I live a healthy, whole life even with my migraine disease?” I stopped fighting myself and blaming my broken body. I stopped despairing at my genetics that made me prone to migraines.

I came to acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that I gave up on myself. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t going to try to explore ways to help myself. Acceptance meant that I was going to focus on all the things that were lovely and good about my life even if I had migraine episodes for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t easy and I had support from my therapist. There was grief along the way. As I shifted my perspective and wasn’t so hard on myself, my migraine episodes actually started to lessen.

Now when I try new treatments or approaches, I look for all the ways that it is actually helping. I also reflect on what I learn from each approach I try, even if all I learn is that it’s not the right treatment for me. It’s actually good to know.

And as for my life, I have learned to make choices that promote my overall health and happiness.

It’s challenging still to feel acceptance when I am bed-ridden in a dark room with a migraine (although this rarely happens now). In those moments, I remind myself that this migraine is just a small part of me. And that even though I experience this migraine disease, I have so much good to offer the world. I make healthy choices because I want to enjoy every great day I have on this earth. 

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