Living with migraine may require a new definition of healthy. We may spend endless hours managing migraine disease. Keeping it all straight may start to feel like a full time job. It’s easy to get so lost in migraine management that we forget how to be healthy.
• The goal is more healthy days.
Every appointment, treatment, and lifestyle change are all for one purpose. We’re pursuing the dream of more healthy days. So when a healthy day presents itself, how do we remember what to do without sacrificing all the hard work that created it? If it’s been awhile since having a healthy day, we might not recognize the signs at first. Even if we do notice, we might be skeptical. After all, these days don’t last, so there’s no point getting too excited about a single day. When a treatment does start to work and the healthy days begin to add up, our approach can change.
• Healthy days don’t happen by accident.
They take work. Medical treatments can help, but I have work to do as well. I must maintain good sleep hygiene, stay hydrated, eat regular healthy meals, and manage my expectations if I am going to have more healthy days. My treatments, while effective, don’t replace a migraine-friendly lifestyle. When I first became chronic in 1999 I fought hard to regain what I thought I had lost. Yet I didn’t start to improve until I had a complete change of perspective. I thought, “What if I treated myself as though I were facing a serious, life-threatening illness?”
I laugh every time I think about it. After 25 years of migraine, I still didn’t think of it a “serious”, “chronic”, “incurable”, or any other adjective I now associate with Migraine. It was a nuisance, an interruption, an annoyance. I needed a new definition of healthy. I was almost 40 before I heard migraine referred to as a neurological disorder or understood that migraine is a disorder that is always present, even between headache attacks. Yet I committed to living the lifestyle of a sick person in the healthiest way possible. In addition to regular medical treatment, I ate wholesome foods, drank plenty of water, maintained healthy sleep habits, learned yoga, got regular massages, and acupuncture treatments. I treated my body kindly and cut myself slack on bad days. That’s a new definition of healthy.
It wasn’t easy to maintain long-term because no one else saw migraine as a good enough reason to make such drastic lifestyle choices. Even my own supportive family did not really understand. Without accountability to support my instincts, gradually these healthy habits disappeared. It took about 10 years to stumble upon evidence that my instincts were right. Armed with scientific evidence to support my earlier choices, I renewed old habits. This time that new definition of healthy stuck. My closest supporters began to understand why the changes were necessary and encouraged me to keep going. Gradually I have learned new definition of healthy, with limits.
• Limits protect our new definition of healthy.
That first migraine attack after a long break is usually met with resistance, sometimes even denial. I don’t want it to return. Healthy Me still has plans. There is still so much I want to experience. I’m not ready to be Migraine Me again. Yet migraine returns. With it, I return to a more cautious and measured outlook. It’s not like I’ve given up trying. It’s just that I am reminded I don’t get to live a carefree life. Please don’t misunderstand. Life with migraine is still happy and fulfilled. It’s just different than I planned. When I get a long break, I start to think that my old dreams might still be possible. Sometimes I forget that I still have Migraine. I let my guard down and dare to behave as though migraine isn’t coming back. I forget there’s a new definition of healthy.
• Acceptance is the key.
Accept that migraine is a serious medical condition.
Commit to permanent lifestyle changes.
Communicate our limits and needs to others.
Engage with our healthcare providers.
Have Patience when symptoms interfere with plans.
Teach ourselves and others about migraine.
Acknowledge that migraine impacts our loved ones, too.
Create New ways of thinking and behaving.
Change our definition of success.
Strive for Excellence, not perfection.