I’m going to let you in on a secret. Migraine has been lying to us.
Truth rings clear. We know it when we hear it. Truth cuts through the noise and clutter in our minds.
We all laugh at the lighthearted jokes about Catholic guilt. I grew up in a deeply religious home with a mother who was a serious migraineur. I have to tell you to my experience, we migraineurs do guilt better than all religions combined. We try to carry the weight of our illness(es) with grace, as if we chose it. We feel it a personal affront to our integrity each time we must cancel on a friend, family member or work commitment.
These daily pains accumulate weight like a snowdrift over winter. And then, with time staring us in the face, we remember. A moment will wash over us and we will recall the hope, our unstoppable nature, the dreams that we abandoned in the blinding light of migraine’s reality.
Dealing with the disability of chronic migraine is something we rarely do. We deal with what migraine does to those around us. We worry for the inconvenience we cause when migraine strikes. But we were not built for worry. It is counterproductive to a healthy life. I have watched the effects of migraine tear at the women in my family since birth. What’s worse, watched migraine guilt eat strong women into shadows.
What if you opened your front door to find a beautifully wrapped package, with your name written clearly on an envelope. Upon opening it you would find a simple gilded crown and a letter.
I want you to know before we go any further, these migraines are not your fault. You are not broken or deficient, nor are you less capable than anyone else on this planet. In this very moment, right where you are; you are perfect.
I need you to do some very important things for me. You have been carrying the responsibility of an illness that is not yours to bear. My dear, you have been carrying the burden of your perceived limitations while others look on and stare. It is time to put these things down. Guilt is a useless emotion. It does not enrich your life, or those around you. Worry is meditating on the negative. How you spend your days is what your life becomes. I do not want your life to become one of worry and guilt. Even if you have discomfort and pain, you can have gentleness with it.
Every living creature experiences fear. It is most natural. What I need you to do is sit with the fear and with the discomfort. Let your heart (your head) ache without running. Offer yourself the compassion you ache to receive from the world. Do it over and over again.
We know it can be challenging to find understanding in those who do not suffer with migraines. What we forget is that we cannot accept what we cannot offer. In order to accept authentic compassion, we must let go of all our hangups, release all our guilt and judgement and be fully present to our own suffering. Feeling unheard comes from not accepting our story. We run around telling everyone but no one will understand. Not doctors or friends, certainly not colleges and often not even strangers. How odd, until we rest in our own truth, we cannot ask others to sit alone in it. I ask you to treat your suffering like a baby. Listen to it’s cries, rock it gently, soothe it, stay with it, give that baby food and change it. You may get frustrated by it’s cries and not know what to do, but just be there. That is enough.
What is spectacular is that this is not only an act of integration and self love but it is an act of great generosity. You are courageously telling others that they are not alone. Being present to your experience gives others the strength to tell their story, to embrace what feels broken and to experience (often for the first time) genuine compassion.
This crown is to remind you that you are nobly born. It does not serve you to hide your light any longer. Do not apologize for your existence. You are made of stars. Do what you are able and let go of the rest. My brilliant star, shine bright and know that you are loved, even in the darkest times, you are loved. I invite you to love yourself as I love you, to feel wholly heard and rest in your truth-peacefully.
You are enough and you are not alone.