Saturday, June 6, 2020

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 7: 7 Things I’ve Learned From Living With Chronic Pain

June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month, and since headaches and migraines have had such an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, its a pretty important subject for me, and something I have done an extensive amount of research on. I have officially been dealing with them for half my life, and truly cannot imagine a headache/migraine free life. If you're interested, you can find my story my following the posts below.

My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 1: In the Beginning
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 2: Welcome to the Real World
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 3: No Stress Like Teacher Stress
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 4: New State, Same Headaches
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 5: Finding My Happy and Living in the Now
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 6: the Injections


Because there is so much unknown about migraines, their causes, and their relief, I've found the best info I've gotten has been anecdotal from people who experience them IRL. Doctors can help, but since their is no real conclusive research, there is only so much they can do. Additionally, like any chronic pain, unless you've been there, its hard to understand. It is nice to hear from others who are in a similar boat, trying to navigate through the same storm. Invisible pain is a struggle to live with, but it has taught me a lot!! The following is a list of seven things (in no particular order) I've learned from living with chronic pain....

1. Don't procrastinate. Seriously.

You never know when a flare up will hit, or how long it will last. It is an awful feeling when you know you have things that need to be done but you’re in too much pain to even uncurl out of the ball you’ve wrapped yourself into. 

2. Make sure you have a solid support system.

The thing about chronic pain is that it leads to issues with your mental health. It is so easy to fall into depression and not be able to turn off the anxiety. You’re always wondering when the next episode will occur, how long it will last, how bad will it be, what events or other fun (or important) things will you have to miss out on because of’s so important to have people in your corner willing to help you out when you physically cannot help yourself.

3. Always be prepared.

Whatever medications or other physical coping mechanisms you may POSSIBLY need- be sure to always have them. Always. There is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere in the middle of an episode and have no escape from it because all your tools and relief are at home.

4. What works for some people, may not work for you.

I'm not the only one in the world who gets headaches or migraines, obviously, so I am always looking for remedies that others have used.  Unfortunately, that doesn't always work.  I've got a closet full of essential oils and natural remedies, massagers, heating pads, and every prescription under the sun. I'm willing to try just about anything; unfortunately, I have yet to find a suggestion that has consistently worked. HOWEVER, getting suggestions from people who have been there is always helpful, and even though some things may not work, or may only work for a short time, the sharing is always appreciated!

5. If you feel okay enough to do fun things, do them.

(Thought I am posting this in June, I wrote the little blurb for this one back in January) I write this as I’m sitting here on day 6 of consecutive headaches and migraines. I went to work crying this morning, and those who know me know that I’m not a crier unless things are really bad. I bawled through my whole last-minute doctor appointment, because I was in so much pain, and terrified that I was back where I was two years ago, in a slump of never ending pain. But, rewind...on day 2 of this mess, I went to a concert. On day 3, I was out with friends. Day 5, to a Predators game. Did I feel 100% on any of these days? Absolutely not. But I felt okay enough to go. Chronic pain has taken so much from me, that I stop letting it take away my fun on days that I don’t absolutely have to. You learn to power through and live with the pain when possible.

6. If you travel frequently, make sure your prescriptions are at an accessible pharmacy

I send my prescriptions to Walgreens. Its nice because there are Walgreens EVERYWHERE. When I visit MN, I can easily send my prescriptions up there if I forget to pack them.  When we went to the beach last summer, I was able to refill in Gulf Shores when I unexpectedly started to run low. This eliminates A LOT of stress.

7. Slow down and appreciate the little things.

This is hands down the most important thing I have learned. Life is not a race, and the faster you move through it, the more you miss. Take the time to appreciate the little things you take for granted, it makes it easier to appreciate things on the days you feel like life isn't worth the pain.

It has taken some serious time to get to the point that I am at now, but I would go as far as to say that I am one of the happiest people that I know, and I credit most of that to dealing with chronic pain. The smallest, tiniest things excite me because I know how sucky life can be if you let it, and now that I have the control to stop letting it, I've done just that.

After I got through the worst year of it, I had a nice long chat with myself, I said, "Gretchen. Let go of what you can't control, and stop being so worried about the things you can." I just like that, I did, and I'm so much better for it. Migraines suck. Chronic pain sucks. I would love to give them up for good (and believe me, I am trying!), but I wouldn't be the person I am now without them.

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