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How I Cope With Chronic Daily Headaches Being My 'New Normal'

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“It’s not normal to have headaches every day.”

I know! I know it’s not. It’s not normal – not usually. And, I hope, certainly not normal for you. But that’s the thing. Whenever someone says “that’s not normal,” what I think is:

“I’m glad you don’t think so, but that’s the thing. It’s not your normal: it’s mine.”

It’s been my ‘”normal” for years now. For awhile Dad asked me every morning, “Do you have a headache today?,” and I’d gotten so used to my headaches I’d have to think for a minute, but the answer was always the same: “Yep.”

Coping mechanism: Don’t think about it.

It’s not normal. Naw, you’re wrong. It is. It’s my normal, and so, since it is, I have to learn ways around it. I have to ignore it. And if it gets really bad, you can tell. I tend to go back into my shell, turn very quiet and hope my head won’t explode – or, if it’s really bad, hope it will, and just get it over with already!

Coping mechanism: Distract yourself.

When there’s something I don’t want to think about, I tend to distract myself with other things. If I don’t, I’ll dwell on the problem, and that never helps anything. I plunge into a good book, I stick myself in my room with paper and pen (and laptop), I start watching a new show, I turn on my music or I simply start a new knitting project.

woman wearing a knit hat

Coping mechanism: Find joy.

Everyone has things they need to work on. Everyone has things they need to figure out. Everyone has troubles, and trials, and problems, and pains. This just happens to be mine.

You can find joy in anything, if you determine yourself to do so. Joy doesn’t come to you as you’re sitting on your couch eating potato chips. You have to go out there and find it. Go to an orchard and pick apples. Go on a walk with a friend. Eat a popsicle.

I was listening to a song from one of my favorite groups the other day, and these lyrics caught me: “I had a dream, but it wasn’t true; I had a faded picture of you, fearlessly happy, unfastened and free, laughing at how hard life can be.”

That just stopped me. I love that: “laughing at how hard life can be.” And I thought, that’s what I need to do! Then I listened to it again, and this stuck out and stopped me: “fearlessly happy.” I think I listened to that song about six times, just rewinding it and listening hard to the lyrics. “Fearlessly happy… laughing at how hard life can be…”

Coping mechanism: Laugh. (This goes hand-in-hand with finding joy.)

I love to laugh. But sometimes, it’s hard to laugh. That’s probably why I have such a strange sense of humor; I can find laughter in the weirdest things. But sometimes, that’s just because I have to laugh. I know if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. I hate crying. I never cry, if I can help it. So instead I grab my camera and look at old, funny pictures. Or I’ll find my favorite fun book, and read. I love finding laughter, especially where you wouldn’t expect it. Which is why I’ll just start gigging, and you won’t know why. Something will happen, and my mind twists it and turns it until it’s funny.

Coping mechanism: Keep hope.

This is the hardest one for me. After trying one thing after another for years, it gets hard. The more things we rule out, the harder it gets to hope. But whatever you do, never give in, and never, ever give up hope.

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Originally published: November 29, 2017
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