The Therapy That Helped Me Stop Labeling Chronic Migraine Days as 'Good' or 'Bad'
For a long time I labeled my day as “good” or “bad” based on how severe my migraine pain was. I remember thinking, “How could I call a day ‘good’ when it started with four hours in bed and horrible pain?” Then I’d think, “If I had a good day but the evening ended poorly, that whole day would obviously have to be labeled as ‘bad.’”
One of the most challenging aspects of living with chronic illness has been to accept the reality of variable symptoms on good days and bad days. I have since learned to stop viewing chronic illness as something I must heal from completely in order to really be living my life. I’ve also shifted my mindset about coping with chronic illness by no longer putting a label on days, whether good or bad. I now accept most of my days have some good and bad moments in them. Some days the good moments outweigh the bad ones, and other days I have to really look closely for the good sprinkled in between the shitty. But the best part about shifting my perspective has been the more I look for good moments, the more I am able to see them.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “Where your attention goes, energy flows.”As cliché as it might sound, it’s so real for me. Being mindful about noticing good moments has made an immeasurable impact on my day-to-day life. It can be exhausting to constantly be tallying up my good and bad days. It’s also downright depressing when the bad days pile up, heavily outweighing the good.
Letting go of day labeling has also allowed surrender to come more easily. I show up more fully for each sunset I get to watch, each warm cup of coffee I sip outside and for each opportunity I have to move my body in ways that feel good…like stretching or walking. I am also able to let go of the bad moments more easily. It doesn’t mean they aren’t difficult to deal with, and sometimes my emotions are so strong it feels like the bad moments are winning. But surrendering to these feelings, even temporarily, generally allows me to move through it more quickly.
I have worked hard on developing coping tools for my chronic illness, and one of my favorite resources for shifting my mindset has been Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. (This is the workbook I used.) I worked with my chronic pain psychologist on ACT several years ago and I continue to use it today.
ACT is all about committing to accepting each day as it is, and myself exactly the way I am. But at the same time believing and hoping I can and will work toward wellness. For a long time, this idea seemed truly impossible to me and I really resisted it.
“So you want me to just be OK with feeling terrible and not attached to getting better, but continue to be hopeful and optimistic…umm, what…?”
However, the more time I spent with these ideas, the more I understood how I could incorporate them into my life. I think ACT works differently for each person, but for me learning to accept the basic premise has given me a way to find peace and has allowed me to let go of some of the attachment I used to have to the labels of “good and bad days.”
So here’s to hoping your day has at the very least, a few very good moments.
Do you search for good moments while dealing with chronic migraine? Tell us in the comments below.
A version of this story originally appeared on mindfulmigraine.org.
Photo submitted by contributor.