woman sitting by couch having negative feeling at the holidays
Anxiety,  Holiday,  Migraine

Overcoming Negative Feelings While Living With A Chronic Illness 

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Migraine is a liar who makes us harbor negative feelings about ourselves. Chronic illness tends to become the major focus of our lives and therefore we become so much more inwardly focused. Everyone is insecure about something, but having a chronic illness makes us insecure about our basic selves. It skews our perception of ourselves. We feel that we are not measuring up to our own expectations and therefore we cannot be good enough in the eyes of others. The worse we feel about ourselves, the  more we feel that others must feel the same about us. I often hear that we are our own worst critics. It cannot be more true when it comes to those of us living with a chronic illness. 

** While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.

Here are some negative feelings I often experience while living with a chronic illness and my suggestions on how to overcome them:

“I feel guilty.”

Feeling guilt while living with a chronic illness is one of the most common emotions we struggle with. There are so many ways to feel guilty! We may feel guilty for not spending enough time with our family, for cancelling plans with our friends, for not being able to work outside of home, not being able to do all the activities your kids want to do, or not being able to do household chores, and the list goes on! There’s no better time of the year than the holidays for the guilt to rear its ugly head. It’s the time when we all put so much pressure on ourselves. So much pressure sometimes that our bodies simply cannot handle it. 

When guilt takes over, tell yourself that this illness is out of our control. How can you feel guilty for something that you have no control over. Also remember that you are not alone. So many people struggle with the same emotion at this time of the year. Gratitude is another way to conquer guilt. Finding small ways to be grateful for will diminish that awful feeling.

“I feel badly about saying ‘no’’”

We have a lot of obligations during the holidays. It’s important to prioritize our health during this busy and stressful time of the year. One way to do that is to say ‘No’ to some obligations that may make us feel sicker. 

You do not need anyone’s permission to say “no” to anything that may add stress or take away joy from this holiday season. “No is a complete sentence,” often says our Migraine Strong creator, Eileen Zollinger. 

Whatever your reason is for the ‘no’, whether it’s fatigue, money, pain, etc, you do not owe anyone an explanation. You simply need to do what’s best for your health. 

“I am not good enough/I am not doing enough”

Being a person with a chronic illness, especially during the holidays, can leave us feeling not good enough. We often feel that we are not good enough at our job or that we are not being a good enough wife, mother, or friend. We often feel that way about things that are outside of our control. When in reality, chronic illness has taken that away from us.  

My personal way of handling this is to ask myself if I am doing the best I can under the circumstances which have been given to me. Am I doing my best now given that I am living with a chronic illness? Is it best for me to skip an extra load of laundry today knowing that it is likely to cause a flare tomorrow? Am I doing my best when I skip an event with my kids to stay home and rest? Am I doing my best when I choose to read books with my kids instead of cleaning the kitchen when I experience fatigue?

Yes, I am doing my best. And so are you. And that best is enough. Your best is enough. And you are enough. 

If fatigue is one of your symptoms, then you likely spend extra time resting. Rest is not a waste of time but instead rest is an opportunity for your body to heal. Give it the rest it deserves. 

“What if I get an attack or flare on a certain day?” 

Three years ago when I was experiencing daily migraine attacks I was too familiar with anticipatory anxiety. Whenever I experienced a pain free moment my mind would start wondering when the pain would start up again. With the upcoming holidays the anticipatory anxiety is very common. We often wonder if we will be struck with an attack over the holiday? Will we ruin our family’s holidays? That anxiety could actually trigger an attack. 

Meditation could be an effective way to reduce anticipatory anxiety about a specific event. Also, carrying your emergency kit with you in case you get an attack could reduce your anxiety. 

This blog about anticipatory anxiety has great tips to not let it hold you back from living your life.  The Dizzy Cook also has a great guest blog about anticipatory anxiety written by a  NYS licensed mental health counselor. 

“Why me?”

“There are no answers to the ‘why’ questions and a lot of times that just takes us down a rabbit hole of anger and depression.” Eileen Zollinger recently shared in our gratitude blog.  Since there are no steps forward with that question, she suggests it’s better to avoid it. 

In reality, it’s not just you. There are so many people who are living with migraine. In fact, according to American Migraine Foundation, migraine impacts over 37 million men, women, and children in the United States. 

Others Who Can Help Minimize Negative Feelings

Getting in touch with others who are fighting a similar illness as you could be instrumental to helping you heal. American Migraine Foundation has a private support group called Move Against Migraine where you can meet others with migraine. Migraine Strong also has a private Facebook group and we would be happy to have you!

“I’m a screw-up.”

It’s not uncommon for people to feel like they dropped the ball during the holiday season. Whether this occurred at work, at home, or among friends. Mistakes happens, especially during this is a busy and stressful time.

And yes, maybe this time it happened to you. Ask yourself whether this will have an impact in 1, 2, or 5 years from now? The answer is probably no. If you think it will, sleep on it and you will probably reach a different conclusion in the morning. 

Self Talk To Diffuse Negative Feelings

I love this quote by Brene Brown, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Talk to yourself like you would to a dear friend. Talk to yourself with kindness, understanding, and compassion. Do not put yourself down, even if you have made a mistake. 

“There’s nothing good about this year so I will not celebrate the holidays.”

You may very well have had a bad year. You may feel like your holidays are ruined. Before you completely erase holidays from your calendar, do consider that the holidays aren’t all about you. Consider how this may affect your loved ones/children while still keeping up with the principles above. 

Use gratitude by focusing on some moments that you are grateful for this year: a caring friend, a meal with your partner, or a drawing your child made just for you. Pause and honor these moments and allow them to bring you some comfort. 

“I am not OK.”

It’s ok to not feel positive, happy, or even okay at all times. It’s okay to not be okay if you’ve experienced loss and it’s been weighing heavy on you during the holiday season, or if you are struggling with your health. At Migraine Strong we often talk about being positive and hopeful. However, we never suggest shutting out your feelings. We recommend acknowledging them, feeling them, and then finding ways to work through them in a way to be able to move past them. If you are not feeling the holidays this year, that’s ok, there’s always next year. If you need some help, consider talking to a therapist or your primary care physician who can give you a proper referral. A therapist can help you sort out your thoughts and provide a professional look at a situation from a different perspective. 

Migraine Is A Liar

I hope that you could relate to some of these negative thoughts. All of them run through my mind often, especially during stressful times such as holidays. The inner critic, which is overpowered by our chronic illness, often whispers in our ear that we are not good enough or that we would not get better, rears its ugly head during the stressful times. Have a conversation with your inner critic. Because if you don’t and if you allow her voice to overpower yours, she will take over your mind. Migraine is a liar, but you don’t have to listen to it. 

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Overcoming Negative Feelings While Living With A Chronic Illness   

I became chronic with migraine during my two pregnancies in 2014 and 2016. By the end of my second pregnancy I was experiencing daily migraine symptoms and attacks. I was home bound with the exception of going to doctor appointments. My migraine disease was complicated by the medication overuse headaches. I took control back by stopping all my abortive medications and following the Heal Your Headache and then Charleston Neuroscience diets. That together with the Migraine Strong Treatment Pie, which includes preventive medications, meditating, and supplements, helped me go from chronic to episodic. I was able to return to living an active and fulfilling life with my children and husband and working as a lawyer while my children are in school.

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