No more fatal flaws

whiteme_1The past couple of days I’ve been struggling to focus and get my work done. I have a to-do list that’s quite long, commitments that I’ve made to things that need to get done this weekend. And as the hours have passed and not much has gotten done I’ve felt this vague sense of shame about it. I don’t do negative self-talk, really — the words in my head tend to be more free-flowing and random — but I do negative self-feelings. I sink into familiar feelings of shame, that go back to when I was a kid and I couldn’t explain what I was experiencing physically. “I don’t feel good,” was all I had, and I don’t remember exactly where the message came from, but somehow I internalized it: “You’re fine, get over it, do what you’re supposed to do.”

Even more than that, I somehow got the message that if I didn’t feel good it was somehow my fault. I can’t really explain it. Maybe it was because my mom was really into health food and vitamins, and I sometimes balked at the orange juice with brewer’s yeast or carob bars instead of chocolate. Maybe I felt bad for sneaking candy (successfully) or those bright orange cheese puffs (unsuccessfully — kids, pro-tip, wash your hands and face after) at parties. But somehow I grew up thinking that the headaches, nausea, fatigue, light-sensitivity, sound sensitivity, inability to focus, overeating — all the strange migrainey symptoms that could come in any combination, often without the tell-tale headache — that they weren’t really real, or a good enough reason to go home (oh what I would have given for an ailment that showed up on the thermometer at the nurse’s office!), and that if I was just a better kid I wouldn’t feel so yucky anyway. No one ever told me that, I don’t think. I just put together the pieces weirdly. And that feeling continued into adulthood, the sense of shame whenever a migraine came on.

I’ve done a lot of work on that. But it’s amazing how, even after years of migraines and years of working through exactly this issue, it still takes me hours and hours to frame days like today as, “I have a bad migraine,” rather than, “I’m being so lazy and unfocused today, what’s wrong with me?”

Does anyone else struggle with this feeling? I’m going to speak some truths to myself today, and you can listen along:

You have a bad migraine today.

You have a lot that needs to get done, but you might not be able to get it all done, because YOU HAVE A BAD MIGRAINE TODAY.

You are not making excuses, that’s just how it is.

You didn’t do anything wrong; you didn’t make yourself have a migraine. You just have one.

You are doing the best that you can.

You are trying really hard.

Your body is telling you that you need to rest.

It’s okay. Rest.

You’re not lazy. You’re ill.

Or, maybe you’re exhausted, worn down, over-stressed.

Life can be insanely stressful, you know. Not because you’re doing it wrong, just because it is.

You are not lazy. You do not have a fatal flaw of laziness, or spaciness, or excuse-making.

You work so hard. You try SO hard.

Having a chronic illness is hard enough without blaming yourself for it.

Having a chronic illness is hard enough without misdiagnosing yourself.

You have a bad migraine today.

That’s all.



Stay tuned Monday for an exciting book review and give-away! Unless I can’t get it done, because I have a bad migraine. But I’m going to try.

Be still


My migraines manifest in many different ways: Nausea, dizziness, derealization, light or sound sensitivity, neck and shoulder cramps, a throbbing ache in the back or front of my head, or a sharp pain on the side. Yesterday and today it has been one of the more “typical” migraine manifestations, the sharp, pulsing pain on one side of the head that gave migraine — Greek ἡμικρανία, hemicrania or “half head” — its name. I came across this painting several years ago on a website called deviantArt. It’s actually titled Depression, but to me it’s exactly how this type of migraine feels.

The other kinds I can mostly muddle through, but this type I need to just give in to, lie down in the dark and whimper till it’s over. Yesterday I didn’t give in — went for a walk and then to a babysitting gig, and the punishment was brutal. Driving home was the worst — I had to fight the urge to close my eyes against the pain, especially at intersections where there were lights. I learned this lesson years ago, but apparently have to keep relearning it: I can’t keep pushing myself. One of the weirdest psychological aspects of migraines, for me, though, is that I blame myself for them, and I feel that I’m being lazy by giving in to them.

Yesterday’s bad migraine was probably triggered by me pushing myself through a yoga video the night before, even though my body was telling me that I was too tired and needed to rest. My friend asked me why I pushed and I said that I just hated to not finish something once I’d started. It’s true. I want to be a finisher, to be strong, to be able to push through pain and laziness. This wouldn’t be a bad quality, I think, if it weren’t for the migraines. It would get me far in life, I think. But the migraines limit me and force me toward wisdom rather than strength. Toward quiet rather than striving. It’s frustrating, but I think it also gets to a deeper truth. We are not all-powerful. Even if I didn’t have migraines, even if I could push my body further, be leaner, run marathons, whatever the apex of physical strength is…Wouldn’t that just obscure the fact of my mortality, my ultimate frailty?

And, too, wouldn’t it make it harder to hear the still small voice calling me to be still? Are the migraines ultimately the voice of God, speaking, in a different way, the words of Psalm 46?

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.


In the pain of the migraine, there can be no striving, no accomplishing. All I can do is lie still and wait.