Have you ever wondered if there was some greater meaning to why you suffer from migraines, or have you found ways to reframe your suffering in such a way that you were able to make something positive out of it? What have your migraines taught you? What are your migraines trying to tell you about your life and how it needs to change?
While there may be no inherent meaning to migraines or suffering, it’s also true that some people recognize a spiritual aspect to healing from sickness, or eventually learn to listen to the messages of their body and see their pain as a prompt to change their life.
Being able to find meaning in suffering – even if that meaning is just something we create – allows us to transform it. In transforming our lives for the better, we learn our inner strength and our self-healing ability – our capacity to make a beautiful life despite incredible odds, and to not give up on our quest for wellness.
This is another way of saying that illness can actually manifest health – eventually even a healthier life than you were living before chronic migraines, if my own journey is any indication of what’s possible.
If you let it, if you choose it, getting sick can be a blessing in disguise. I know this may sound ridiculous to some people given how excruciating and scary chronic migraine can be, but what are the alternatives?
Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” developed a form of psychotherpay called logotherapy. He makes the statement that “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose,” and “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
For someone suffering excruciating pain, this statement seems naive. Yet Viktor Frankl’s insights were acquired through firsthand experience in perhaps the most unbearable circumstance imaginable: as a prisoner in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life.”
“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”
Welcoming the Wake-up Call
We all have challenging life circumstantances that make healing migraine harder. Motherhood would be a good case in point. I’ve written about migraine and motherhood in this three part blog post. As much as we would like it to be true, healing migraine is not just about finding the right supplement or medication.
Through coaching those with migraine I’ve seen that many with migraine are compassionate givers who are very driven. They are usually people pleasers – ie, they want very hard to do the right thing, may be very hard on themselves or perfectionistic, and have difficulty prioritizing themselves and slowing down. So if the characteristics of my clients and myself are any reflection of tendencies that many migraineurs have, I think that sharing what I’ve learned in this journey will probably resonate with you too.
It’s sobering to look at the list of changes migraine has prompted me to make in my life, because I was privileged to be raised in a progressive family, well educated, with good role models for self-esteem and healthy boundaries.
Pharmaceutical medications, a c-section operation, the stresses of motherhood, constant traveling, dislocation from place, community, and family, and chronic migraines reduced me to a shadow of my former self. Chronic illness is a form of identity crisis. Re-emerging from that mess required a lot of strength and soul-searching. And I realized that many of the values that I said I believed in, or consciously believed, I didn’t really enact because subsconsciously, I didn’t believe them. My journey with migraines brought these faulty subsconscious operating systems out of the woodwork for me to heal.
Thanks to migraines, I now know better how to:
#1) Give myself permission.
There was a phase of my healing journey where I was doing daily enemas to heal a parasite infection. It was a truly humbling time. But the upside was that I got to close myself off in the bathroom and take a much-needed break from the chaos of raising little kids while managing chronic illness. Without any community or nearby family support other than my husband, retreating to the bathroom for my daily enema was one of the only times in the day where I had a little peace and quiet to myself. I’d call that a wakeup call. It’s a sad day when needing to purge parasites from your body is the only way you’ve found to give yourself permission to basic privacy and solitude.
The teaching for me here: “I give myself permission to heal, but I don’t have to be sick in order to take good care of myself.”
#2) Develop healthy boundaries.
It’s nearly impossible to develop healthy boundaries if you don’t give yourself permission, so step #1 is key to this step #2. While life is demanding and developing healthy boundaries with others is important, I’ve learned that it’s usually my own high standards that cause me to overextend myself, leaving me overwhelmed. So, I have had to learn to develop boundaries within myself, first.
What’s really interesting is that mineral deficiencies like copper and zinc lead to poor connective tissue integrity and loss of elasticity, impacting migraine. These mineral imbalances have been a great metaphor for other areas of my life.
Without good “connective tissue integrity”, my boundaries had gotten “leaky”, but I had also become a bit brittle (ie, lacking the strength to maintain boundaries, I developed resentment as a result). I didn’t just have leaky gut and leaky brain, I also had a compromised ability to say No or speak up for what I really needed (ie, maintain personal integrity).
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but healing my connective tissue, and building its “integrity” and strength, has also coincided with me developing healthier boundaries in my relationships with my husband and kids – and my expectations of myself. At the same time, I’ve also become more flexible. And that’s what copper does for connective tissue – builds elastin (elasticity) and collagen (strength).
The teaching for me here: “Developing healthy boundaries helps my whole family to function better. Boundaries are part of living a balanced life, and living a balanced life is necessary in order to heal.”
#3) Stop being so driven and hard on myself. Forgive myself.
The speed of modern life increases our tendency to pressure ourselves to get it all done! If I see myself saying, “I have to” or “I should” I know that the speed in my life is coming from my attempt to pack it all in, leading to a frenzied but depleted state. I tend to be very hard on myself when I can’t get it all done. I think this tendency to overextend myself certainly exacerbated my migraines. Developing the ability to pace myself and have realistic expectations in my life has been really important in my healing process.
Part of my emotional healing of migraine was realizing that I had a huge amount of internal pressure and unresolved stress embedded in my system because I had not forgiven myself for “failing” at birth, and ending up with a c-section. Post-traumatic stress from traumatic birth is real. And so many people with migraine have unresolved trauma in their history. Because some of our anger at ourselves may be coming from unconscious programming from our childhood for not being perfect, therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) can be very effective.
The teaching for me here: “I don’t have to do that, and I don’t have to be perfect. I have plenty of time to do the things that are really important, and I’m going to slow down and sink in to them because I know that a slower tempo is better for my health. I am learning to acknowledge my inner anger at myself and forgive myself. I am actively using modalities that are helping me to metabolize the trauma in my life.”
#4) Slow down . . . waaaaay down. And rest.
Part of not being so driven (as in #3), is learning to slow down. Slowing down is something all moderns need to do. The difference is that those with migraine will pay the consequences in very severe ways when we don’t. Migraineurs are less resilient in the face of a speedy modern lifestyle. Yet ironically, many migraineurs, because they have a lot of drive, are the last to slow down.
We all know that life is a lot simpler when we feel less rushed and more spacious. In my personal healing, I’ve learned that the top area where I have leverage to slow things down is to turn off the cell phone and WIFI.
I believe that WIFI signals from phones and routers soak us in a field of rushed energy. These speedy wavelengths are biologically dis-regulating – we evolved to be in tune with the much slower Schumann frequencies of the earth. Furthermore, since most migraineurs have some level of absolute or relative zinc deficiencies, and zinc is needed to detox heavy metals, we tend to have a buildup of metals in our system, including our brains. This turns us into walking antennae – much more sensitive than some others to electromagnetic frequencies and all that “speed.” No, your sensitivity is not imagined.
With our depleted adrenal glands, many of us end up getting addicted to stress as a source of energy. This just further depletes our adrenals – and our ability to retain the minerals that we need for the enzymes that make our hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that break down food.
The teaching for me here: “The Internet can be dis-regulating – not just psychologically, but biologically. I do have the power to turn my devices off so I can slow down and rest.”
#5) Truly take care of myself.
There are many things I can do to take better care of myself, but the two biggest leverage points for me in this come down to: 1) Go to sleep by 10pm, no excuses. And 2) Get outside and breathe. The key is to see these things as a form of self-care that is truly enjoyable. It becomes stressful when “self-care” loses its pleasurable aspect and becomes another thing on the to-do list. Perhaps this is why we sometimes have a hard time implementing self-care. We’ve forgotten it actually feels good. We tend to do these things because we think we should. It can be hard to get into a rhythm.
However, like most things that are truly regenerative, once we get started, we start to feel the ease and joy of the self-care and our body prompts us for more of it. The key is to not let yourself get too derailed when unexpected life circumstances throw you out of your rhythm with self-care.
The teaching for me here: “I take care of myself not because I have to (indeed, I don’t have to), but because it is pleasurable. I anticipate events that may throw me out of my self-care routine and consciously get back to the things that truly nourish me.”
#6) Get grounded.
I’ve moved a ton in my life – I’ve lived in New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, New York, Austria, Germany, and Turkey. Jet-setting was never a problem until I had kids. As it turned out, I really needed a strong root in order to handle the stress of motherhood – especially motherhood with migraine.
Community is not possible without a strong root in place, and raising kids without community and nearby family is really exhausting. Add a chronic health condition on top and life is downright insane. It’s interesting how living in an insane life can feel normal if it goes on long enough.
As someone who grew up in the country, city living felt alienating and exhausting, and the lack of connection to nature became outright painful. It became very clear to me as a mother with migraine that moving back to the country and sinking down a taproot in a place I intended to stay and make my home was key to my wellbeing. In a way, my mineral deficiencies were a reflection of my disconnection from earth, from nature, from a piece of land, a home.
The teaching for me here: “True healing is based in connection to place and community. These are the most fundamental forms of nourishment.”
#7) Know my body can heal. It was never malfunctioning, just unsupported.
Contrary to the dominant belief in allopathic medicine, disease does not come from a malfunctioning of your defective “machine” (ie, your body). Healing migraine has taught me that the body is not a machine, and it was never malfunctioning. Knowing and believing and observing the fact that the body is an intelligent whole that maintains quite impressive levels of health even in the midst of incredible challenges is a mindset most conducive to healing.
The deciding factor in whether or not we heal from a chronic condition, as I have, has to do with finding the real leverage points in our healing. It took me 5.5 years of research and experimentation, but I can confidently say that balancing copper and zinc have been my greatest leverage points in supporting my body to do the healing work it already knows how to do.
The teaching for me here: “True healing is absolutely possible. Indeed, the body is continually healing itself the best it can even in the midst of disease. When I discover what it really needs, my body immediately responds with increased health.”
Healing Migraines: My New Story
Migraines taught me to give myself the permission to have the boundaries to slow down and get grounded in my core being, so that I could take care of myself and be consistent with the lifestyle changes required to truly heal. In doing this, I’ve had to discard lifestyle habits that were not authentic to myself, were emotionally, spiritually or physically draining, and tune in to the life I really want to lead. Migraines taught me that healing and transformation is possible, and the human body is exquisitely able to respond when supported in the right way.
Yes, my migraines were certainly a manifestation of mineral imbalances and very tangible physical problems caused by medications, trauma from a c-section, the industrial food supply, etc etc. But they also manifested as a result of my inability to slow down, value self-care, go to bed earlier, and be kinder to myself. It didn’t matter an iota that on a conscious level I believed in doing all these things. Until I actually followed through on my beliefs with action, my bodymind couldn’t benefit from them.
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Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief through plant-based solutions and hair tissue mineral analysis. For the past 3 years, Marya has been helping those with chronic migraine to clear their head, heal their digestion, regain their energy, and transform their lives using simple, natural solutions.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and not meant to replace diagnosis, treatment, or prescription by a qualified medical professional.