Those of you who read my post last week know a little bit about a difficult experience I had a few years ago when I was dealing with migraines. For those of you who haven’t read it, I shared that I had been in the habit of taking on more and more until my body finally said “stop”. The chronic stress I’d been dealing with over the years, along with the acute stress of a difficult work situation, was too much for my body to handle, and it progressed to a point where I was dealing with high intensity pain on a daily basis. And that went on for a year.
I also talked about how I had to make some drastic shifts in my life in terms of what would actually be nurturing for my body. What I didn’t share is how vital self-compassion was to the healing I went through.
When I was struggling the most with migraines, I would say things to myself like “I should be able to handle this amount of stress without feeling pain” “I should be able to work more than 10 hours a week” – but I couldn’t.
It felt like my body was my enemy, and it was doing this terrible thing to me.
So each time I felt the early signs of a migraine coming on, I braced against it, thinking “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”. And what happens when you brace against something? Your muscles tense. And so the pain would get worse.
The other trap I got into is that when it came to self care options like working less, or go home early from social outings when I was in pain, I told myself “I should be able to do this” or “it’s not okay for me let anyone know that I’m struggling”, and I ended up avoiding the things that might have actually helped me.
This may seem all really obvious but when I finally admitted to myself “this is a chronic pain issue” I – first of all cried a lot – and then possibilities opened up. Healing possibilities that I literally did not see before.
But again – it took a real shift in perspective.
First I stopped seeing my body as the enemy, and starting seeing it as a PART of me that was in pain, and needed help. (Yes that’s right – your body is a part of you).
I also stopped with the constant barrage of what I should be capable of and accepted what IS – or what was, at least in that moment.
And I want to say that’s not the same as giving up on the possibility that things will change. Instead, it was about allowing the reality of the situation – and the grief of that – in. And from that place, I was able to start healing.
Nicole is a Registered Psychologist with a general private practice in the Garneau area of Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She believe in seeing problems within their context and in being a non-judgmental advocate and support. She integrate a variety of other therapy approaches, including mindfulness-based therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and group therapy. She identify as an ally and have been working with the LGBTQ* community in therapeutic settings from the beginning, including being on the counselling team at Camp Fyrefly.