Headaches have been my companion off and on for years. I usually take Excedrine and Tylenol and put a cold pack on my neck. I often have to lie down as well. I even suffered with migraines for a time and lived with shots, dark rooms, and tremors.
Having bipolar has only exasperated the problem because the pain sometimes plunged me head first into depression.
The other day when I felt a headache begin, the thought that occurred to me was, “maybe this kind of head pain is like a yellow flag warning me to stop and do some mental de-junking. It may take 15 minutes to do it, but I might be able to avoid an all-out headache if I release emotional pressure.”
Since I had already lived through a conversion reaction where I lost muscle ability and landed in a wheelchair, I knew the power of the mind on the body so I decided to experiment with this idea since my ability to think straight had not yet been stolen by my head pain.
I stopped what I was doing, opened my computer and turned to the “junk journal” folder (I have also done this with a paper and pencil). My junk journal is a form of cognitive therapy (thought therapy). I began writing a few words about what was bugging me along the left side of the paper. Next I went down the list one by one deciding if it was TtPtNt (totally true, partially true or not true), I then skimmed down the list again to determine TcPcNc (Total control, partial control or no control). At this point I was ready to pray for extra help then write talk-backs on the right side of the line for each item (a talk back is allowing my positive self to talk to my negative self).
This is what I wrote:
1. I'm an emotional mess. (partially true - partial control) Talk back: I am becoming more aware of how my moods can affect my body. I am doing cognitive therapy. This can be good. Maybe this is my season to heal more.
2. I have too many headaches and I’m shakey. (true, partial control) I am trying cognitive therapy (thought therapy) and try massaging my neck. I have not had enough sleep. I can rest more today.
3. I have spent too much money on my hurt shoulder. I was stupid to slide down our homemade water slide. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be spending money on an MRI. (partially true- no control) It is true that if I hadn’t tried to slide I wouldn’t have gotten hurt, BUT accidents happen, I didn’t do it on purpose, and we are blessed with good insurance that will help pay.
4. We spent too much money on our vacation. (maybe true, no control) The trip is over now, and although it was expensive we have great memories. Maybe we can do big trips every two years instead of every year. ++ we are blessed because we had the money in savings.
By the time I finished my cognitive therapy my head felt much better!
I have tried this several times since then and found that even if I still need to take Excedrin the pain is less severe and I feel relief from the exercise.
I’m thankful for my yellow flag. It helped me avoid a red one. What does a headache have to do with it? The answer may be: quite a bit.