Tuesday, May 13, 2008

the relationship between fear & migraines

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I recently sat down with my iPod to listen to an installment of Tara Brach's Insight Meditation Center of Washington D.C. (IMCW) podcast titled "Meeting Fear with an Wise Heart."

For reasons not then clear to me, this topic called out to me in a powerful enough way that I skipped over many previously unheard segments to listen to this two-part series immediately.

Why did the topic of fear resonated so strongly with me? I have dealt with high levels of anxiety in the past, though I thankfully seem to have moved past that completely. Yet fear still seems very close to my heart. What am I afraid of?

During the talk, it finally hit me. It's fear related to migraine disease. Fear the pain will never end. Fear my plans will be ruined by an unexpected migraine. Fear of the next migraine. When your body settles into the habit of coping with multiple migraines a week for years, it learns to brace itself (physically and emotionally) for the next attack.

Oddly enough, a study recently published in the journal Headache seems to indicate that my experience is not uncommon. The study found that post traumatic stress disorder is more common among people with chronic migraines than people with episodic migraines. I think this makes a lot of sense. It is a constant battle to keep yourself from being on edge, holding your breath for the next devastating migraine-related blow.

The good news is that I find it helpful to face the fear and question it. It is all too easy to let yourself grow comfortable with anxiety and fear. But when you start to examine it, it becomes more possible to free yourself from the grip it has on you.

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