Perspectives On A Chronic Ailment

I found Siri Hustvedt’s philosophy on dealing with chronic migraines fascinating. After years of intense migraines and a period of time where she ruthlessly searched for a cure, she found that acceptance and the ability to “let go” were the keys to a more tolerable migraine.
Siri Hustvedt writes:

“I have come to think of migraines as a part of me, not as some force or plague that infects my body. Chronic headaches are my fate, and I have adopted a position of philosophical resignation. I am aware that such a view is resoundingly un-American. Our culture does not encourage anyone to accept adversity. On the contrary, we habitually declare war on the things that afflict us, whether it’s drugs, terrorism, or cancer.”

Her resignation seems to have brought her some serenity that has eased the severity of her disease:

“Our thoughts, attitudes, even our metaphors create physiological changes in us, which in the case of headaches can mean the difference between misery and managing. Research has shown that psychotherapy can create therapeutic brain changes, an increase of activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the “executive” part of our mind organ. Yes, just talking and listening can make you better.”

On some level, I accept my Rheumatoid Arthritis as “part of me,” but I also have a bit of a stubborn warrior in me. I like to prove to myself and to my arthritis (like it even cares!) that I can still do whatever I choose to do, while sometimes pushing through the pain. This attitude doesn’t get me in too much trouble (‘cept for a torn ACL last year). Mostly, I get worn down easily. I could probably achieve a better life / rest balance, truth be told. But who among us couldn’t?

It’s in my nature to actively pursue new and better ways to live a good life. But I find the idea of finding peace by letting go to be very appealing and Siri’s success has inspired me to explore that further.

Leave your philosophy on disease management in the comments.

Perspectives on a Headache

One thought on “Perspectives On A Chronic Ailment

  1. You go, stubborn warrior!

    I don’t have to battle a pre-existing condition but I think we can all benefit from an attitude of actively pursuing a life well-lived.

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