Lessons I’ve Learned from Turning my Pain into Purpose

By Alisha

Purpose is a lot like that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Some of us question its existence, others are continually searching for it, trying to figure out exactly what it is, and the “lucky” ones, in my opinion, are the ones chasing that pot of gold, working towards their purpose while they journey through this world.

I also believe purpose evolves and I have found my pot of gold many times, but I have many more to search for and chase.

The thing with chronic illness and especially chronic migraines is, even if you do know your purpose, it can be challenging to work towards it. To turn my pain into purpose is something I have done on many different occasions throughout my life, especially during the past ten years. Sometimes it lasted a few years, others a few months, and a few only lasted weeks.

While I cannot tell you exactly how to find your purpose or how to use your pain to turn that into purpose, I can share from my experience, the lessons I have learned from turning my pain into purpose.

Be Honest

Once you have found your purpose, be honest with yourself and anyone involved about what you can contribute and achieve while managing your illness. Everyone is different, and some people can hold full-time jobs while cultivating several hobbies, while others can only focus on one thing at a time. Both of those situations and everything in between are 100% valid. However, it is vital that you know where you fall on that spectrum and what that may mean for your purpose and those involved.

Since migraineurs are known to have Type-A personality which usually involves individuals driven by perfectionism and very high expectations, it is imperative to set healthy and positive boundaries for yourself and others from the start.

Whether your purpose is a full-time job, contributing towards a non-profit project or taking care of your home, be honest about how much time you can realistically devote to it. Share that expectation with other people who are involved and try not to over-dedicate yourself to any one purpose.

Define Micro Milestones

While it’s a fantastic feeling to have decided on and start pursuing your purpose, it can also be a difficult journey, especially when you keep your eyes only on the finish line. I have found that dividing your purpose into micro milestones and assigning a reward to each of those milestones works best. Preferably not migraine-triggering rewards.

Micro milestones help me to be more present and avoid the stress influx that the anticipation of reaching long-term milestones may cause. It also helps me keep a clearer mind when I hit a road bump since I am not looking at the whole picture but only at the micro goal. I know it will be easy enough to navigate my way to that micro milestone and evaluate from there.

Check Yourself

While working towards your purpose, it is easy to get swept away by the excitement and magic of the journey. While that is not a bad thing, it is good to check in with yourself from time to time to ensure you are not overlooking any of your needs and wellness spheres.

The best measure I use to check myself is to see whether what I am doing is serving my emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical and financial wellness. While growth opportunities for each of these wellness categories are infinite in, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern where you are perhaps working towards your purpose but not necessarily paying attention to the growth of your wellness.

It’s also crucial to ensure that you do not neglect any of these categories and that your purpose is not negatively affecting any of them. If you notice that what you are doing is having a negative effect on you in some way, take some time to reflect on your situation and whether it is indeed worth the sacrifice.

Listen to your gut

Now, this is one that has been said so many times, and I’d like to say it again. I have often found myself in situations where I knew my gut feeling is correct, however, being a migraineur and someone with other chronic illnesses, I have created a mindset of self-doubt because of all the stigmas connected to chronic illness and discovered I was often questioning myself as hard as others did without no need to!

As a migraineur, I realized early on that people who do not experience this illness truly do not understand what we go through and can react is such a dramatic way that they sometimes imprint their naïve thoughts, resulting in my illness being a weapon against myself to second guess myself. Sometimes it was my own voice deceiving me, telling me that I am only thinking this or that because of my illness, when in fact if I had just listened to my gut from the start, I could have avoided a lot of unnecessary pain.

The problem with listening to the gut and being a migraineur can often feel like a catch-22. On one side, you genuinely believe your gut feeling, and on the other you find yourself questioning your feeling because you may believe you are only thinking that way because of your illness.

Truth is, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. That doesn’t mean it is your fault or if you are working with others, their fault, it just means that right now, your path is not aligning with the situation you find yourself in.

The best thing to do is to be honest with yourself and those around you. If your purpose is something you also rely on financially, then it’s better to start making a proactive plan of how you can change your situation. Be realistic and honest with yourself (and those involved) when you plan your exit strategy and what your new journey will look like.

It’s entirely ok to say no

As migraineurs, we are often “people pleasers.” It took me a long time to realise that I kept trying to please other people because I somehow felt less adequate because of all the pain I went through daily. In hindsight, that is utterly ridiculous and I realise that while I was battling my chronic illnesses I was also achieving major milestones. However, back then I didn’t have this mindset and whenever someone needed something, I said yes and delivered, usually in spite of my health and triggering many migraines and painful days.

You. Don’t. Have. To. Say. Yes.

Now repeat that. Make that your morning mantra. Say it to yourself for ten minutes on repeat every day, whatever you do, know that it is entirely your right to say no and mean it. You don’t need to give additional explanations either once you have said no; a mere, “I cannot take that on right now” is enough.

Praise yourself

When is the last time you looked at yourself and your achievements and said, “well done?” Do it now. Tell yourself how proud you are of every step you take towards your purpose while often being in debilitating pain.

Celebrate yourself and acknowledge the achievements in your life. Truly look back and think of all those times you forgot to say, “I am proud of myself.” Realize that doing anything while also suffering from migraines is already a feat. And never compare. This is an aspect of your life where you just look at yourself and say “wow, you do well.”

Take a break

Self-care seems to be the new “on fleek” for bloggers, Instagrammers and Gen Z’s, but it has always been around. Although I still believe most non-migraineurs or people without chronic illness can’t truly understand how much “normal” self-care differs from migraine self-care, it remains an essential part of your routine and every day.

The best self-care I can “prescribe” is to simply take a break. Whatever you are pursuing, take a few minutes out of every hour and relax your eyes and mind. If you can get outside or even just look at a tree through a window, great, I find that to be super relaxing even when my pain is high and if you can walk around for a few minutes, even better!

Of course, there are countless self-care methods and some, like a shower or bath, is something many migraineurs don’t have the option to enjoy every day, but whatever your situation, I do believe there are little acts of self-kindness that you can incorporate into your routine.

Most of all, remember, you cannot fail at your purpose, but you also don’t have to be continually working towards it, it is ok to take a break from time to time, and if that means working on other projects before you connect with your purpose again, that is ok. Have fun, do everything from a place of love and learn from it as much as you can.


One thought on “Lessons I’ve Learned from Turning my Pain into Purpose

  1. writerkatgn says:

    This is a really great post. I have Chiari malformation and as part of it get daily migraines. Defining micro milestones is the thing that I found most helpful in the last six months or so. I used to get so discouraged about what I perceived as my lack of progress towards my big long term goals. I decided to breathe, step back, and remember that progress is progress.

    Praising myself is the one I need to work on most. I am so hard on myself! Much harder than I would be on anyone else.


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