From where I’m sitting now, there is no feeling quite as great as the feeling of relief when a migraine lifts...
If you haven’t ever experienced a migraine it is hard to imagine just what an intense feeling it can be. It is a sensation that takes over your whole head. Beyond feeling sore, in my case it feels like the veins in my head are throbbing and expanding. It feels like someone has lit a fire in my head and down one side of my face.
Until I has children I had never had a migraine. I got a lot of headaches but several years ago this changed to classic migraine headaches, with all the usual symptoms they bring including sensitivity to light and nausea. They were getting so bad that at one point I was spending a few days each month throwing up. I had already been using hypnosis and self-hypnosis for quite a while when the migraines started, but the severity of these led to a keen interest in the use of hypnosis for pain relief. So when I started studying hypnosis and hypnotherapy seriously in order to become qualified as a hypnotherapist, my particular interest was always going to be hypnotherapy for pain relief.
Hypnotherapy and Pain Relief
The field of hypnotherapy includes various different approaches to the relief of pain. These generally include forms of dissociating from the pain; distracting the mind from the pain; or experiencing the pain in a different way. Some hypnotherapists use regression techniques with the aim of uncovering the cause of the pain. I already knew that the cause of my migraines was the deficiency of a particular hormone, and although I know of hypnotherapists who practice regression in an informed way, this was not a path I wanted to pursue.
My hypnotherapy training included learning to induce anaesthesia using hypnosis and I was keen to test the reality of this experience by having a needle stuck through my hand in hypnosis. So I did, and I felt nothing. This was both encouraging and reassuring for me. It also gave me a great deal of insight into what type of hypnotic suggestions worked best for me. The next time I practiced hypnotic anaesthesia it was using self-hypnosis and I wanted to take the experience one step further so I gave myself the suggestion that when the needle went through my arm, I wouldn’t bleed. When the needle was removed, aside from feeling no pain, there was no blood on my arm or anywhere else. Yes! I was impressed and spurred onwards by this by this victory of mind over matter. This was more evidence for me that pain could be treated using hypnosis.
And yet despite this, the migraines continued. I was able to use self-hypnosis to reduce the severity of these but, in all honesty I felt disheartened that I hadn’t been able to banish these altogether. A turning point came in November 2016 when I met Freddy Jacquin. I was attending the UK Hypnosis Convention and on the Saturday morning, just as a day of lectures was about to begin, I felt the familiar beginnings of a migraine. I couldn’t believe it. I knew Freddy had a reputation for using hypnosis for pain relief and I went to find him. Freddy used his pain relief technique called the Arrow with me and inside ten minutes the migraine was on its way out. I was thrilled, but I was also intrigued. What had Freddy done that was different?
It's Not (just) in Your Head!
I began to look into the role played by emotion in the pain experience and eventually came to the work of David Butler and the bio-psycho social understanding of how pain is created. I discovered that the way we perceive our world and the level of threat we detect both consciously and unconsciously has a great deal to do with the way we experience pain. Threats hide in unexpected places, including the language we use to both ourselves and others. In my case this had been “my stupid head- it’s out to get me”. I got to work on changing this language, and changing a lot more besides.
So back to this morning...
I was woken at 2.30am by that all too familiar burning sensation in my head. Lying down was too painful, so I sat up in bed. It is easy to be still in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep. It is less easy to relax your shoulders when they are cramped up around your ears in reaction to the burning head. The more you practice self-hypnosis, the easier it is to go there, and the faster the process becomes and I've become good at this.
A little while ago I heard a good friend of mine Sarah Swanton talking about dealing with nerves by repeating the phrase ‘this anxiety is passing through me’. I really liked this idea. It stuck with me. At 2.30am this morning I remembered this phrase and began repeating to myself ‘this pain is passing through me’, until that was my only internal dialogue. I have also learnt that repeating a phrase or thinking a thought is of very little use until it becomes a knowing that we feel in our bodies. That’s when the magic happens. I went straight to the notion of dissolving the burning feeling. I worked with the image of the pain dissipating into little bubbles and floating away and I turned this into a felt experience.
I did still have a bit of a headache for some of the morning. However, I wasn’t sick and by breakfast time I was downstairs eating toast at the breakfast table. The contrast between this and the messy scene of a migraine for me a few years ago is vast. I also get far fewer migraines than I did before and when I do get them, they are much shorter lived. The feeling of a migraine lifting is a wonderful thing. Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis are, really and truly, wonderful things.
Don't Give Up
If you are living with pain, especially chronic pain, there is hope for you. You may have been told that you just have to live with it. This is not true. Chronic pain brings with it a whole host of unwanted lifestyle changes that often include reduced mobility, a reduced social life, feeling the need to make excuses or lie about how we feel because of the reluctance to tell people we are in pain, again. Physical pain becomes tangled up with emotional pain until these become hard to separate. But there is hope and there is another way.
If you, or someone you know is living with pain, get in touch with me and we can discuss how I can help with this. But most importantly, don't give up.