Your Headache Isn’t an Advil Deficiency

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Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk Rx with Doctor Neha. I have a returning guest, Arcelia, who had so much fun last time that she decided to do it again, so welcome back.

Arcelia: Thank you.

Doctor Neha: Tell me what you’ve been thinking about this time.

Arcelia: Well, I suffer from headaches and migraines. Two things really trigger them: strong emotions and the big old hairy monster called stress. I can’t pinpoint what about stress, but I know if I’m stressed or if something triggers an emotion in me, it’s a guaranteed migraine.

Doctor Neha: Okay. I’m going to turn for one second to talk to our viewers, and then I’m going to come back to you. Arcelia brings up an incredible connection that most people actually don’t make, including physicians. We know that stress causes or exacerbates 90 to 95 percent of all illness; that’s been shown in research. The question becomes then, what’s at the root of all of that stress? Your ability to communicate and manage your emotions is directly linked to your health. One thing we know about your headache is, it’s not an Advil deficiency.

Arcelia: That’s true.

Doctor Neha: The beauty of drugs is that we have them to temporarily get us through a crisis. Once you’ve temporarily gotten through a crisis, then we need to be solving what’s at the root of that issue. That’s what you and I are talking about today.

So Arcelia, emotions. Tell me, typically, what strong emotions give you the most challenge?

Arcelia: If I get really upset, guaranteed.

Doctor Neha: Okay, so angry, upset.

Arcelia: Sad. Overwhelmed. Those are the top three.

Doctor Neha: So angry, sad, and overwhelmed. All right, let’s talk about when you get really upset or angry. What happens? Tell me how in your body you know that that happens.

Arcelia: Good question.

Doctor Neha: What’s the very first sign? Physical signal.

Arcelia: I can feel the neck and the shoulders tightening up. Basically, my whole body tightens up if I think about it. I just want to scream, but I don’t.

Doctor Neha: What do you do?

Arcelia: I try to breathe. Unfortunately—and I know this is wrong—I also try to block so I don’t have to deal with it.

Doctor Neha: All of a sudden your body tenses up when something is going on. And you want to block it. Let me first tell you that it’s not wrong; it’s biological. Your brain, on a very elementary level seeks pleasure and avoids pain. So your brain is doing its job. It’s trying to protect you, okay? Wanting to block something that’s causing your body to tense up is a natural way for your physiology to respond. So the first thing you want to do is become grateful for your body, for giving you warning signals.

Now, one thing I’m pretty certain of is that there are about fifty other signals that came before the tension and feeling of wanting to blow up. The body works in a more gradual way physiologically. Tell me, are you a doer?

Arcelia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doctor Neha: Okay, because, usually what happens is, in the name of doing—I have the doer in me as well—I’ll numb right over, skip right over, numb out that sensation. So if my shoulders start to give me a problem, it must mean I need a double latte or a glass of wine or three. As you go through your day, you’re blocking out the early signals. The important thing about a migraine is that it finally gets your attention. It stops you, but it’s pretty intense.

Arcelia: It’s pretty late also.

Doctor Neha: You’re picking up the signals a little bit late. Now, there’s nothing wrong. You want to say thank you to the migraine because it stops you and doesn’t let you keep going. If it didn’t stop you, would you just keep going?

Arcelia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doctor Neha: Yeah. So it’s kind of an odd thing to say be grateful about something that feels so painful, but thank your migraine for stopping you. Now I’m going to ask you some questions that I ask in the book, all right?

Arcelia: Okay.

Doctor Neha: It’s called the Awareness Prescription. I help my patients link the physical ailment or situation to the other areas of their life. So tell me, why a headache? Why not your left leg? Why this particular ailment—migraines? Just let whatever comes to you come out; there are no wrong answers.

Arcelia: I thought it was hereditary because my mother suffered from migraines, and then I started getting them at a young age. As I got older, I made the connection between emotional stressors and the migraines. Then I thought, Maybe it’s not all just physiology. Part of it, maybe, I’m doing to myself.

Doctor Neha: I want to be really clear. A lot of disease or ailments multi-factorial. Can there be a genetic component? Can there be an emotional component? The answer is yes. So what you want to pay attention to are the parts that you can manage, the ones you have control over. Why a headache? Why is that where the breakdown happens, physically? Why this?

Arcelia: I think it’s because I spend so much time thinking, and maybe it’s the body’s way of saying, “Stop trying to control or stop trying to manage.” That’s the first time I’ve ever thought of it that way, as to why the head.

Doctor Neha: What do you have to do now when you have a migraine?

Arcelia: I have to lie down.

Doctor Neha: You have to stop, right? Stop thinking, stop doing, stop! Second question: Why now? Why at those particular moments in time do you get migraines?

Arcelia: I feel it’s a release of whatever I’m feeling internally. It manifests that way.

Doctor Neha: You were also saying, “I’m at some big emotional space. I’m triggered by something and I need to just stop. Like, I need to take a break. I need to check out.” I almost think it’s the only legal thing that would let you stop doing. Right?

Arcelia: That’s a good way of putting it.

Doctor Neha: A physical thing says I can’t do and actually stops you. All right, third question: what signals might you miss before the tenseness and the migraine hit? What signals might show up a little bit earlier than that?

Arcelia: All I can think of right now is just the black spots in the eyes.

Doctor Neha: Ah hah.

Arcelia: If I pay enough attention and I start seeing the spots, and I medicate and I’m okay. But I’d love to stop medicating.

Doctor Neha: Well, we just have to catch it earlier—and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re piecing together the clues. You’re going to get a copy of my book Talk Rx. The second chapter is called, “Knock, knock, guess who.” It’s your body. Your body gradually lets you know, but the time we usually pick it up is at the end, when something is just about to crash or be in crisis. Then the other chapters that will help you are around emotions. I have five chapters dedicated to handling strong emotion. Tears, anger, and anxiety are the three, so I’d love you to follow-up when you read that and let me know.

So you’re picking up the black spots and when that happens you know it’s time to medicate. You’re ready to pick it up even earlier. Okay, next question—say whatever hits you first—what else in your life needs to be healed?

Arcelia: Ha! We don’t have enough time on there.

Doctor Neha: Just pick the first thing that comes to you.

Arcelia: Managing expectations whether from myself or letting others place expectations on me.

Doctor Neha: Great awareness. Lastly, if you spoke from the heart, what would you say?

Arcelia: It’s okay. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to want more and just to be happy.

Doctor Neha: And how about listening to your body? Is it okay that it gives you signals?

Arcelia: It’s okay that it gives me signals. I’m just tired of the aftermath. I’d love to be able not to have to take medication, not have to mask everything I don’t want to deal with. Maybe that’s it. I just want to feel good.

Doctor Neha: Listen, you’re on your path, because you were connecting the dots before you came here. Now, what you’re doing is you’re allowing yourself to feel and that’s okay. I don’t just mean feel emotions. I mean, even feel physically instead of blocking. Feel the emotional and physical signals in your body.

I think of your body and your migraines as a smoke alarm. Signals will start coming to you. Now most people, instead of looking for a fire, they take out the batteries of the smoke alarm. That is like taking something every four hours to numb it out. So thank you migraines for giving me the signal. Now, I’d like to search and figure out where the actual fire is coming from.

When you read TalkRx, let me know.

Arcelia: I will.

Doctor Neha: I’d be happy to answer some questions for you. By the way, in the book, I write about how my mother had migraines and realized that it was secondary to being in the presence of my father’s temper. This is going to open a new world for you. We’ll help you connect the dots and you’ll be better.

Arcelia: Thank you.

Doctor Neha: All right. For any of you suffering with physical ailments that you know are connected to the rest of your life but you’re unclear how to handle emotions or how to have a difficult conversation—after you’ve seen your doctor and checked it out to make sure that nothing’s wrong—start getting curious about what else might be going on in your life. Get a copy of Talk Rx. There are a lot of gems in there from spending a decade at the bedside of my patients. All the tools I gave them, I’d love to share them with you. Thanks for being with us, and thank you.

Arcelia: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Send me your questions — drop me a tweet at #AskDoctorNeha or write your question and comments down below.

The Original Awareness Prescription

  1. Why this?
  2. Why now?
  3. What signals might I have missed?
  4. What else needs to be healed?
  5. If you spoke from the heart, what would you say?

To addressing the real “pain in your a**,”

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