Migraines, and a menu of voices

It’s all in my head, right? I mean, the fact that two days ago I suffered a terrible migraine had nothing to do with the fact I’d just attained my “personal worst” record for any USTA adult league season I’ve ever played in. It was just a weird coincidence, wasn’t it? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.

I’m a migraineur, a person who gets migraines. Fortunately, most of mine go away with medication, and this one seemed ordinary enough at the outset. While I’m stumped as to what causes my headaches, I like to think they’re brought on by food, hormonal or environmental factors. I’d rather not consider that inability to deal with everyday stress or disappointment might also trigger migraines for me.

But what happened this time? Well, I awoke with a “regular migraine” that worsened as I thought about the previous night’s tennis match (an 0-5 loss for our team) and my own disappointing season. I was surprised my win/loss record ended up so low (1/6), because I felt as though I’d been playing better this year. Granted, I’d played mostly singles, whereas previously I’d focused on doubles — so that was a change. Plus, nearly all my opponents were 15-20 years younger. But so what? For me, it was personal best experience — not a personal worst.

Statistics, however, told a different story. Namely, that compared to opponents who were also rated USTA 3.0, I’m hadn’t measured up. Moreover, if I thought I’d played well, I’d also lost my grip on reality and couldn’t recognize my own lack of progress.

The voices argued inside my head. My VoJ (Voice of Judgment) was clamoring: “Anne, you suck at tennis. Why do you bother with this sport?  It’s no wonder people don’t want to play with you — before long, they won’t even want to say hello to you.”

The Voice of Reason persisted: “You’re always reminding yourself that tennis is a journey — it’s your journey, at your pace. Not someone else’s. Where are all you women going with tennis, anyway?  Isn’t it about learning and having a good time?”

This was the same old debate — the issues I’ve confronted whenever I’ve started to feel bad about my game. Maybe that’s why my body couldn’t take it any longer. Maybe it sought an escape valve for the pressure building up inside my head as I juggled my emotions and reason. I tried to reconcile my longing to win with knowing it should be enough to enjoy simply playing the game, but something had to blow.

Whatever it was, the pain and nausea I experienced with that headache reminded me not to grant a pastime like tennis so much power over my thoughts and feelings. Sure, winning is more fun than losing. But if anxiety about wins vs. losses contributes to a sense of ill-being, what’s the point?

My Voice of Reason tells me to take the long view, to choose lean protein from the menu options available. My VoJ, however, demands dessert. And you know — as much as I love salmon and chicken, sometimes I want to skip straight to the triple-layer chocolate cake.

Too bad chocolate sometimes aggravates my migraines.

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