The risk of suicide among people with severe migraine pain has been in the news lately thanks to an article in the journal Headache that concludes, “The results suggest the possibility that pain severity might account in part for the increased risk of suicide attempt associated with migraine.”
Most of the articles are a dry recounting of this conclusion. I haven’t seen a migraineur acknowledge that they have have considered or attempted suicide because of the severity of their migraine pain. This is a scary thing to admit to oneself, let alone publish on the internet. I know because my hands are shaking and my heart is racing as I type these words.
I have considered suicide many times as the “solution” to the chronic, debilitating migraine attacks I live with every day. I have never attempted it, but I have told a psychiatrist that I wanted to be admitted for suicide watch (she thought I was being melodramatic) and, when we were living far away from family and friends, my husband used frequent flyer miles to have people come stay with us because he was afraid I’d kill myself when he was at work. This was a couple years ago, but as recently as January I have wondered how much longer I could live such a diminished life.
Optimistic, stubborn and empathic are the three adjectives that best describe me. One wouldn’t expect someone with these qualities to consider suicide. I absolutely wanted to be alive, but couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to live with such pain. Intellectually I knew there were more possible treatments and that the pain woudn’t always persist. Still, I’d been fighting for so many years only to continue to find myself in horrendous pain, nauseated, dizzy, unable to get out of bed. There was no quality to my life. Suicide felt like my only way out of a life of misery.
I would like to tell you I had some emotional epiphany; that I’d found a mental salve I could apply whenever I had suicidal thoughts. What ended my despair was finally finding a treatment that reduced the frequency, severity and duration of the migraine attacks. Except for a slight reduction in pain from indomethacin, a high dose of magnesium, which I started in early February, was the first effective treatment I’ve tried in the 10 years since a doctor first agreed to treat my migraines. This, and hearing from a friend whose chronic daily migraine attacks disappeared when she hit menopause, have given me the strength and hope to keep fighting.
If you are considering suicide, please don’t keep it to yourself. As difficult as it is to admit to suicidal thoughts, you cannot carry all this pain alone. Whether you talk to a loved one or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, speak up. As physically and mentally excruciating as life with migraine can be, it is still a precious life worth living.