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The time I kind of deliberately got a migraine

A couple of weeks ago on a Friday night, I gave myself a migraine. Kind of on purpose. It was screwed up and in bad judgment but I deliberately asked for it.

You see, one of my dear friends died unexpectedly on January 18th. Craig was just 48 and, though I’d known him for years (he’s one of my boyfriend’s best friends), I’d gotten to know him a lot better in recent months since he was our most recently hired Avid bookseller. I am speaking at his memorial service in February and can’t even get it together to write that speech yet, so I’ll spare you the many, many pages I could write about how wonderful this guy was. So instead I’ll just take you into my crazy, addled mind that day.

It turns out that, if others around me are kind of freaking out, I go into organizational overdrive. We went to our friends’ house shortly after hearing the news of Craig’s death, and I felt antsy, trying to do anything and everything to organize and help out. I laid out the delicious food someone else had graciously purchased, and I bustled around and cleaned up. I tried to avoid thinking of Craig, though it was impossible, as tens of friends shuffled through the house, crying and hugging each other.

By the time the night rolled around, I was starting to break a little bit. We were downtown with the same group of friends, alternating between tears and periods of utter disbelief. The stress of the day had taken its toll and I felt a migraine slowly coming on. I’d forgotten my meds at home.

Instead of treating myself gently, I had a drink. And another. ( And no, I’m not going to add “and another, and another…”: someone who drinks as rarely as I do only needs two to get tipsy.) I knew it’d make my migraine worse, and I just didn’t care. I almost WANTED a migraine. I wanted my physical pain to match my emotional anguish, or at least that’s how I am phrasing it now as I write. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my motivation was, but I sure did drink on purpose and knew full well a migraine would be in my near future.

Have you ever experienced this? Am I totally crazy? I look back now (I’m writing this just two weeks after that fateful day) and wonder what in the WORLD I was thinking. So the best I can imagine is that I was so sad and hurt that I wanted to just make my physical pain match my psychic pain. And no, I don’t plan on doing this again. (That’s a nice way of saying I’ve already beat myself up about this, so please do refrain from yelling at how dumb I am! J )

Has anyone ever gone through something similar? I’d truly love to read any and all responses.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Colleen1983
    6 years ago

    I’m a daily migraineur. My doctor had referred me to the “top” migrain guy, and at our first appointment, my husband- who was with me- told this neurologist that I eat chocolate. He thought the doctor would back him up, and tell me I was a bad Gorlovka for eating nasty chocolate. This plan backfired though, as my doctors immediate and unanticipated answer was “Yes, and so she should!” my husband was shocked, and I was a bit surprised as well. He went on to explain his answer this way: he said that the things that will give us a migraine when we don’t have one, are the very things we should do when we DO have one. If your trigger is strong emotion, then definitely try to keep your cool. But if you already have one- then put yourself in a situation that you know will provoke that response. If traffic, and lousy drivers make you crazy- get someone to take you for a drive in rush hour. So, even though you may feel you purposely gave yourself a migraine, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s unreasonable to expect yourself to take something like a friend’s death on an even keel. So, younmay have subconsciously been doing exactly what your body knew it needed. You think you gave yourself a migraine. Maybe you prevented yourself from getting a worse one. Just a thought. (oh, and ‘hangingbyathread’? Chocolate is ALWAYS worth it! Lol!)

  • barb
    5 years ago

    Sooo glad I’m not the only one that does this, although I feel bad regardless. If I have a migraine, damn straight I’m eating some chocolate, or daily headaches, like this past week, but that chocolate banana bread sure was tasty.

  • Colleen1983
    6 years ago

    Did I mention Autocorrect and I are not on good terms? I just have GOT to remember to proof read!

  • kristisprague
    6 years ago

    I have so much compassion for the place you were in emotionally and physically. Such a horrible time.
    Dealing with a group of people and the loss of a dear friend would have given me a migraine. I think you would have gotten one with or without trying.
    I have ignored aura in order to get something done and end up with a migraine or I don’t do proper self care. Those are my choices that often lead to migraines.
    I believe you were protecting yourself from the unbelievable. Others were, too, but their consequences were less devastating. 1) You are not crazy. 2) You are really normal. 3) Great job working on forgiving yourself . I believe that your friend who passed away totally understands. 4) Thanks for sharing your story. It was so brave of you. Take good care. In peace, Kristi Sprague, Diagnosis: Chronic Daily Intractable Migraines.

  • thomas51
    6 years ago

    Getting into ‘a state’ is very migraine trigger stuff or will exacerbate the pain, but those who haven’t been there don’t get the despair and upset of it all.

  • Danielle E.
    6 years ago

    I’m so sorry about your friend. Two years ago, I lost my grandfather, who had helped raised me, unexpectedly. We were so close so I know what your going through. I was also asked to give the eulogy at his funeral, and I wasn’t able to write one word down until the morning of, I had literally just finished putting my thoughts on paper minutes before mass began. Yet, somehow, when it was time for me to speak, all of my thoughts and words flowed out of me perfectly all while not shedding a tear. I don’t know how I did it, but I did so don’t feel bad about not being able to write anything down yet, it will come and it will all work out.

    As for deliberately triggering a migraine, you’re not crazy. I’ve done the exact same thing several times. Every time it happens, I think, “Why did I do that?” But at the same time, I just get so tired of my head hurting all the time. I’ve had migraines for as long as I can remember, 4 or 5 years old, and I’ve had them chronically (although it’s more like daily) for the past two years, and I’m only 25 years old. When my friends invite me out for a drink on a Friday night, I want to go! I just want to be normal. Why can’t I go out and have a couple of drinks like a normal person? But just like you, I can’t because it will either trigger a migraine or if I already have some head pain, it will just make it worse, much worse. Even though I know better, I still give in every now and then.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    6 years ago

    Janet, I don’t know if it’s really the same, but it is similar.

    I have been emotionally distraught and the feelings of utter despair led me to sobbing like a child. I could have stopped, but I needed that release. It was a choice.

    Crying is a big Migraine trigger for me, so I knew what I was doing. I guess in my case it was a matter of the lesser of the two evils. You see, when in that kind of emotional pain, all kinds of bad things can happen too – I stop eating like I should, and other triggers are set into motion without me even thinking about them.

    I don’t think you’re alone in this <3

  • mjsymonds
    6 years ago

    First, let me say I’m very sorry to hear of the unexpected passing of your dear friend. It is tough to lose a contemporary. There is no way to get around the shock and the feeling that these things just aren’t supposed to happen. Again, I am sorry.

    As for deliberately triggering a migraine, yes, I’ve done something similar, and often under much more mundane circumstances. It’s not like it’s a totally conscious act, but more like you indicate, wanting your physical state to match your mental or emotional state: I feel crummy, so I might as well feel really crummy. Generally I don’t recognize what I’ve done until after the fact. It’s more like I’ve skipped a meal, then my supplements, then stayed up waaay later than I normally do, so I’ve pretty subtly “pushed the envelope” on my stackable triggers without doing any one obvious thing (more like sins of omission than commission?) But when I end up with a migraine, it really isn’t much of a surprise, and sometimes I’m weirdly relieved to have the migraine to focus my negative emotions or thoughts on.

    Another variation on this is very consciously “throwing in the towel” when I feel a migraine coming on. In this case it’s more like, “OK, this is definitely a migraine; it’s inevitable, I’m going to have to take my abortive meds now, so why not enjoy… that chocolate cake, that latte, that glass of wine, some of these things I’m always denying myself because it’ll give me a migraine?” It’s not much, but it does give me a sense of taking revenge on the migraine.

  • taralane
    6 years ago

    In response to Migraine Girl and all the other comments, I think all Migraineurs have had this happen to one degree or another. I have eaten foods on my extensive trigger list just to test if I will get a migraine, and how bad a migraine it will trigger. I too have one or two every day – sometimes not very strong or very long, but at the moment am plagued with auras all day long, which is very, very disconcerting .

    I don’t drink at all because I know that will really throw me off balance, and at the moment I am fighting with my insurance co. to get even 1 rescue med that I can take once a week, or once every two weeks, so I don’t have much to use to get rid of the migraines except ice packs, hot packs, and a few other tricks.

    I have been known to bang my head against the wall, cry uncontrollably, stop eating, forget to drink, over-exercise like the type A person I am, and forget to take my daily meds because I cannot find them in the mess that is my house. None of my friends understand this behavior, but it is my way of getting out some of the daily frustration of living with this disease.

    The other thing that will give me a migraine is thinking about something that makes me really angry that hits close to home. If I have been insulted by someone, or had something done to me that was “unfair”, I can dwell on it for hours and inevitably the small #3 migraine will go to a #8 in about an hour, and getting rid of it is a nightmare. Punishing myself for others actions towards me is something I am not proud of, and I am trying to understand and let go of. We all have our areas, I think.

    Here’s hoping we can all make some progress not to make ourselves feel worse in already bad situations. Chocolate is just not worth the pain.

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