Managing a life with chronic migraine can have extreme effects on the individual’s state of mental health. Many times this is something that headache specialists and neurologists seem to completely overlook. This is not a new concept in the medical field. When I was a teenager dealing with stage four endometriosis, I had an OBGYN state to my mother and me that chronic pain can easily lead to depression and various other mental health issues. But it takes a medical professional and even possibly family members and friends of the individual with chronic migraine to pay attention to the signs and symptoms displayed by their loved one.
Stress and depression
I was originally going to separate these two categories until I started digging into some of the elements and realized just how many overlap with one another, making it hard to separate which factor caused depression and which caused stress. For example, when individuals with chronic migraine continue to try treatments and these treatments fail to work for them, they experience both stress and depression. Sometimes it can be unbelievably hard to hold faith that eventually something will have to make life more tolerable. The extreme pain levels that we live with are also a factor that affects our mental health, making it difficult to avoid reaching the point of “giving up.” A different equally common example is the feeling of becoming a burden to our family, friends, and loved ones. This may seem silly to somebody who is healthy, my husband does not understand why I struggle with this myself, but it is a never-ending battle that I face every day.
A major stressor for those with chronic migraine is the fact that they can never tell when their next migraine will show up. While to somebody without chronic migraine it may seem like a small hurdle, it really is not. How would you feel if you did not know for sure that you would not have a massive migraine on your child’s fourth birthday party or on Christmas dinner? This uncertainty makes it hard to make any set plans. Your version of planning goes from ‘yes I will be there’ to ‘I will do my best to be there.’ This begins to lead down the rabbit hole of depression because others place judgement on the individual with chronic migraine about why they cannot “just tough it out” for the event. Eventually, this also leads back the individual’s with chronic migraine becoming isolated from those around them. This simply adds to the depression.
The isolation that comes with being an individual with chronic migraine is something that strongly affects the state of our mental health. Being forced into regular isolation on its own can lead an individual into feeling some depression, stress, and even find themselves at an increased risk of suicide attempts or self-harm. Unfortunately, the isolation that is created by the symptoms associated with the migraine itself, and many individuals who do not have migraine struggle to understand this aspect. These individuals feel as though the individual with chronic migraine are withdrawing on purpose in order to purposely miss events or things along those lines. This ultimately draws a divide between the individual with chronic migraine and the others around them who do not understand, only making matters worse. Due to this, individuals with chronic migraine can begin to feel as though they do not have any friends and that they are more of a burden on their family members than anything else.
The elements of living a life with chronic migraine vary widely and can have extreme effects on the individual with chronic migraine state of mental health. Elements such as depression, stress, and isolation can easily become extremely overwhelming to the individual. This is especially true if they do not feel as though they have a support system around them.
Do these elements hit home for you or for a loved one? How do you remind yourself that you are more than just these issues?