Mental Health and Migraine - It's OK To Ask For Help
Trigger Warning: The content includes information related to mental and emotional distress and it might be upsetting to some people. If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, have attempted suicide, or experience emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273–TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat. To get general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, contact SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1–877–SAMHSA7 (1–877–726–4727)
Help. It’s not a dirty word. It’s also not an easy word.
In 2020, I’m honing in on what it means to “Help” and be helped.
I’ve walked through the last few years as a stranger to myself living in someone else’s body. Trauma and physical illness will do that to you. I thought I had understood that. I hadn't.
For many years, I tried to ignore the pain
Every day, I’m still going through (e)motions of what a “normal” response to trauma and the pain illness causes. For many years, I blocked things out. The physical pain that migraine caused and the hours and events it has taken away from me, in addition to other serious illnesses. I spent all of my time trying to ignore things that made me feel pain, trying to block it out, and not knowing what the “right” resources for me were.
Asking for help when migraine is invisible
This year I’ve needed more of it in much greater quantities and at a rapid pace. I live with several serious health ailments and in the past 3 years, a lot of it has become too much for me to bear. I sought help and went inpatient several times over the last few years to help me learn how to appropriately cope when I am ill. For me, physical pain makes my other conditions (mainly PTSD) even worse. I know had I not sought help, there may have been a different outcome.
It's so hard to ask for help, especially given that migraines are pretty invisible to the naked eye. Because of that, we don't feel a whole lot of validation. Validation is so important when it comes to pain and especially mental health.
Knowing I have a life worth living for
I’m used to being “the helper”. I have been all my life. I thrived off of it for so long I didn’t see that so many times, I failed to put on my own life preserver before lending it out. It was time to seek treatment for my depression, my suicidal thoughts, and very little quality of life.
I’ve been given the amazing opportunity each time I have left treatment to start over - start fresh. With a lot of help and very little shame. No matter how many tries this thing takes me. I have a life worth living for and I'd want to believe that every day of my life.
I'm not here to say my boat is floating to shore and I’d be happy to let others in, despite mine having several large holes at the bottom.
But that’s not the case.
Taking care of myself first
Every day I’ve struggled to swim and have bobbed the waters of recovery. Two times, a ship came to save me. Because I asked for help. Twice my life was saved. This is something I learned when I was inpatient. I have to take care of myself first, or I'll never make it.
Every day is so hard. It’s difficult to fall asleep knowing tomorrow will be much of what today was. It’s hard to open your eyes after little to no sleep and have the physical strength to do it all over again. Just to do it all over tomorrow.
Grieving the life we could have had without migraine
I have been inpatient at a psychiatric rehab facility twice since spring due to my mental health spiraling. It was needed, necessary, and life-saving. It gave me skills to try and reset my day when I feel like I can't handle the pain and the grief. We're in really uncharted territory right now and I hope this time allows each of us to look inside ourselves and reach in, find strength and allow yourself to feel what you need to. Some of us need more help than others, but we all need help.
Recovery is not linear. Recovery is ugly. It is a thing of extraordinary beauty and a thing of pain and sadness. It’s also about grieving your former self- which I know now can be a healthy thing. It's okay to grieve the person you were before migraine or may have been, had you not been diagnosed.
Knowing when to reach out for help
I honestly don’t know who reads my material - I hope it’s able to be an insight for someone who may recognize someone struggling and offer help. There is far too much misunderstanding of what “health” looks like. I hope we can collectively fix this while we lift each other up in Help.
Three things I pray for in the coming year: love, understanding, and recognizing my value. I also pray for all of us who are struggling to come to terms that we have a mental illness on top of chronic physical ailment.
PS - I see you. maybe it’s not okay today. Maybe it won't be tomorrow. There’s a better life once you open the door to help. I’m proof. I wouldn't be here without all of the in and outpatient help I've received from my Psych care team, my counselors, and my therapist. I truly feel lucky to be alive, despite the pain that lets me very clearly know that I still am. Alive.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?