Migraine’s Negative Impact on the Support System - Part 1
In this two-part series, we discuss ways that migraine challenges our relationships, while illustrating why a strong support system is key for those who have this disease.
How migraine decimates the support system
While we all wish we had the strongest support system in the world, comprised of compassionate friends and family just waiting in the wings to swoop in and provide tender love and care and logistical support at the drop of a hat, few of us do. Migraines have a way of testing even the strongest of ties.
Pulling focus inward
Relationships are a two-way street. Creating and maintaining compassionate relationships takes time and energy, after all – two things people with migraine have very little to spare. Making and keeping healthy connections with people means staying in touch about each other’s lives. Ideally, it means spending time together on a regular basis. People battling chronic migraine have a challenging time staying in consistent touch. When fighting off an attack, we must pull our focus tightly around us, like a blanket.
In some ways, migraine forces us to be a bit self-centered. A migraine attack demands an immense amount of attention. We use every resource we have to respond to the onslaught of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, severe pain, lack of ability to speak, extreme sensitivity to light, sound and smells – just to name a few. Any assertion of energy in an outward direction can literally make the pain worse. The idea of reaching out to a friend or family member to see how his or her day is going is the last thing we can consider when we are vomiting and writhing around in our beds.
Afraid of letting others down
When we do make the effort to have friendships, feelings of guilt often follow. If we make plans – we often have to cancel – which can mean letting loved ones down. The normal joyous exchange which exists between friends that includes support, camaraderie, and fun times can, for migraineurs, lead to dread and anxiety due to frequent worry over not being able to come through for those we care most about.
The easy answer for many becomes to self-isolate. We grow tired of letting people down so we stop reaching out and trying. For some, the choice is made for them. Friends and family stop calling or coming over. Like a garden with no water or sun, relationships die off when they are left unattended. In many cases, people simply don’t understand the serious and comprehensive nature of migraine. If a migraineur repeatedly cancels or barely ever checks in or follows up, the friend can take it personally, not realizing that it is the disease at work, not the person.
A harsh wake up call for many migraineurs is when we realize that our support system has dwindled down to nothing. There’s no one to call when we’re feeling down- no one to ask for a favor when we need one. And migraineurs often do need help. We need logistical support when we can’t meet our responsibilities. We need a ride to the ER. And perhaps most of all, we need emotional support. Because migraine is so isolating and because depression is a frequent comorbid condition- it’s important that we have a strong support system.
So then how do we, as migraineurs, reap the benefits of a healthy support system when we cannot consistently nourish our friendships?
In part two, we’ll share some strategies for building and strengthening our network of friends and family and invite you to give your ideas on the topic so that we can learn from each other. Stay tuned!
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?