Woman lashes out in agitation at her partner will driving car

Migraine Irritability and Agitation

Last updated: September 2022

As someone who has lived with migraines most of my life, I'll be the first to admit that they have taken over my conscious thinking and even impacted my personality at times. Now, this is not something I am proud of, but I think that anyone who has experienced the depth of pain and challenges a migraine comes with can understand how this happens - and how impossible it is to control. Today I want to share a little more about this recognized experience and how I've come to manage it.

The physical pain of migraine

The physical symptoms of a migraine are hard enough to deal with.

When I get a migraine, I struggle with immense physical pain. It feels like someone is pounding on my head with a sledgehammer, and with every additional hit, I move further from consciousness to unconsciousness. That pain, for me, always comes with sensitivity to light and sound. And somehow, the pounding seems to make noise all on its own. Migraines make me extremely nauseous and often come with vomiting. When I find that laying on the cold bathroom floor brings me a small amount of comfort, I know I'm in for a long day (or night) ahead.

The pain bleeds into my conscious thinking

Now, it's not a surprise to me that being in that level of intense physical agony can impact me on a conscious level. It's impossible to think straight when I feel like my head is going to explode, the pain and pressure causing me to beg for mercy and even wish to blackout until it passes. But what about the time with a migraine that I'm awake and trying to function? The times that I have to parent my toddler or interact with other adults?

I become irritable and agitated

In retrospect, it's easy for me to see how I am often irritable and agitated in that space.

At the moment, it's sometimes challenging for me to recognize that I am displaying those characteristics, and even if I can acknowledge it, it's nearly impossible to change my behavior. My feelings of frustration and resentment toward my body and this life while experiencing a full-fledged migraine are large and in charge, and silencing or redirecting them feels like way too giant of a feat when I'm simply just trying to function with a migraine.

Justified but inexcusable

But looking at the bigger picture, I've noticed that my tendency to lash out, be short with others, and have a lower than normal threshold for frustration are completely justified to me, said migraine sufferer. However, this does not and cannot excuse my behavior or mend the fences I've bulldozed while in a migraine state.

I need to shut down and rest

I've learned that when I'm struggling with a migraine, it is absolutely best for me and others if I shut down. I need to take a sick day from work, arrange childcare for my daughter, wait to return phone calls or emails, and simply be present in my pain and my need to rest. By removing myself from possible interactions and engagements, I'm preventing the irritated, agitated version of myself from showing up and wreaking havoc on my relationships and tasks.

Today, I'm grateful for this realization. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but I have come to understand how migraines affect me more holistically.

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