Pets: Giving Company and Comfort
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of women. Whatever the reason, both times I was pregnant I was certain I would have a girl. Both times, I was wrong. With two sons and our family happy and complete, we decided to adopt two female cats to even out the gender balance as I had suddenly become quite outnumbered. The names I had been cherishing since childhood for my daughters I gave to the kittens instead: Stella and Hazel.
I have always been an animal person. My history and connection with both dogs and cats (and rabbits, fish, hamsters, and hermit crabs) runs deep. Just look at the twisted arms of my many friends who I convinced to adopt pets I found on the side of the road. For me, animals are an endless source of love and comfort. The positive energy exchanged between owner and pet is limited only by the expansiveness of the owner’s heart.
In my experience, the intensity of migraine pain can be lessened through the distraction and comfort that comes from pets. Stella and Hazel have provided me with endless hours of relief when I’m struggling with migraines. Like moths drawn to the flame, my cats seem to sense when I’m in serious distress. They leap to my side and plant themselves on either side of my body, often pinning me down – effectively keeping me still and quiet. Their purring reminds me to draw slow and deep breaths along with them. And the simple act of petting their soft fur pulls my focus outward thus serving to keep me calm and perhaps even to deescalate my pain.
Migraines turn up the volume on everything. Lights are brighter, noises are louder, smells are overpowering. We may try making plans with friends which are often canceled last minute due to the inconvenient arrival of a migraine. In response, we retreat to a controlled environment where the world is as dark and quiet as possible. And for those of us with chronic migraines, we must retreat often. Wrestling with crippling pain also tends to draw focus inward. All of these things can lead to fairly isolated existence.
To combat this challenging reality, it is incredibly helpful to have a healthy focus outside ourselves. Something we can touch, feel, look at, hold, engage, and talk with. When we are blessed enough to spend some time with our pets, our focus shifts up and out.
Considering what's best for you
Some people can manage the responsibility of dogs, or a greater number of pets than I can. Indeed, I miss the days I could handle a dog, but am not currently in a place where I can be responsible for taking a dog for a walk several times a day. A hard pill to swallow, but it’s one of many limitations that I’ve had to accept related to chronic migraine. I also recognize that there are many people with migraines who are unable to keep up with any pets due to the pain and side effects of migraines and/or migraine medication. There are days that I struggle to keep up with the simple responsibilities of my cats (litter, food, medications, etc). To that end, every person must evaluate whether or not a pet makes sense for them.
But ultimately, for me, as someone who has chronic migraines, having Stella and Hazel to keep me company and provide comfort and distraction is priceless. Having their sweet and soft souls within reach while wrestling with such horrific pain can make all the difference in the world.
Do you have a pet in your life? Do they provide you with comfort and decrease your sense of isolation?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?