How Do I Process Grief Resulting from Migraine Disease?
Last updated: September 2023
Few events in my life have caused me to carry a burden of grief. The passing of a loved one, friend, or pet is a common event that comes to most people's minds.
What kind of loss have I had because of migraine?
I have always associated loss in my life with a time of grieving. Migraine disease has caused me to experience a loss due to its impact on my life. For me, migraine has been a slow goodbye to many aspects of my life. This has taken me through the typical grieving process, which was sometimes painful as it settled into reality.
When did I experience denial?
While in my episodic days of the disease, I lived in the first stage of grief, denial. I would write off my attacks as 'bad headaches,' and their frequency wasn't impacting my life daily. I treated them with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and pushed through. I was unaware of the dangers of leaving this disease alone to progress. I kept telling myself and those around me, "It was fine, or I'm fine." As time went on, the disease progressed and impacted my life for days at a time. I knew I needed to get checked out by a doctor.
When did the anger come?
I never looked forward to going to the doctor, but I thought this was probably nothing. One visit led to another and another for me with no definitive answers. It was time to seek out a headache specialist. Then I got my diagnosis of intractable migraine and new daily persistent headache. By then, I was also firmly entrenched in a medication adaptation headache cycle that needed to be broken. I was angry by the diagnosis or the outcome of these conditions. There is no cure for them currently. That frustrated me. I resented the illness because, at that time, I felt I was to blame for not caring for myself. That is not the case at all, but at the moment, I was dazed.
When did I overthink and feel anxious?
"This was a problem I needed to solve," I told myself. I spent many hours playing the game of 'If I would/should have done.' The overthinking was consuming me. When I could stay focused, all I thought about was these illnesses. My attack cycles were brutal and were now spanning weeks at a time. I was missing work, missing out on life. I was anxious about the next attack. When would it come? How long would it be? Was I ever going to gain some control in my life again? Thankfully, my wife was there for me. She advocated for me and came to all my appointments. She was and is my rock. Her intelligence, patience, love, and support were my lifeline.
When did depression enter my life?
Time slips away quickly with this disease. Most days felt uncertain and scary. This wore on my body. The door was opened, and in came depression. I hated having the constant feeling of helplessness and disappointment. My life was drained out of me as a result of this disease. I was losing hope that it could ever be refilled. Even today, depression and anxiety sit inside me. They are treated as co-morbid migraine conditions and several other co-morbid conditions. Using combination therapies has been very helpful in managing both migraine and my different needs.
Have I accepted migraine?
With more effective management, I moved into the acceptance part of the grieving process. Mindfulness and reviving my self-compassion were excellent tools. I started to rebuild my life. It was different for me since I had never reinvented who I was or this much of my life. The positive self-talk helped me to be ok with being vulnerable and tolerate my emotions. I developed coping skills, and my self-portrait looked better. I was, once again, good enough and ready to begin living in my new reality, my new 'normal.' It is still really good most days, but different. Most of my previous life had been laid to rest.
Have I fully grieved and rebuilt my life?
Healing has come at many levels for me since my journey has begun. I had worked through my grief stages and embraced the changes in my life. It wasn't easy rebuilding my sense of worth and purpose. I had chosen to live the whole life I could with migraine disease and all that comes with my version of it. I am not my illnesses. They do not define who I am. Hope is a driving force in my life again. I know a cure is coming one day. I hope I'm here to see it!
How has migraine affected your life? Let me know in the comments.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?