When Migraine Hits Our Self-Worth and Social Circle
Last updated: September 2023
Living with chronic migraine is an intensely painful physical condition. The severity and frequency of pain and related symptoms can bring us to our knees. Migraine has a less-frequently discussed but equally important emotional and social component as well.
How does migraine impact our support systems?
Chronic migraine results in our having to miss social encounters and activities on a regular basis. This removes us from our social circle and can make it more difficult to give and receive support. Due to the way migraine forces people into quiet dark rooms to battle attacks alone, a sense of isolation arises which adds to the feeling of being cut off from the world. Additionally, people living with chronic migraine are frequently sidelined from their careers, removing an additional potential support structure.
How can it impact our self-worth?
Chronic migraine frequently sidelines us from our careers. When support systems are tested or depleted by migraine, and work is no longer an option, self-worth takes a hit, too. If the majority of society defines success and productivity through the lens of a job, the questions arise: “How am I contributing? Do I matter? What’s my impact?” Unfortunately, migraine can take a huge bite out of self-confidence.
How do we redefine our self-worth?
A journey often unfolds in which the definition of productivity must be questioned and ultimately redefined. When migraine so frequently forces the loss of days, weeks, months, and years to the disease, reconnecting with a sense of self-worth becomes important as we seek to define our impact on the world. Focusing less on achieving the traditional markers of productivity/success, we instead may evaluate our self-worth through a different lens. What are those factors we can control in the face of chronic migraine? Are we compassionate and kind to others? Perhaps we cannot manage multiple friendships, so we choose to focus on the quality rather than quantity of our relationships. I am a human being, not a human doing.
How do we find unique ways to be “productive”?
By evaluating what our migraine pattern allows us to do each day, many people living with migraine find self-worth in new and unique ways. Creative pursuits (artwork and music); taking walks in nature; or, volunteering in a manner that doesn’t trigger attacks may emerge as a new way of feeling accomplished. It’s human to want to have an impact in the world and therefore it’s important and helpful to reach for nontraditional ways that can lift the sense of self-worth.
How do we stay connected?
If we cannot spend time with friends and family members in traditional ways, we also must seek alternative paths that lead to a support system. Navigating the emotional component of migraine is a huge undertaking. Strengthening our table legs of support is key and also can involve a redefinition on that front. While we may not be able to manage as many relationships as others, we can still have (and need) deep connections. Finding these people in unique places - in an online community with likeminded people; with a counselor, and a choice few people in real life - can make a huge difference in dealing with all that migraine throws at us.
What’s most important?
Migraine alters our capabilities in a comprehensive manner. There is no getting around that fact. Expanding our definitions of productivity, accomplishment, and connections to include what’s in our reach is key.
There is an adage that refers to people on their deathbed and how they will never wish they had another day to work, but instead wish for more time with family. Even though chronic migraine may have forced us from work, I doubt we’ll ultimately be wishing we had more time at a job. Choosing to focus on how we are living and how we are loving can help us to see that being connected and having an impact emerges as that which is most important in life. Seeking small adjustments in that direction is a wonderful step.
Has your self-worth or social circle taken a hit due to chronic migraine? If so, how have you navigated this challenge? We’d like to learn from you – please share your experiences in the comment section.
In the past year, has insurance made it difficult to get your migraine treatment?