How Migraine Has Impacted My Relationship With My Long Term Partner

Nine years ago, I was experiencing one of the most formative times of my life, having left my relatively small home community and gone off to a big state school many miles away from my old family and friends. I was working towards my undergraduate degree in film studies.

Balancing migraine and college life

I was in the mix of figuring out a brand new environment, meeting and getting to know more new and interesting people everyday than I ever had and probably ever will again, and basking in some first-time freedom away from my parents (which was all pretty awesome). I was also navigating college with improperly diagnosed ‘daily head pain,’ poorly managed allergies and asthma, and spent a ton of time at the university health center, struggling to balance being ill with tackling my course loads head on.

Learning more about myself in college

Attending university for the first time catalyzed a lot of growth and learning for me outside the classroom, specifically in regards to my health. It is also where I met my long term partner and now caretaker, G.

Meeting my partner

One of the new and interesting people I’d met during my second year of college was my then Italian study buddy and now long term partner and caretaker, G. Not to get too sappy, but G is the reason my undergraduate experience was so sweet and manageable, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. We met in Italian class, but also ended up working together in the same university dining hall. One day G invited me to a party, then I invited them over for a movie. We watched Forrest Gump, baked a boxed chocolate cake, and drank Blue Moon. Suddenly we had a favorite lunch spot where we would get spring rolls and bubble tea. My favorite is still Taro flavor, and theirs is Thai with extra boba. We started a band together. We moved in together. Well, the rest was history.

Learning and growing together

Now, seven years later, I’ve learned so much about G, and they’ve learned so much about me. We have helped one another grow, and have each been there beside one another through adversity and sickness, time and again.

Navigating migraine with a partner

There have been and are still incredibly sweet and exciting moments that G and I experience together, but as with any relationship, things are not always peachy. Some of the most complicated aspects of our relationship are directly related to the ways we have interacted with migraine over time. G was there when I was first diagnosed with migraine with aura, and saw firsthand how my illnesses affected the way I navigated school and work. Navigating a life with migraine has been a learning experience with many frustrating hiccups for us both over time.

Pushing through the pain of migraine

When we were younger, I would push through migraines for the sake of fun. Parties, drinking, shows, going out, taking late night trips, all of that was fair game...pretty much whenever. Yes, I was in pain often, but I also didn’t want to trade the experiences I was having. I was young and free! I had a lot of fun!

Chronic migraine has changed me

These days, I can’t hang the way I used to. I’ve stopped drinking completely. I go to bed at 9pm. I can’t stand loud music for very long anymore. I am in a sense a very different person with very different desires and needs than when G and I first met, mostly due to chronic migraine. My younger self would call my present self a real snore.

Chronic migraine has changed us, too

G is also a lot more reserved and chooses to stay in often, and I wonder all the time if those habits have developed because of their proximity to me. G and I still write music together, occasionally go to shows, and travel here and there, but not nearly as much as we used to. I simply can’t power through the way I used to, and prefer not to exacerbate my pain. Between working, cooking, going to the gym, and resting, we also just don’t have as much time as we used to.

From friend to caretaker

One huge change in our relationship came about when we both noticed how much G was caring for me every single day. At one point a few years ago, I was so sick for months that I could not function in even small ways without the help of G. My migraines had worsened to the point that I was missing school and work, unable to eat, glued to the bed in a dark, cold bedroom. G gave me the nickname ‘vampire.’

Learning how to be a migraine caretaker

Being the sweet and loving friend they are, G always extended a helping hand and tried to help me achieve comfort and relief. It didn’t come naturally though, G and I both had to learn together what helps and doesn’t, and we had to have candid conversations about the role they played, because it was emotionally, physically, and psychologically taxing on them too. This wasn’t a casual check-in sort of thing, it became something present in both our lives every day.

Intimacy and migraine

Another huge way migraine has changed our relationship over time is though intimacy. When we were young, starry-eyed college students...well we were young and starry-eyed. Every hug was a dream. Now, with the added stress of adulthood and worsened migraines, more often than not I am in bed with throbbing pain and have only one desire...relief from the hellish pain of migraine. Gentle caresses can now be lightning bolts. Kisses on the forehead can be sharp twinges. Whereas we used to have moments of spontaneous closeness, now we communicate clearly and directly about hugs, hand-holding, and kisses just to be sure I am feeling okay. It can be awkward and sometimes frustrating, though luckily through all this time G has learned to be attentive to my needs, almost like an extra sense.

Migraine has changed our relationship

Even though our relationship has changed in difficult ways over time due to migraine and just getting older, it has also evolved in amazing ways. I know that G would do anything for me, and I know that I have a partner in fighting this awful disease through thick and thin. Perhaps most humorously, now that we stay in all the time we’ve been able to watch three entire Star Trek series: Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager - that’s a lot of Star Trek that I think we’d never have been able to consume without the nudge of migraine keeping us from partying like we’re still twenty-one.

Has migraine changed the way you and your partner interact over time? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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