Ripple Effect: The Impact of Chronic Migraines on the Entire Support Structure

Ripple Effect: The Impact of Chronic Migraines on the Entire Support Structure

Migraines not only cause comprehensive pain to the patient, but also a corresponding, deep and widespread ripple effect among all those surrounding that person. Recognizing this fact and encouraging all involved to seek a healthy balance might serve to avoid an unhealthy dynamic.

Parenting with migraine

Migraines have the power to completely sideline a person from life. Their responsibilities often shift to someone else. Many times, that person, perhaps a spouse or partner, is also the primary provider of support to the migraineur. Children watch and try to make sense of a parent in severe pain. Depending on their ages, witnessing this kind of struggle can cause confusion or hardship. A healthy balance, already hard to find or maintain for any family, is made all the more challenging for a family including someone living with chronic migraine.

From the experience of repeatedly getting hard-hit by pain, my family and I (like many of you and yours) have created a back-up system of logistical support that springs forth so that when I go down with a migraine, my absence causes the least disruption possible. My husband feels the brunt of it the most. He kicks into high gear, and in addition to his job and volunteer obligations, he covers errands and carpools. Everyone pulls together to do laundry and meals.

Extended family support

When our children were younger, and we were in a pinch, we had to call on our extended family to help cover my responsibilities. My parents and in-laws stepped in to provide childcare; siblings picked up prescriptions. Various family members, co-workers and friends provided transportation and waited with me in the emergency room for care.

Because I have been wrestling with migraines since childhood, my children have never known me without the condition. That truth doesn’t make the reality any less difficult for them to comprehend or understand. When they were younger, I hate to imagine how confusing it must have been to experience the whiplash that migraines created from one day to the next. One day, they would have a physically engaged mother – running around outside; lifting them up, the house shining brightly with lights, open curtains and activity. The next day, the house dimmed and quiet, mom was in the bedroom with the door shut. How could a toddler make sense of such a thing? I have been blessed with a phenomenal husband who jumped in when I was unable. And we are blessed to have a deep bench of family to turn to when he was unavailable. We are fully aware just how lucky we are, and I know that this is not the case for many.

Impact on friends and caregivers

It can by dizzying for the friends of people with migraines as well.  The inconsistent nature of the migraineur’s life – wellness one moment, severe pain the next – means that plans get canceled on a dime, or can’t be made in advance. Someone you count on for support and fun can disappear completely for days on end. Things may feel one-sided. It is gut-wrenching to watch someone you care about as they experience severe pain while being completely helpless to stop it.

It is key that the spouses or key caregivers of people with migraines get support in their own right. And this is important because the person living with migraines is frequently unable to provide that type of support on a consistent basis. While unfair, this is a simple fact. In our situation, I do my best to encourage my husband at every turn to pursue his passions and interests and to go out and have time with his friends whenever he has the time or energy. If you are at all capable of finding ways to support your spouse/loved one to pursue his or her own needs and interests, try to do so. A counselor or therapist is worth considering if your partner might benefit from help in processing the difficult realities of this situation.

Explaining migraine to children

When it comes to children, it’s important to educate them (on an age-appropriate level) about what migraines are and that they are not to blame for the condition. For instance, a child could easily misconstrue that his/her noisy behavior is the cause of mom’s migraine, rather than comprehending that mom’s brain is a little different in a way that makes noises louder for her than for other people. Give children a safe space to feel and vent their frustrations about living around the repercussions of migraine. That might be with a counselor or another family member or a well-prepared family friend. If at all possible, try not to let them feel the burden of your condition. When you need to have the house quiet or dark, work with your support system to find a fun place for them to go to avoid having them negatively impacted by the migraine. That obviously is not always possible. The truth is, migraines take enough from us as it is. When we can, I’m encouraging us to try to lessen the impact on the lives of our loved ones as much as possible.

Being thankful for migraine support

Lastly, when you can, practice GRATITUDE. If you are blessed enough to have family and friends in your life who are trying to help, in whatever way – even if it doesn’t actually help –  be grateful. At least they are trying. Many of us feel very alone and as though there aren’t many people who truly care. So, when you can, acknowledge those people in your life who are making an effort. Send them an email or text. When you feel good, help them out like they’ve helped you. It can help to let these folks know that they are making a difference to you.

Just acknowledging the fact that migraines have a far-reaching effect on the lives of the people surrounding you can help you look for opportunities to encourage them to find support and balance in their own lives. Migraines are no one’s fault. It is a situation you are all in together, and therefore, it is one that needs to be managed, together.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (6)
  • Lind3aA
    6 months ago

    I’d be interested in some reflections on the guilt I feel now watching my grown daughter struggle with migraines of her own. Migraineurs who pass the disposition to a child.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hi @lind3aa – I’m grateful you’ve asked this question and I’ve been doing some poking around to find what resources we have on the topic. It’s a very important one to raise and one that begs some more content, to be sure. Here’s one piece that is relevant: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/passing-on-migraine/ . Additionally, I’d encourage you to pose this question on our Q&A page in hopes that our larger community might see it and chime in with some thoughts: https://migraine.com/q-and-a/.

    Also, we’ll pass this around for our internal team to talk about creating more content on this topic, and will likely post this as a question on our facebook page in the coming days to inspire some community discussion on the topic, so keep your eyes out for that as well.

    Lastly, I’ll chime in to say that I’m someone who has chronic migraine and my son also developed migraine as a teenager. It is extremely disconcerting to see him suffering in this way. Thankfully, his attacks seem to be decreasing in frequency and intensity. I think about my own mother and her deep concern about my life-altering migraine disease. She does not have migraine, but I believe she carries her own (very normal) mother’s guilt that perhaps there was something she did (while carrying me in utero) that might’ve contributed to me having the disease. The reality of course, is that she did nothing and I have it on both sides of my family (paternal grandfather and aunt, and maternal cousin). It’s a disease that is rampant in this world and is no one’s fault. So, while a mother’s guilt is absolutely normal and probably unavoidable, I try very hard to counteract those feelings with reason and logic. Easier said than done, to be sure! It is very hard. How are you managing those feelings yourself? We are here for you and are so glad you are a part of our community.

    Thanks again, so much, for raising this!

  • cindilou3
    8 months ago

    Thankfully my children where grown when I started having chronic migraines but my daughter always has an excuse when I need someone to take me to the ER or to pick up my meds. Everyone else works. I do everything I can for her, always have, it really hurts me that she does not understand my pain. Sometimes I’ll have my 2 grandchildren and I have to call her to come get them because I can’t get my migraine under control. She gets mad at me. My husband is the only one I have who helps to a point. I manage though, I have no choice.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    8 months ago

    It is really tough when family members and friends don’t “get it.” It sounds like you are extending yourself to help your daughter out on many fronts despite your pain which makes her lack of understanding even more hard to take. That said, it is hard for those who have never experienced migraine to truly comprehend what it is all about. It’s certainly not your job to raise her awareness or educate her or others on the topic, however it might end up serving you to try to shed some light on the condition. I have been known to send articles from migraine.com to my family and friends in an effort to help them better understand that migraine is not just a headache, but a complex neurological disease. Who knows? Perhaps she won’t read them, but maybe she will. And maybe she will emerge with some gratitude for all you are doing and some compassion and willingness to help you when you’re in need. In the meantime, please remember that you’ve got a strong community of people who really do understand what you’re up against right here. While we can’t pick you up and take you to the ER, we can offer support and understanding. We are really glad you are here. Stay in touch.

  • cindyd
    2 years ago

    My kids are big enough to take care of themselves now but they still hate to watch me suffer and so does my husband. I’ve been trying Topamax and it is terrible and I’m still having migraines and I feel like a zombie from the Topamax. I am just becoming desperate because I cannot take triptans, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers or beta blockers. My doctor told me this is about the last thing to try and I am miserable. Topamax makes me feel like I am in a time warp or something and all I want to do is sleep. I cant imagine staying on that from now on. Makes me so sad to think this is what my life has come to.

  • Alyphysh
    2 years ago

    Cindyd, I have been there with the Topamax side effects. when I first started on Topamax I was working as an EMS provider, while standing in the ER trying to drop off a patient (long waits even for EMS). I was talking to a nurse and all of my words got jumbled coming out of my mouth, she thought I was having a stroke! This was one of many side effects that I experienced early on. THE GOOD NEWS….. most if not all of the side effects went away for me. I stayed on it from the advice of another patient that had to take it for seizures and I am glad I gave it a chance. I would say give it at least 6 months from when you reach the desired dose. and Drink LOTS of water (it helps)..

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