Migraine and Sustainably Being There for Others
I have always been a particularly sensitive person, both personally and towards others. I would characterize myself as very empathetic and attentive to those around me, and I tend to think about a lot of situations involving others I know and care about for maybe too long of a time.
The weight of my problem-solving hat
I want to problem solve and fix issues when they come to my attention as soon as possible, and in general, I like to be a part of the process of getting things in order when something chaotic happens in my vicinity. My younger brothers would tell you that I can insert myself a bit too aggressively in trying to make sure that everyone and everything is alright! Ha.
Balancing these personality traits, though, with the experience of migraine nearly every day can be both physically and emotionally overwhelming, and sometimes impossible. I have to remind myself to take a healthy step back from investing in caring for others, so as to not neglect myself, as well as remind myself that it is okay if I am not the one doing the problem-solving.
Taking after my mom and grandma
Growing up, I watched as two of the strongest people in my life took care of everyone and everything in their vicinity seemingly all of the time. My mom also dealt, and still deals with, chronic migraines all the while. Like her, I tend to ask "what support do you need?" to folks around me, worrying about how to help when I can, sometimes at the expense of my own well-being and health.
I have learned over the years that it takes discipline and a sober look at my own capacity to really help others in a sustainable way and be good to myself, too. After all, migraine can be so unpredictable and varied that over-committing can lead to letting others down, and dealing with chronic pain can make us completely unable to serve others at all some days, no matter how much we want to.
Getting stuck in a loop
I am not much help if I have run myself completely down and out of energy and mental clarity. I have made commitments and promises to be there for loved ones a number of times, only to be stuck in bed with migraine. That just leads to worrying that I let them down and worrying about their situation while worrying about my own pain simultaneously.
At other times, not wanting to bear the disappointment, I have completely neglected my own health to care for others and have ended up drained and sick! It can be a negative feedback loop.
Listening to my body
There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with putting others before oneself sometimes. Occasionally taking time to call and check in on someone’s situation instead of using that time to read or watch TV, for instance, is a simple way I can invest in others while not neglecting my needs too much when I am feeling up to it.
There have been times where I’ve neglected to rest and recover after days of dealing with migraine, however, where I instead jumped right into a bunch of commitments like investing in friends’ professional projects or volunteering in community service activities knowing I was in no shape to do so.
Balance is key
Empathy can brighten the lives of those around us, just as receiving understanding and help from others can brighten the lives of those living with migraine, but it can make all the difference to know when and how we can actually engage with giving our energy to others without jeopardizing our own health and well being.
Sometimes we may not have a choice as to how much we can balance this, like in the case of taking care of children for some ---sometimes we have to push well beyond our limits to care for others. This is why it is so important in my opinion to set boundaries for those situations where we do have a say, to work towards a healthy self and healthy relationships with others.
Calling on others
Sometimes, all we can and need to do to help someone else is to call for outside help if we can’t do something ourselves. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t always be there witnessing what is going on when something has gone wrong, and I am not always in good shape to brainstorm solutions or offer my help.
What I can do in these situations, is call on others to reach out to folks in need of a helping hand or connect people and step out of it. Remembering that help is not about me helping, but about others being helped, is a constant important reminder I try to tell myself.
How do you balance taking care of others with taking care of yourself? Do you have tips for the community on striking a good middle ground? Let’s discuss in the comments!
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?