Volunteering while Disabled with Chronic Migraine
The frequency and severity of chronic migraine pain and its accompanying symptoms can be consuming to manage. For people who’ve been disabled by chronic migraines, volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and a reminder that there is more to life than pain.
Often people with migraine are Type-A in nature: driven, well-organized, and with high standards for themselves. It is interesting then to learn that one in four people stopped working, took medical leave, or reduced work hours due to migraine (a statistic which emerged from the recent from migraine.com study). Here we are, trying so very hard and in many cases, migraines have effectively sidelined us from our careers. And when migraines disable us, we can be left feeling lost and rudderless. Forced to redefine ourselves, it can help to find volunteer opportunities to feel productive within the confines of the condition.
Paradoxically, the very thing that might have taken us off the job market may make volunteering problematic as well. The awful truth for those of us living chronic migraines who want to volunteer is that we can’t always be counted on to be in a certain place at a certain time. This is a terrible feeling. Especially for us Type-A folks. Many of us are incapable of committing to be in the same place at the same time every day due to the severe pain or related symptoms of migraine. The last thing anyone wants is to volunteer where help is needed and then have to cancel last minute. The trick, therefore, is to find ways we can help others that can be done with some flexibility – in our own time, on our own terms, and perhaps even in our own homes.
When seeking volunteer opportunities, keep in mind that you are likely well-suited to provide support to others. Living in a fairly constant state of pain can be a direct and eye-opening route toward compassion. When we struggle in a deep, long-term way, we can’t help but empathize with others who might be in the same or similar circumstances. Extreme challenges open our eyes and hearts to the hardships of others like nothing else can. When we have a painful health issue, we can’t help but put ourselves in the shoes of those who are wrestling with similar difficulties. We know what it’s like to feel isolated and deal with pain.
It’s also helpful to consider what you are passionate about. Migraines take so much from us; it may have been a while since you did something you really enjoyed. Do some brainstorming and some research. Look online at local nonprofit organizations to see if any of them are doing work that intrigues you or are a good match with your professional background. Many of those organizations would welcome your help as a volunteer or board member. If you like cooking, for example, perhaps you can bake for Meals on Wheels. If you are a knitter, maybe you could knit blankets for the local hospital. If you are tech or web-savvy, you could offer your services to a nonprofit looking to create, maintain or breathe life into their social media or web presence.
Whatever the task, it’s important to feel useful and to connect with and help others. Finding ways to volunteer when you’re disabled can provide the healthy perspective that there’s more to life than migraines and can help you to look up and out.
Have you found ways you can look up and out? Are you able to volunteer in spite of your migraines? If so, how?
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?