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Living with Migraine

Anxiety + Migraine, How to help others help you?

  • By Carolyn

    I could really use some advice, or support. I’m prone to anxiety, and sometimes have panic attacks, either before or sometimes during a migraine (often before a severe migraine, which I think ramps up the severity of the migraine). I developed some tools early on for dealing with anxiety, and I feel fairly comfortable breathing through a panic attack even if I’m alone, because I’ve done it before and can usually recognize it for what it is and just weather it out. But, when I’m having a really bad migraine AND my fight-or-flight response is also maxed out due to anxiety, I’m honestly just a mess, to the point where I can’t really form a thought or sentence. I think in part because I’m a thin/fast metabolism type person, the combined adrenaline from pain and anxiety just hits me like a ton of bricks sometimes.

    My boyfriend is awesome, and we make a great team in a lot of ways. He’s always on board with getting me ice packs, drinks, etc. during migraines and keeping the house comfortable and quiet. But, he’ll try to help by asking a huge question: What’s wrong? And I get totally overwhelmed in trying to respond. After all, what isn’t wrong in the heat of the moment? How do you explain that when your head is throbbing and you’re crying hysterically and trying to breathe through a panic attack, so you’ve got no air left for talking? He really wants to help me, and I could really use help during migraine/panic attack collisions.

    How do you help your loved ones understand what you need when you’re too upset or in too much pain to explain it as well as what’s needed? Do you just try to stay calm and practice that calmness until it gets easier? Do you have tools or lists or a system? It breaks my heart to not be able to give a useful answer when he really just wants to help. We talk about it in between attacks, and we have a shared list of things that help during a migraine, but it doesn’t cover all the bases.

    Am I the only one who struggles with juggling high anxiety with pain in such a way that you’re just speechless and useless and want to crawl into a hole? I’m a very organized person and we have a busy little household, I wish I had a pause button. =(

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  • By Pomegranate

    I find it much easier to explain in writing during those, and he understands what that is like as he has a similar problem of being unable to talk correctly at times while the ability to write is left intact.

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  • By kmripple

    Hi Carolyn!
    When I am at a point like you describe, I just make a stop gesture with my hand to my husband. That lets him know that as much as I love him, and as much as I appreciate his concern and help, I cannot accept his support at that moment. When I am at a really dark place, I need to come out of it a bit before I can deal with others.

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  • By SJD

    Don’t discuss it during the migraine/panic attack. Instead have him massage your back, neck and shoulders and scalp. Particularly scalp and neck massaged help with stress and migraine. Don’t think about why or what caused it. Just relax, close your eye and think about how nice it feels to have that massage. Also take you pain meds too of course. Let both work together

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  • By Nonster

    My husband and I have gone through the same scenario. I can’t explain anything in the heat of the migraine. But the next day or maybe two I have sat down with him and brought up this website and asked him to read some articles. When I am on this blog and find an article that would benefit him, I forward it to him. He says that has been very helpful in him understanding the migraine condition. Just yesterday I forwarded him the piece Katie Golden wrote on playing today and suffering tomorrow. Those weren’t her exact words but it’s a great article on how we use our reserves for something really important, only to crash the next day.
    The men in our life really want to help us but I believe it is in their nature to fix things. Unfortunately, we can’t be fixed.
    Sometimes I ask him just to lay down and hold me. No talking, no nothing, just a pure loving hold. It is very comforting and calms both of us down

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