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Living with Migraine

Emotional distress/rocking during an episode

  • By Livvy

    Hi.
    I wonder if other people start feeling extreme emotional distress when a headache begins. Not because of the headache specifically, but it feels like the worries I have normally are skyrocketing – like I feel hopeless and that nothing will be okay. It’s hard to explain but it frightens me. I also feel very alone. And I cry a lot. When the pain goes (24 hours to 2 days at its worst) I feel a lot better emotionally.

    Another thing is I kind of rock my body back and forth when Im in pain. Like it comforts me or something. Is that normal?

    I have a family (mother father siblings) that are NOT supportive. How can I comfort myself? Does vicks vapor rub help anyone? thanks. sorry this is so gloomy.

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  • By Nancy Harris Bonk Moderator

    Hi Livy,

    I’d like to reassure you feeling this way during the first phase of a migraine attack is not uncommon. Anxiety, trouble concentrating, panic attacks and as you said “emotional distress” can all occur. Many times during prodrome, I feel more anxious, irritable and have difficult finding words. It’s very frustrating but helps to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    I sometimes find it difficult to stay still during really bad attacks and tend to pace. I can’t get comfortable; sitting doesn’t work, laying down doesn’t work and sleeping is impossible. I’ve not tried rocking, maybe that will help.

    Please know you’re not alone, we’re here and understand,
    Nancy

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  • By Livvy

    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for your words of support. It helps! Yes, basically I can’t be still. Sometimes people say “try and get some sleep – or just lay down” and I have to explain that I can not sleep or lay down until the pain is gone – even if it means staying up all night. Or at least until it subsides.

    It is really good to know I am not alone in feeling these strong emotional feelings attached to the headache. I actually phoned a crisis line just now (just one where you can talk- there’s not a real crisis) and it finally helped relieve the emotion/fear stuff-speaking to someone kind helps me. (Even if it doesn’t stop the migraine.) It sounds funny but I finally hand washed some dishes with this Trader Joes Lavender dish soap and big fancy dish washing gloves while listening to a lecture on mindfulness. The warm water, bubbles and soothing voice calmed me down more. But the first thing that helped was your lovely response. Thanks for your sincerity and kindness. <3

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  • By Lisa Robin Benson Moderator

    Hi Livy,

    I too have felt distressed and frightened by the emotions that can come up during a migraine. I actually wrote an article on it that’s on this site: https://migraine.com/blog/depression-more-than-just-comorbid-conditions/

    I think reaching out to a crisis line was a great idea. Sometimes it is so helpful to just have someone listen. Would you want to consider therapy? I have found therapy to be so helpful in the past with dealing with the emotional roller coaster of migraines.

    Be well,
    Lisa

    PS: I too, find that washing dishes and listening to something calming can actually be a soothing activity–and I love lavender!

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  • By chiaragtl

    I become almost bipolar, all the spectrum from suicidal depression to panic attacks to dysphoric and euphoric hypomania and some kind of lethargic depression feeling too. Like ultra-rapid cycling.

    I’m not bipolar, though I have a mood disorder in full remission. so it’s *only* the migraine.

    I don’t feel down and weird because I’m in pain,often when the headache is at its worst the mood is not that bad or because chronic migraines like any other chronic condition is depressing. it’s a symptom like vomit or photophobia.

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