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That Migraine Smacked Me Down!

Migraines, Suffering, Suicide, and Hope

HangOn166 This, week, I've seen people with Migraines talking about suicide. One of them attempted to take her life over the weekend. If I'm honest, I have to admit that I had suicidal thoughts several years ago, when my Migraines were at their worst.

You probably know the feelings that bring people to this point...

  • the hopeless feeling that we're going to spend the rest of our lives being in pain and debilitated most of the time...
  • the frustration of people around us not understanding that a Migraine isn't "just a headache" that can be "cured" with aceteminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen...
  • the fear of when the next Migraine will hit, and the fear of leaving home because if it...
  • the anxiety and feelings of inadequacy when fearing losing our jobs...
  • the despair of losing relationships with family, friends and coworkers...
  • the loss of hope of having any quality of life...
  • and on, and on, and on.

All of these feelings can build until we don't see a reason to continue living, to where we just want it all to end.

When we're feeling that way, most online support groups and forums arent the place to turn for real help. The people there aren't trained to help someone who is feeling suicidal. The first thing to do at such times is talk to a trained professional. If we have a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist, that's the place to start. There are also hotlines we can call:

  • 1-800-273-TALK,
  • 1-800-SUICIDE,
  • and for teens, the Boys and Girls Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

There's also the option of going to a hospital emergency room and asking for help. Once the immediate crisis has passed, online support can be valuable to help us.

But, how do we keep from getting to that point in the first place? How do we live with the pain and all the rest while we work on a good management regimen? This is why we need to be honest with ourselved and our health care team and work on our coping skills. I really think there are times in our lives when all of us can use help with coping skills. This is one reason so many Migraine and headache clinics have psychologists and psychiatrists on staff. It's not to tell us it's "all in our heads."

When I first visited the Jefferson Headache Center in Philidelphia, a psychological profile and exam was part of my first appointment. I had to see the psychiatrist before I saw Dr. Young, my Migraine specialist, and I had a huge chip on my shoulder about it. Knowing this, the first thing Dr. Tramuta did was address my question, "Just why do I have to see you, and see you even before I see Dr. Young?" He had a two-part answer to my question:

  1. He was to screen for depression. If I had a depressive disorder, was I being treated for it? If so, was the treatment working well.
  2. He was to evaluate my coping skills for living with a chronic disease, and set up appointments to help me develop better coping skills if necessary.

PLEASE, if you're having problems coping with Migraines, or any illness for that matter, seek professional help. There is NO shame in it. No need to be embarrassed. Ask your doctor for help, for a referral to a counsellor, psychologist, or psychologist. Get screened for depression, and if you're diagnosed with depression, get treatment. The prevalence of depression in the general population is 17%. Among Migraineurs, it's 47%. IMajor depressive disorder is a disease too, and there are treatments. I'm among the 47% of Migraineurs with major depressive disorder. With treatment for the depression, I'm so much more able to cope with Migraines, stressors, and life in general.

It breaks my heart to see people in so much distress and thinking of taking their lives. It doesn't have to be like that. It can take time to find an effective Migraine management regimen, but it can be done. If you're not making progress, consider a new doctor. No doctor right for every patient. Keep in mind that neurologists and pain management doctors aren't necessarily Migraine specialists. Find a Migraine specialist. Tie a knot in the end of your rope, and hang on while you get whatever help you need with coping. Find a discussion forum or some other way to talk with other Migraineurs so you don't feel alone. Remember that we need to take care of ourselves -- body, mind, and spirit.

Live well,


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© Teri Robert, 2010
Last updated August 20, 2010

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