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Suicide and Chronic Migraine

A lovely young woman with chronic migraine whom I met in an online forum has just taken her own life. She had a smile that could light up the world. And she was in tremendous pain for which she saw no end.

Though I didn’t know her well, this young woman’s death has hit me hard. I am sad for her family and friends, and my heart breaks to know how many other chronic migraineurs have felt similarly desperate.

I think of all the people whose episodic migraine attacks have slowly morphed into chronic migraine. So many of us try countless treatments before finding any relief. Our migraines worsen year after year while we try medications with sometimes unbearable side effects. When you’re mired in that much pain, both physical and emotional, you cannot conceive of a life without migraines that continue to escalate in frequency, severity, and duration, destroying what little quality of life you have left. (I know, I have been there.)

Combine having to face each day when your life is in ruins because of migraine with a society that does not understand how ravaging migraine can be. Migraineurs are regularly told that “it’s all in your head” or “it’s only a headache.” We are called weak or fakers. People tell us all we have to do is think positively and our migraine attacks will go away. There is so little sympathy or empathy for those struggling with migraine.

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. I’ve been caught up in my own life and haven’t been on top of spreading facts or writing blog posts. This young woman’s tragic death has reminded me just how vital it is that we raise awareness about this devastating illness.

Too many people suffer horribly from migraine. Too few people know the tremendous damage it can cause. How many more bright, shining stars must the world lose before people begin to understand the cost of chronic migraine?

30 Responses to Suicide and Chronic Migraine

  1. Ronni says:

    Thank you for writing about this. And let’s not forget
    The horrible people in the medical community who
    start helping only to send us to this dr to this dr and
    on it goes which was a big part of our online friends
    struggle—just getting a dr to take her seriously and
    treat get accordingly!

  2. c says:

    After 20 years of chronic migraines, there have been times when I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up. However, I am hopeful that one day , my pain will slowly but surely subside. We must raise the awareness that headaches are a serious and debilitating condition. Thanks for your bog. I feel I am not alone.

  3. Nilofer says:

    This is such saddening news. There isn’t enough support for migraineurs. I am sure that this has been said before but chronic migraineurs should have at least the same support as alcoholics who have AA meetings and rehab centers to attend. I sometimes think about the future and how difficult it might be in old age to deal with migraines. I spend so much time preparing my own food since this seems to be the only way can avoid a good portion of them.

  4. Chris says:

    I would be surprised if any of use suffering from Chronic Migraine did not have some time where thoughts about “ending it” started creeping into our consciousness.
    I know I have experienced this several times over the years. As someone who has struggled with Chronic Migraine for many years I can share a bit of my story.
    Working intensely with neurologists and other medical providers for well over a decade I have noticed that with each new medication / medication combination I would be infused with a new and bright sense of hope. On the other side of that, I have noticed that each “failure” has pulled the floor out from underneath me. I tend to fall into a pretty dark place as new medications fail to have any impact.
    I have basically reached the end of the spinning wheel of medications (You landed on red, lets try…). I have gone through everything out there and some of them two and three times. Nothing has brought about any relief. My latest adventure is Botox. I have had two rounds of injections. It is too soon to tell on the second round, but after the first round I did see an improvement.
    I have had people close to me comment, “I don’t know how you do it”. Well, I do not know either. The alternative to fighting and searching for new treatments is to either live with Chronic Migraine or exit. I do not accept either of these two options so I continue searching.
    I must admit, however, that exit strategy thoughts do still pop up every now and again. These are just thoughts, born out of intense and long-standing frustration. I choose to let these come and go.
    I don’t know what the answer is to such a question. When one is in intense pain more days than not (or every day) how does one deal with that?

  5. This is so gut wrenching, and I feel terribly about it all though I don’t know who the person is. That doesn’t matter. We’re all sisters in our struggle. It’s hard to try to stay positive when everything fails. Even trying to keep a positive attitude can be difficult. For intance, every time I see my dentist I know I’m going to be barraged with “still having those migraines? Gee, that’s awful. Isn’t there anything they can do?”. And yesterday when I said I felt great in the moment and that’s all that counted, it was “that’s just a terrible way to live.”. No wonder we don’t know where to turn sometimes! I wish there were real options out there for migraneurs so this person would not have had to choose death.

  6. Sherry says:

    Kerrie, thank you for writing this, maybe it will help more people have a better understanding of how our lives really are. .

  7. Sherry says:

    Chris, I have always been the same way – so hopeful when trying a new treatment, then absolutely devastated when it did not help. I really hope the Botox will prove to be a good treatment for you.

  8. Mariah says:

    I have suffered headaches for 4 plus years now. I have been suicidal. What stopped me was the power of music. But I agree wholeheartedly. This article has made me want to bring awareness of the terrible disease I carry along with many others who carry it. I scour the internet to try find “My People” 2014 I have had that chance. This article is very eye opening. I send my thoughts and prayers to the family. Thank you for writing this. It helped me out a lot. Best of wishes.

  9. Dina says:

    I have always wondered if others that have migraines like myself suffer from suicidal thoughts and I actually wanted to do a study on suicides in the U.S. And how many people had a history of migraines. I didn’t even know others thought about this, thank u I no longer feel alone

    • Dina, you’re definitely not alone in this. It’s hard to know how many suicides are connected to migraine, but I hear of some every year. I’m sure there are plenty that never get connected to migraine, even if that’s the driving factor.

      Take care,
      Kerrie

  10. Lori says:

    I knew this sweet girl that this article was written about. I am so sad for those she left behind, and I understand her decision. I have been fighting daily chronic migraines for close to 10 years now. I have lost many family and friends. I am getting close to losing my marriage too. It is getting harder and harder to talk myself out of ending my life. I feel so alone right now.

  11. deborah kearney says:

    I totally understand.I was forced to go on fidelis insurance.After having migraines daily all my life my dr.finally found a drug that worked well for me.Fidelis refused to pay for it and now my migrains are so bad I’m barely able to function,I can’t see any other way but suicide.

    • Deborah, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Please hang in there, there are many possible ways to get medications at lower prices. If your doctor hasn’t appealed the insurance company, please have them do so. You can contact the insurance company to ask what their prescription drug appeal process is—your doctor should be familiar with it, but it does vary a bit from company to company. Prescription assistance programs can be a great help, sometimes even providing the prescriptions for free. Here’s a great website to look into it: https://www.pparx.org/gethelp. You can also look into prescription drug discount cards, which negotiate special rates at pharmacies. Many cards are available and the rates vary, but you may be able to get it for a reasonable price. And see what the cost for the drug is from Canadian pharmacies (there are many; I usually check canadadrugs.com and http://www.bigmountaindrugs.com/). Ask your doctor if the medication can be split (you cut one tablet of a higher dose in half for two of the dose you’re currently taking). This can be a good way to save money in conjunction with discount drug cards or ordering from Canada. Also, see if your doctor can give you samples. They may not have any or may be limited in the number they can give you, but it’s worth asking. If none of these things work, ask your doctor which drugs are similar to the one you have been taking and see if your insurance will cover that drug. It may not feel like it right now, but you have many options to look into for getting the medication you need. Best wishes.

      Take care,
      Kerrie

  12. Theresa says:

    I too thought about ending my life as well at least I won’t be in pain anymore, there are days my head hurts so bad I bang my head on my headboard and cry. All I can do now is pray and I wonder is he really listening? And yes there are people that I know that have no clue what I go through and then they criticize me and say my headaches are not real or why don’t you take something for it and I’m tired of hearing the same old Bullshit, sorry for my cussing but I’m just frustrated and don’t know how much more I can take. Ranting aside God help us all!!!!

  13. I have suffered for 43 years and the older I get, the harder it is to fight these every day. I have suicide in my mind all the time. My immediate family doesn’t care except for my younger son. I have two wonderful friends who are very suppose
    I have been to so many doctors who treat you like a drug addict and forget the ER. I have run out of doctors and medications. I have tried everything. Nothing works. I can’t do well and my depression is off the charts. So what do I do. Ending my worthless life is the only option. Not there yet but pretty close. So I know how this girl felt. You are out of your pain my dear girl. Shame on the doctors who didn’t help you and all of those who didn’t take you seriously. I don’t feel sorry for those she left behind. We’re they really there in her years of suffering? Maybe a few, but that’s not enough. May the people in my life who ignore me and never check on me when I am in my room for days on end, they will be happy when I am gone. May they rot in hell!

    • Susan, I’m sorry you’re in such a bad place right now. I, too, have had suicidal thoughts because of migraine. Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. They can help you get through immediate crisis and can also help you find other resources for help.

      It was very helpful for me to talk to a therapist. Not only did she help with the suicidal thoughts, she recommended some ways of coping with migraine that I hadn’t considered (or even heard of) before. If budget is an issue, some therapists use a sliding scale so the client pays what they can afford.

      Ultimately, I discovered that depression (which is common in people with chronic migraine) was robbing me of my ability to cope with migraine and was causing the suicidal thoughts. Dealing with chronic migraine is extraordinarily difficult on its own, depression can make it feel impossible.

      Kerrie

  14. Lori says:

    Susan Follett, I am so sorry for all that you have to endure. I know the pain of not having support or caring from family members. In the case of this girl in the article, I know her mother, and I know how very hard her Mother advocated for her daughter, as she herself suffered from migraines. She continues to spread awareness of migraine, and advicate for all migraine sufferers. I just want you to know that you are not alone. Ending your life would not make this world a better place. Please email me if you would like to keep in touch with me, and we can support one another. I would really like that.

  15. Lori says:

    Kerrie, thank you so much for that information. I have also been in that position, because the pain can make you think that ending your life is so much better than hurting all the time. It truly helps to realize we are not alone, and that others hurt too. I am going to put that number in my contacts. I too have found it helpful to talk to a therapist that specializes in chronic pain. I would, however, like to know some of the things yours has taught you to help cope with migraine? If it’s to personal, and you’d rather not share, I completely understand !!

    Susan, I hope today is a good day for you. Please let us know how you are doing.

  16. Aprile Zarobinski Tuininga says:

    This is a true reminder that chronic pain does kill. I suffer from Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. I always had problems when I was young, it wasn’t as painful when I was young, instead I would have frequent blackouts. As I got older the pain increased but no doctor could figure out what was going on. In 2004 the pain started to become so intense my life began to change for the worse. I saw dozens of doctors, tried every migraine medication you could imagine. I tried everything from keeping a log of my diet and of my pain to acupuncture, herbal meds, physical therapy, I even went as far as trying ECT in hopes of even a small amount of relief. I finally got the IIH diagnosis in 2007 after seeing a neuro ophthalmologist who saw swelling of my optic nerve and sent me to have a spinal tap. My opening pressure was a 39 and that helped confirm the diagnosis. I have suffered with depression and anxiety my whole, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I tried to commit suicide, the chronic pain only increased those feelings. I got married to the most wonderful man in the entire world in 2002 and we had our son about five months after we married (good old fashion shotgun wedding, lol). I realized then I had to work harder to be a good wife and mother despite the increasing pain. They deserve so much more than I could give. I begged my husband to find a woman who could give him and our son the support and love that I felt they deserved. Not once has he ever thought about leaving, like I said he is amazing. I continue to fight every single day in hopes that I can finally become the mother and wife they deserve (these are my feelings, never once has either of them said anything negative or hesitated giving me the support I need to keep up the fight).

    Situations like this teach you who your real friends are, trust me I have lost more friends then I ever could have imagined. I also know now what true unconditional love is and I thank God for teaching me what is important in life. Love, friendship and health are far more important than any materialistic gift I’ve ever been given. My own mother and brother couldn’t give me the love I needed and they are no longer a part of my life. Chronic pain/illnesses show you that you need positivity in your life and you have to surround yourself with love and support instead of people who doubt you or bring around negativity. It’s difficult when most of that negativity comes from your own family. My father died in July of 2012 and I had brain surgery less than two weeks after his death. He was my biggest cheerleader and I miss him more than anyone could know. After his death my mother and brother began to treat me worse then what they were already doing. I can say that since I have gotten rid of all the negative people in my life my attitude and friendships have brought me more joy than I ever thought was possible. I’ve had 8 surgeries since October of 2010 and I still live with serious pain but I am the happiest I’ve ever been. My friends have become my family and my amazing husband and son are the best support system anyone could ever ask for. I thank God every night for all of the happiness he has surrounded me with and as long as my son never has to experience an illness like IIH I’m more than happy to carry that cross for the rest of my life. I have lost quite a few friends to complications and suicide because of IIH and I’m so happy I failed at my attempts. I couldn’t imagine not sharing my life with my hubby or watching my son become such an amazingly smart and talented young man. You have to focus on the positives in life. And even though we have lost people to suicide, they will always be in our hearts. I refuse to judge those people who have taken their lives, they just couldn’t see the bright light in the future. My God is a forgiving God and those we’ve lost are our angels that work so hard to get us through. May God be with all people affected by chronic illnesses. All of you are in my daily prayers and as you will be until I take my last breath! God Bless

  17. Thank you all for your support. I need a therapist. I will find someone.

  18. Lori says:

    Aprile, we share so much in common, as far as losing family members’ support because of my chronic pain. I love them, but I have made the tough decision to not have them in my life. I have a supportive husband, and 3 great kids; ages 14, 11, and 9. God has blessed me with a loving family; my husband’s, and friends who are also my family. Still, I grieve what I wish was. But I am doing well emotionally and spiritually, walking daily with God. some days are rough, as they are for everyone. My kids and husband need me, and I intend to be here for them.

    Susan, I am very happy to hear that. I have been thinking of you. Much love to you.

  19. Jon Baker says:

    The people in my life care about my pain, The problem is they can’t help. I know others have the same symptoms and feelings of despair. I know my family needs me. I also know I can live with the pain. Knowing others have the same problem does not help. I JUST DON’T WANT TO ANYMORE. It isn’t about who knows or cares. It isn’t about the people that depend on me. It is the realization that when I have a good day that this is how others feel all the time. I JUST DON’T WANT TO BE SICK ANYMORE. There is only one solution.

  20. Jon Baker says:

    The people in my life care about my pain, The problem is they can’t help. I know others have the same symptoms and feelings of despair. I know my family needs me. I also know I can live with the pain. Knowing others have the same problem does not help. I JUST DON’T WANT TO BE SICK ANYMORE. It isn’t about who knows or cares. It isn’t about the people that depend on me. It is the realization that when I have a good day that this is how others feel all the time. I JUST DON’T WANT TO BE SICK ANYMORE. There is only one solution.

    • Jon,

      Please, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. I’m sorry you’re in such a place of despair right now. I, too, have been at the point where death seemed a preferable alternative to being sick all the time. I have since discovered that my despair was fed by a two-pronged problem–chronic migraine and depression. Once I managed the depression, living with chronic migraine no longer seemed so bleak. I don’t know if you’re depressed, but having a chronic illness has a complicated, layered impact on a person’s life. Sorting through the layers could reveal other, addressable factors that are fueling your hopelessness. My husband once told me that my life was unbelievably and unfairly difficult, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a life worth living. I wasn’t sure I believed him at the time; now I’m so grateful I listened when he said that.

      Kerrie

  21. Aprile says:

    Lori, I’m so glad you have a wonderful husband and children to help support you, it’s so necessary when living with chronic pain. I would love to know more of your story.

    Jon, I second what Kerrie said, please contact someone who can provide you with tools to help your possible depression. No one here wants to see another person be lost in their feelings and get to the point of taking their life. Once you get that under control I think your outlook on chronic pain can change and you can access the right tools to help you get there. Again, I’m so sorry you are feeling the way you do and you will be in my prayers.

    I want people to know that I have not tried to commit suicide since having my son, I was hospitalized very briefly for having those feelings, but no real plan, and that was my first Father’s Day without my dad, June 2013. It is very possible to get mental illness under control, I see a psychiatrist and therapist frequently, and I will for as long as I live. Mental illness is very real but can be controlled if you put in the effort, because it isn’t easy but for me it has changed my life drastically in a positive direction.

    Love and prayers are sent to all of us who have a chronic illness!!! xoxo

  22. Chris says:

    My heart goes out to you all especially to the parents of the young lady who could bare the pain no longer. I think we all ask the question why are some people plagued with pain such as migrane and other symptoms such as my own, i was diagnosed with sychosamatic pains in my body a year ago, this was due to three bearevements plus other issues. It is a daily battle so i ido understand. My mother used to suffer with migranes often, you feel so helpless for the suferer.

  23. yasmin says:

    i dont know what to do, im starting to have suicidal thoughts after waking up from this chronic migraine. no one believes me, not even my own mother. so im alone right now writing this. .this pain is unbearable, nothing works. what should i do 🙁

    • Yasmin, I’m so sorry to hear this. Are you able to see a headache specialist? Seeing someone with specialized knowledge in migraine can make all this difference in finding effective treatment. And it’s important to know that anyone can call themselves a specialist even without specific training. Here’s a list of headache specialists who have added certification in headache medicine: http://migraineresearchfoundation.org/resources/find-a-doctor/. I also recommend finding a support group (in person or online) and/or speaking with a therapist. Having chronic migraine is extraordinarily difficult and it’s normal to feel grief and loss. Talking with people who understand and can validate your experience is invaluable. Best wishes in your search for relief. Let me know if I can help with anything else.

      Kerrie

  24. Jessica Iskey says:

    I once remarked to my headache specialist “‘I wonder what the suicide statistics are for those of us who suffer from migraines.
    I attempted suicide after the neurologist I was seeing for 6 years quit on me. I was 20 years old.
    I thought things were bad then, they are ten times worse now.
    I’m older (38), have more health problems and have tried and failed all medicines, therapies, unconventional meds, vitamins, experiments, heat, cold – you name it, I’ve tried it. Because of other diseases that I have, there are things I can’t do or take.
    I’ve heard people say ‘migraines don’t control me, I control them’. That doesn’t pertain to me.
    My migraines control me. They’ve ruined my life. They say who, what, when, where and why.
    Hopes and dreams shattered one by one.
    No family. No friends. No job. No husband or kids. No house with a white picket fence.
    Some days I think I’m gonna be alright. Other days I don’t think I’m gonna make it.
    We aren’t alone though. No one understands a migraine like another migraineur. We need to support each other. Our friends, family and even our doctors will make nasty remarks, leave us and even quit. But we are warriors!! We are assaulted and brutalized by these things. And with each one, each day that goes by – we are stronger.
    I don’t know what the future holds, I’ve stopped looking ahead. I can only concentrate getting through each day,each hour, each second and hope and pray that a cure is found for all of us. My heart goes out to this poor girl and to all those who’ve lost their battle with this horrid disease.
    God Bless and Help Us All.

  25. Miranda jaxxon says:

    I have suffered with migraine 30 years. Combined with bi polar depression and the knowing that my grandmother took her life because of this. It’s eerie how genetics is passed down. I suffer so much, worse now at 47. I comptemplate dying all the time. The pain of that constant burn on my temple is maddening. Doctors and specialist and pills and this and that, I have tried it all. I just want it to end. I hate when people say, oh it gets better. No, no, it never does. Can anyone ever tell you the truth. I believe in telling people, life sucks, and most times, it doesn’t always get better. If it did, I would be proof. I used to be positive and believe, but the pain always followed and so did the bad men. I hate my life of pain.

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