When I saw that Robin Williams had died, I was sad for the death of someone whose work had touched my life, but I did not cry. Then I saw it was suicide and — as twisted as this may sound — hoped it was to avoid the painful decline of a chronic illness. When I saw he’d been severely depressed, I stood in my kitchen and sobbed. Depression was that illness and he’d already experienced its painful decline.
I remember what it felt like when death seemed like my best option and am crying for everyone who feels the same way. That the world has lost someone who brought great joy to so many lives, that a woman lost her beloved husband, that children have lost their father to a cruel yet (usually) treatable illness is tremendously sad. That he is only one of the thousands of people who took their own lives today… I cannot find the words.
1-800-273-TALK. Put that number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in your phone right now. Whether you need it for yourself someday or for someone you love, have it available and, more importantly, use it. If you have had suicidal thoughts in the past, please put together a suicide safety plan. (The link is to guidance in the context of migraine, but it is best to put a plan together with the help of a mental health professional. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also help with a suicide safety plan.) I hope you’ll never need to use it, but planning ahead could literally save your life.
Take care of yourselves.
Chronic Marriage is a fabulous blog on chronic illness and marriage that I’ve just stumbled upon. The blogger, Helena Madsen, not only discusses issues that relationships face when one partner has a chronic illness, but gives concrete suggestions for coping with them. Some that have caught my eye:
The posts are directed toward married heterosexual women, but much of the advice seems like it could be applicable to all romantic relationships. I highly recommend check out this blog!
It’s been a long time since a migraine destroyed my mood like it did Tuesday. It was a scary reminder of the dark thoughts that accompany migraine mood changes.
I was fiddling with a picture for a post and minor frustrations had me nearly in tears. Hart fixed the problem while I sat beside him, closed my eyes and took deep breaths. My mind jumped from Photoshop to “Why can’t I get this diet figured out. What am I supposed to do when a food is OK on one day and then not the next time in the rotation? How am I supposed to eat anything? What if I don’t get it sorted out and the migraines come back full force? I don’t want to do that again.”
As my mind spiraled in fear, I reminded myself to not believe everything I think. Those thoughts I was having? They aren’t Truth, nor do they represent what I believe most of the time. I told myself, “This is migraine. This is migraine. This is migraine. This is not me.” Within minutes of remembering the critical distinction between me and migraine, all the anxiety and frustration melted away.
Then I was amazed at how far I’ve come. When a migraine hijacked my mood even a couple years ago, I’d respond by dwelling on every dark thought that crossed my mind. Now I know to shut down those ruminations because they hurt far more than they help. Realizing I’ve learned to pay diligent attention and respond to all the minute migraine-induced changes (mood and otherwise) fills me with gratitude and pride.
Through much research and work, I’ve made tremendous strides in my physical health. I have worked just as hard at changing the way I react to and cope with migraine. As proud as I am of the first achievement, the latter may be even more meaningful. While my physical improvements may not last (in fact, I’m having all sorts of food issues and averaging two migraines a day right now), I can always rely on the strategies I’ve learned to ease the burden of living with chronic migraine. As the saying goes, I can’t control migraine, but I can control the way I react to it.
Just a day after I got caught out without ear plugs, I exposed myself to another migraine trigger common in public spaces — fluorescent lights. I am never without TheraSpecs, but I occasionally take them off for a few seconds when I need confirm an exact color match (like choosing embroidery floss). That’s what I intended to do, but got so absorbed in what I was doing that I left them off for 10 minutes.
Lo and behold, a migraine began with a spate of icky symptoms — dizziness, disorientation, nausea, wooziness and irritability. I was unhappy about the migraine, but was pleased by the illustration of just how effective indoor TheraSpecs are.
Because I wear TheraSpecs all the time, it has been so long since fluorescent lights have triggered a migraine for me that I forgot just how quickly a severe migraine follows exposure. The difference really is astonishing. Of course I knew the improvement was dramatic — Hart and I wouldn’t have started TheraSpecs if it weren’t — but I hadn’t experienced it in so long that I’d forgotten just how big the change is.
So many triggers are impossible to avoid that it’s such a relief to find a way to ward off any of them. With ear plugs and TheraSpecs, I have two of the three major triggers covered… if only I could find something to get rid of smells in stores.
The link between migraine and depression is pretty well established, but some research findings are still disturbing. Such is the case for a large-scale study published in the journal Depression Treatment and Researcher in November 2013. The study, which included 67,000 Canadians, more than 6,000 of whom have migraine, found that depression and suicidal ideation were much higher among migraineurs than non-migraineurs.
A glance at the findings:
- 8.4% of men with migraine were depressed at the time of the study, while only 3.4% of those without migraine were.
- 12.4% of women with migraine were depressed, while 5.7% without migraine were.
- Both men and women with migraine were more likely to have ever considered suicide seriously than those without migraine.
- 15.6% of men with migraine had considered suicide serious versus 7.9% of men without migraine.
- 17.6% of women with migraine had considered suicide serious versus 9.1% of women without migraine.
- Migraineurs, male and female, younger than 30 had a six times higher risk of depression and four times higher odds of suicidal ideation than those 65 and older.
- Suicidal ideation among those with migraine was also higher in those who were unmarried, had lower household income and/or greater physical limitations.
Reference: Fuller-Thomson, E., Schrumm, M., & Brennenstuhl, S. (2013). Migraine and despair: factors associated with depression and suicidal ideation among Canadian migraineurs in a population-based study. Depression research and treatment, 2013. (The full text of the article is available for free.)