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Guilt Comorbid With Headaches

“Comorbidity refers to the greater than coincidental association of separate conditions in the same individuals. Historically, a number of conditions have been noted to be comorbid with migraine, notably psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, panic disorder), epilepsy, asthma, and some congenital heart defects.”

This quote is from an abstract of an article from the June 2005 issue of Current Opinions in Neurology. A comorbidity never included on the list is guilt. OK, so guilt isn’t exactly a illness, but you have to admit there is a “greater than coincidental association” of guilt in people with headache.

We feel guilty because we think we’ve done something to contribute to the pain. Maybe it was getting too worked up over that deadline, eating a trigger food, staying up too late with friends, not drinking enough water, oversleeping. We lie in pain, berating ourselves for whatever we did that caused this headache.

We feel guilty because our partners, parents, kids or friends take care of us when we’re sick. Not only that, they have to pick up the slack of the of chores, errands and responsibilities that we couldn’t take care of.

We feel guilty because we call in sick to work, cancel plans with friends, sleep too much, tell everyone around us to be quiet, have dust bunnies under our beds and in the corners and even in the middle of the dining room table.

We feel guilty because we don’t go to our kids’ soccer games, return phone calls, stop to chat with neighbors, enjoy the sunshine/snow/rain, take the dog for a walk, cook dinner.

While our heads pound, we rage against ourselves for demanding to be the center of attention, not doing our duties, spoiling plans, being unsociable. Our guilt entraps us not just because we let other people down, but because we let ourselves down. Every day. We know we could do more or be better or care for others if we weren’t so weak or lazy or crazy.

We tell ourselves this isn’t true. We may even know it academically. But it’s hard to believe when we’re laid up, cooped up, fed up.

Paul of A ClusterHead’s Life is intimate with guilt these days.

6 thoughts on “Guilt Comorbid With Headaches”

  1. My headaches are so constant and severe that I couldn’t possibly locate an emotion as sophisticated as guilt.

  2. I would say that this degree of guilt is often underscored with shame and that’s why it’s so hard to get at. It’s difficult to face such a raw emotion. I know that the guilt/shame combo has been a constant companion for me in my many years living with chronic pain. It’s good to know I’m not alone in feeling guilty about nearly everything! Okay, let go, let go, let go…

  3. Guilt is a symptom of depression, remember? So in a very real sense, guilt IS comorbid with migraine.

    Oh, and if you had a parent with chronic illness (::points to herself::) and had the joy of caring for her while you were still a child, the guilt of having other people care for you intensifies, because you swore you’d never be like your mother.

    A couple of days ago I had a followup with the doctor, and I told my husband, “She’s very pleased with the Inderal.”

    My husband said, “Me, too.”

    At first I was touched, taking that as a sign he likes it when I’m well. Then I thought, maybe it’s a sign of relief – no more spoiled plans, no more afternoons and evenings spent tiptoeing around and making me strong coffee.

    Sheesh. Even when we’re well, we feel guilty. Sometimes when I go to my blog and write, “Yeah, no migraines in 100 days,” I feel guilty about all the other migraine sufferers who continue to suffer while I swallow my 60 mg of Inderal and go on with my life.

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