Chronic Migraine, Coping, Friends & Family

Migraine as Solitary Confinement, Controlling Lover

A non-migraineur who was close to the young woman who took her life a couple weeks ago, but didn’t know how much she was suffering, emailed me after reading my post and expressed regret that they hadn’t been able to help her. I tried to describe the isolation of chronic migraine, but capturing the experience was nearly impossible. I likened it to solitary confinement. I also explained that no matter how much the chronic migraineur may want to reach out or how hard someone tries to reach in, there’s an invisible, impenetrable barrier. While this seemed to help the person I was emailing with, it still seems an inadequate description of how much chronic migraine can distance a person from their loved ones.

When my migraine attacks were at their worst, Hart and I knew our relationship was suffering. We both wanted to improve our marriage, but I couldn’t work on it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but that I simply could not. The very basics of keeping myself going took all my attention and energy. No matter how much I love my husband and wanted to nurture our relationship, I had to focus on myself.

At that time, Hart compared the role of migraine in our relationship to a difficult, demanding child. I think of it more as a controlling lover. We could have worked together on parenting a child, no matter how unruly the child or how much we disagreed. Though he could help with day-to-day life and getting me to appointments, migraine was still my “thing” and drove a wedge between us that I couldn’t see past. Migraine dictated what I did at every minute of every day. It was all that I thought about.

Solitary confinement and an affair with a controlling lover are the best ways I’ve come up with to illustrate the isolation of chronic migraine, but I know there have to be a million other ways to describe it. What’s your analogy?

Update: Just stumbled upon a post from 2007 where I asked about headache metaphors. Read the informative responses in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Migraine as Solitary Confinement, Controlling Lover”

  1. Great descriptions!

    Interesting idea that analogies give migraine more power. For me, they’re about describing the experience to people who cannot relate. They also help me better understand how migraine functions in my life and, in a way, actually diminish its power.


  2. Hmmm… The post didn’t take the end of my sentence for some reason. 😛

    It’s an animal? Trap or kill it!

    But those things are not universally possible. To me, migraine is a disease I have to deal with 24/7. The less power I give it, the better I feel. But that’s just me.

  3. Honestly, I don’t personify or anthropomorphizemigraine.

    It’s a person? Throw him or her out! It’s an animal? Trap or

  4. Here’s a couple of visuals.

    First, I don’t mean to offend or make light of anyone’s symbol of faith, but… I sometimes see the migraine as being dragged to a crucifix and nailed up by my head. A few big spikes nailed through various parts of my head and into the wood behind. Like a certain spiritual figure, I rise the next day, two, three or four. Living, once more, until the next time.

    Second, small, evil monkeys inside my head try to scrape their way out using rusty spoons, forks, knives and shovels (all rusty). They go to work from various spots inside my skull… always causing significant pain with their rusty tools.

    I will throw a final one in… we all talk about retreating to a dark room to avoid light, sound and smell. The migraine puts me in a figurative dark room. I am alone. I am isolated. I am disconnected. Sometimes people I love enter, briefly, to see what they can do. There is nothing. Then they leave. The migraine pushes me into this room. My dark time-out spot. Even when I leave the physical darkness I often still am alone and in the dark room.

    This certainly is not a fun thing.

  5. Sadistic parole officer. The punishment doesn’t fit the ‘crime’. Looking over my calendar notes from the last year, I have had two migraines triggered by fresh herbs. One in the winter where I used fresh basil in deviled eggs (there were other ingredients but I am pretty sure it was the basil) and more recently when I ate herb salad that had very strong, biting herbs. Without my triptans, I would have undoubtedly experienced somewhere between 24-72 hours of pain. Same goes for day 10 of my cycle. This is ovulation time which is almost always guaranteed to create a migraine. I can plan for this one with Ibuprofen and triptans but it is still a punishing experience before the meds kick in. Sitting in my bed, reading a book without very good posture? Worthy of a migraine. Lifting a heavy (or not so heavy really) bag of groceries? Good chance there will be a migraine. So an episodic migraineur is like a prisoner living in a half-way house, having to constantly keep away from ‘trouble’ to avoid the harsh punishment of migraine. Chronic daily migraine with somewhat effective meds? Sadistic maximum security prison warden. Chronic daily without effective meds? Medieval torturer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *