A young woman who had chronic migraine “took her own life,” I told you Saturday. Originally, I wrote that she had “committed suicide,” but changed it after being told the mental health community prefers the phrasing “took his/her life” because “committing suicide” sounds like a crime. The corrected phrasing doesn’t sit right with me either because chronic migraine took her life as she knew it. She chose suicide over living with extreme disability and a severely diminished quality of life from an illness that few people take seriously.
The migraine community is deeply shaken by this young woman’s suicide. Those who knew her are crushed by the loss of a vibrant, warm-hearted, loving person who was only 22. And I believe that those who didn’t are haunted by the niggling thought, “It could have been me.” Even the chronic migraineurs who haven’t seriously considered suicide know the feeling of not wanting to live like this anymore. It is not that we want to die, but that the daily struggle of chronic migraine feels like it is too much to bear and the light at the end of the tunnel often seems nonexistent.
What causes some people to hang on and others to choose suicide is a mystery to me. I have been desperately searching for a way to help suicidal migraineurs. Perhaps the best I can offer is a variation on something Hart told me the last time I was suicidal: Life with chronic migraine is extraordinarily difficult, but that doesn’t mean it is worthless. That and a success story, as I found my first helpful preventive (after more than three dozen unsuccessful meds) two weeks after Hart reminded my of my life’s worth.
When I shared the news of this young woman’s death on my private Facebook page, a non-migraineur friend said that anyone who dies from suicide because of an illness should be considered as having died from that illness. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I absolutely agree. Migraine is not thought of as a life-threatening illness. This young woman’s suicide is a tragic reminder that it can be.
If you are considering suicide, please, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).