The psychological impact of migraine

When you say “migraine” to people who haven’t experienced migraine, they immediately think of pain. Specifically they think of headaches, though as I covered in my post Chronic Migraine, there is a huge difference between headaches and migraines. What a lot of people don’t consider is the psychological impact that migraine have.

I have constant migraine, with flares of migraine attack – this is the easiest way for me to explain my experience with things, in an attempt to make it clear, so this is the way I will be describing it.

During a migraine attack, I turn sluggish. I get brain fog  and also feel a bit like I’m drunk, without the enjoyment of wine before hand. I feel drowsy, confused, vulnerable – but the most scary bit for me after this is all calmed down is how muffled all these feelings are at the time, and the awareness of how easily led I can be during an attack, as my brain is just not functioning correctly. It’s almost a kind of hollow apathy. Unable to care enough to care at all, and it’s a horrible feeling. When reflecting on it, it really does worry me, how much damage a migraine attack could potentially cause.

With certain strains of my migraines – I suffer with several different types, depending on how they have come about – I manage to avoid this, but just immediately shut down. I become so tired I feel as if I haven’t slept in weeks, almost delirious with fatigue, and this in turn makes me become removed from a situation; even though I’m there, I’m not *there*. Several of my friends are used to noticing, and have said before, kindly, “you’re not here love. Time to go”. If this happens when out, I can need assistance getting onto the bus, because I’m just out of the situation. It’s like dissociation but a lot more emotionally removed.

For me by far the weirdest mental side effect of migraine can be my brain spinning so quickly it makes me feel sick. My brain will throw up all sorts of bizarre thoughts and sentences that have no connection to what is currently happening, and if I repeated some of what my brain constructs during a migraine, I think I would be asked if I was taking my medications correctly. On the bus the other day, heading home to hide because of migraine, my brain threw up “bastard raccoons drink beer left-handed” among other things. I remember that one because it was just so ridiculous.

These are the acute impacts, during a present migraine. The long term impact on mental well being is a bit less tongue in cheek. Because of all of the above, there is a genuine fear of migraine taking hold sometimes. Even removing the pain factor entirely from migraine, they are hideous, destructive, damaging, debilitating, and down right eugh. Having to plan and think before a migraine Just In Case I Have A Migraine I Will Need… is more thought than anyone should have to put in to going out. For example, in my handbag, just for migraine occurring I have three different medications, a list of all my medications with when they’re taken in case I need medical attention, two disposable cool pads, a medical information piece of paper to explain things in case I become too confused, two pairs of different coloured glasses that fit over my normal glasses, a bottle of water, headphones and mp3 player to isolate the noise I’m hearing, and roller ball cane. Seems ridiculous to have to put this much effort into leaving the house. And that’s not including the Giant Floppy Hat.

I think it could go without saying that being in this much pain and being this stressed about all of this is enough to make one depressed. You do get to a point where you wonder what the point is. It’s not a nice point – whichever point you take – sometimes.

The flip side is that you develop a strain of resilience. “I handle battling my brain and body every single day; there is nothing you can do to beat me down.” You may not feel as resilient as you actually are, but dealing with the fact migraine is waging war against you day in and day out, well, that makes you a badass, and as amazing as it does exhausted.


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