Migraine Awareness Month #15: Free Blog!

Joan Didion“That no one dies of migraine seems to someone deep in an attack as an ambiguous blessing.”

Blog an a Migraine related topic of your choice.

Okay, I’m going to go there.  To that dark place.  Because it was what I was thinking about.  I was thinking about survival.  In particular how long it has been since I survived and could have died.  I looked back on my blog… which is in fact like a migraine diary, rants and all, and it was August 12, 2010 that I tried to kill myself.

The reason I was thinking about my survival was twofold.

One, because of the high suicide rate among people who suffer with chronic migraines that I think is hugely ignored by medical professionals.  In fact, I think they ignore our pain to a high degree and at times treat us like drug seekers or minimize our suffering… and they most definitely do not take into account the huge emotional toll there is to that pain, especially when we come to them in extreme pain in desperate need for help and they turn us away.

Because studies have shown people with chronic migraines often are not depressed when they kill themselves, they kill themselves because of the pain… which just shows the lack of pain management.  Not to say depression does not come into effect and have a roll now and again.  But when the pain peaks, and we can’t sleep and we have had a migraine for days and we get in that frame of mind where we can’t even contemplate another day let alone a lifetime battling them with no pain control we don’t think rationally under that amount of pain and sleep deprivation.  I remember how my doctor and neuro treated me after and it shocked me to my core.  They were not in the least bit surprised, because honestly how could they be, and they did little about it as well… just carry on as usual.  Leaving me to try and figure out how to piece the fragments together when I was thrust back to work barely ready to do anything still feeling numb from the trauma of it all.  It should be shocking.  It should say this person would rather die than live one more moment with this level of pain so maybe we should do something to help her with the pain… or maybe she shouldn’t be working.  I was really disillusioned by that.

The shrink I had to see said I should go on full-time disability and I told her it wasn’t my choice it was the doctors and the insurance company, I didn’t get a vote and was angry at her for thinking it was in my control.  And I was proven right.  In all honesty how the situation was handled after my survival did put me into a bit of a depression when I realized nothing was ever going to change and that none of these people would ever help me.  So it took some time to recover from my survival and how they handled it.

The second reason I was thinking about my survival was that I stopped by my old work office and chatting with old staff members.  It made me think about my new office I have been transferred to who has a manager willing to help out when I am sick and unable to come in.  Who doesn’t have a problem if I miss three days a month.  Who us supportive and understanding.  I don’t have that heavy burden of guilt for being sick, or that anxiety for going to work the next day after knowing it will be a back day, or fearing the ‘chats’ about my missed days and how I’m failing everyone, or the threats that I can’t do anything about because I can’t stop being sick and every time I try coming in all the time no matter what things get significantly worse and I end up on a leave of absence or … I try and kill myself.  The environment is profoundly different.

One environment over the span of seven years nearly killed me.  It wasn’t the one time, the one threat… it was over time, until my confidence was gone until I blamed myself for being ill until I felt guilty all the time.  Beat me to the ground until it was inevitable I was broken.  I guess as far as management skills go you shouldn’t treat someone with acute chronic pain like that because that is something that might happen.  The other environment it didn’t take long before there was this feeling of profound relief that it wasn’t going to be like that… that there were accommodation options available and that if I was sick there would be no looming consequences.

So I think it is vital that we pay attention to our work environment.  I mean I thought every other part of my environment was great, except that and I blamed myself mostly.  I just tried to be better, tried to power through the pain for my employer so she would be happy.  Instead of acknowledging she should have been the one accommodating my illness just a little and not making me feel guilty about being ill, something I have no control over.  Her efforts caused me to force myself to come to work and power through, which made things a lot worse and in effect caused more than one of my leaves of absence… so that does not work.  Plus she caused way more stress.  So if you have a boss like that you might want to realize that while it is not bad in the beginning over time it can get worse.  It goes from guilt trips to vague threats, to demotions, to actual threats.  And each time part of you breaks down because you know you cannot do what they want, physically you can’t.

My message is to watch out for such employers… they are killer.  Literally.  If you have a good one, you are lucky.  Personally, I’m tired and I wish I could aim for disability.  Or telecommute work that would pay decently.  I like my new office and manager, but I have come to the conclusion I am not capable of sustaining full-time work with my brain compromised, missing too much work and frequent short-term leaves.  I need to find what I am capable of and stop pretending this will work.

The point is I did survive.  And I often reflect back on that time.  My frame of mind.  How easy it is to go from thought to action when engulfed in a status migraine.  I think every year I’m going to remember that day and look back to it, just to remind myself where I was and that I survived when I so easily could not have.  Like many of us done.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.




  1. When pain is the only thing you can see, it's hard to hope that tomorrow will be better than today. So good that you're at least in a better situation now. I hope you'll find a way to get a job you can do within your limitations. It's so hard to find the balance between caring for yourself and feeling you're doing something of value, and still managing financially.


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