With migraines, we are three times more likely to develop depression.
And we have a higher risk of suicide as well, even factoring in the depression.
This week is mental health awareness week and I think depression is an important topic with chronic migraine specifically. With chronic pain, we tend to have this belief that the pain would make anyone have troubles coping. That anyone would be down. Frustrated. Have dark moods. And depression, if we acknowledge to ourselves it is even that. We say everyone must feel like that sometimes… because of the pain. Indeed, pain itself is a suicide risk factor all on its own and it is a risk factor with migraines aside from depression… because suicide is what happens when we exceed our coping strategies and have no hope in resolving that problem. And that situation is something chronic migraineurs find themselves in often.
But we also blame the depression on the pain, feeling it is normal to be like that with pain. In fact, depression associated with a medical condition like chronic pain… is a type of depression. But it is depression. And it can be dangerous if it is not treated along with pain management. If the pain is out of control the depression will respond to that. So both need to be effectively managed at the same time. Or tackled together in some way. Treated at the same time. They can’t ignore pain management and expect any headway with depression management.
It is my belief the depression treatment will not be very effective if it is therapy based if the pain isn’t being managed at all. When it is depression associated with chronic pain that is. You have to show there is some Hope in pain management. I am all for therapy though. Very valuable for this type of depression because a therapist that specializes in chronic pain can help with the depression and with coping with the pain, and how they work together and tangle together. And oh, how they tangle together.
Sometimes depression isn’t depression related to a condition, sometimes it is Major Depressive Disorder and ignoring it can be dangerous. It can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions even without the risk factors of the pain and migraines. This is the type of depression I was diagnosed with. Actually did exactly what I said, ignored it for years because I thought it was the pain. Just the pain causing it and I could deal with it. But it wears on a person. Gets the best of them. And going to the pain clinic, seeing the pain psychologist and ultimately being put on Abilify (I have severe adverse reactions to antidepressants) was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Trying to cope with pain while fighting your brain is a difficult battle every day. Makes it twice as hard to cope. It is a heavy burden to bear. Having it lifted enough to deal with it effectively makes me able to use all the strategies I need to cope with the pain. Depression doesn’t just make you fight yourself mentally and emotionally. It saps your energy and motivation. You have strategies and habits you want to maintain… but then just can’t find the will to do them. Or even why. Why bother? What ever changes? What is even the point? All those thoughts happen. But every bit counts in a routine with pain, as we all know. Ice helps. Magnesium helps. Vitamins help. Meditation helps. Medication helps. You add all the things that help and you get something that helps you manage your pain.
Management of our comorbid mental health conditions is vital. There is no shame in it. There shouldn’t be anyway. There is the stigma. There is even doctor stigma. There is so much stigma it is insulting to me and to society as a whole. I have been pretty insulted by the stigma myself. But that is on them, which is why we need awareness. But don’t you feel shame just because of that stigma. 1 in 5 people will have mental health problems in their life. That is a lot of shame if people expect us to feel that. And we have no reason to. Our neurotransmitters are a little out of sorts is all.
Not dealing with my depression compromised my capacity to cope in many ways. And my desire to survive. Treating it has helped me to cope with the pain somewhat. Partly that is due to pain management as well. They are so tangled together I believe doing both helped. I did need medication though. There is no shame in depression medication. Not everyone needs it. Some do. I am one. And I survive the assault of pain better. Still an assault though, isn’t it? Still a battle. But we need every strategy on our side to survive it.