Migraines and headaches can take so much out of us that we lose hope, sometimes feeling as if we just can’t go on another day. We’ve all been there.
We’re worn out by…
- the pain…
- the other symptoms…
- the problems Migraines and headaches cause for our families…
- missing events we want to attend…
- the problems Migraines and headaches cause at work…
- and, oh, so much more.
Cluster headaches are sometimes called “suicide headaches” because the pain is so severe that it has lead people to take their lives.
After an extensive analysis of statistics from a long list of government resources, Dr. Robert Shapiro discovered that:
"Based on a sample of Americans, suicide attempts are three times more likely in individuals with migraine with aura compared to those with no migraine, whether or not major depression is also present."1
Suicide and other self-harming behaviors are issues people don’t like to discuss. They’re whispered about and hidden, which stigmatizes such not only the behaviors, but even just thoughts of them, to the point that all too many people won’t tell anyone. They’re so ashamed or embarrassed that they hide their fears and feelings rather than putting them under a light to examine them or getting help.
To help us deal with such feelings and know that it’s more than all right to talk about them and seek help, let me share some information with you. If you’ve already learned about this information, please take a look at it again.
Migraine and depression are often comorbid conditions, meaning that we can have both at the same time, but neither causes the other. Both are real diseases with real treatments. Migraine and depression may even be linked genetically. You can find more information on this in Migraine and Depression May Be Linked Genetically.
During a Migraine attack, levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are affected. Their levels can swing widely, causing our moods to swing just as widely. This can make us feel depression, anxiety, and panic during a Migraine attack even if we don’t have a depressive, panic, or anxiety disorder.
Here’s a personal truth for you. The only time in my entire life that I’ve experienced panic attacks is during Migraine attacks. I’ve curled up in the fetal position on our bathroom floor more than once during a Migraine attack, telling my husband that something was horribly wrong and pleading with him to help me. I’ve discussed this with my doctor. One part of my Migraine treatment is now to take Zanaflex if I’m starting to notice feelings of panic during a Migraine. It helps me deal with panic while waiting for Migraine abortives to work.
It’s important to know these things, and it’s important to try to remember them always. I’ve told my husband all of this so he knows how to help me.
Migraines and headaches can bring us to our knees and make us cry “Uncle!” They can bring us to the point of actually wanting to harm ourselves. We must learn and cling to the knowledge that…
- there are chemicals raging in our bodies that can make us feel this way.
- there is nothing shameful or wrong about these feelings.
- it’s perfectly acceptable to need and get help for these feelings.
If you remember nothing else I say in this article, please remember these three points:
- You’re NOT alone. I can promise you that you’re neither the first nor the last person who has been overwhelmed by Migraines, headaches, and other health issues. Our community is here to help each other.
- There IS hope. I know just how hard it is to deal with Migraines and headaches every day. Some people have told me they’ve been helped by reading my personal story about finding good care and finally getting my Migraines better managed. You can read my story in Excerpt 2 - “Living Well With Migraine Disease and Headaches.” So much progress has been made in the treatment of Migraine disease and other headache disorders, and it’s amazing how much more is being made every day. Please, let that help give you hope.
- Whatever you do, don’t give up and let the disease win. Tie a knot in the end of your rope and hang on!
If you find yourself feeling as if you might harm yourself, please get help immediately. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room. There are resources available for help. You can find more information about these resources in If You’re Having a Crisis.
1 Shapiro, Robert E., MD, PhD. “Headache Disorders in the United States.” Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. 2007.
Medical review by John Claude Krusz, PhD, MD
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.