A look around our bedroom and closet a few months ago showed a disturbing level of clutter and disarray for which I found myself blaming my migraines. My closet floor wasn’t covered in a pile of clothes, but it was definitely covered in a pile of shoes, some of which I haven’t worn in years. Someone in their 30’s said something terribly annoying one day, and I found myself thinking, “Yeah, tell me something else. I have shoes older than you are.” And I did! Add to that the suitcase that was still sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor and other clutter, and it was not only a mess; it was an accident waiting to happen. What was worse was that I didn’t much care.
About two weeks ago, I found myself picking things up and putting them away. Then the mood hit me to go through my closet, get rid of everything I don’t wear, and throw away the rest. The bedroom is now spotless, the closet is organized, and I can actually find things and walk across the room in the dark without tripping over things. Well, other than a cat or two. Once I finished in the bedroom, I washed every single thing that was in the hampers in the laundry room.
As I was reordering some medications earlier this week, it hit me. Dr. Watson, my migraine specialist had changed one of my medications at my last appointment. I’d been taking venlafaxine ER (Effexor ER) for both depression and migraine prevention, but I’m still getting too many migraines. Dr. Watson suggested switching to duloxetine (Cymbalta). It dawned on me that caring about the mess and the urge to do something about it came a month or so after the change in medications. About the same time, my husband mentioned that he was glad to see me “in a better mood,” less stressed by things and not so quick to anger. Wow. Those are some of the symptoms I experience with major depressive disorder.
What I finally realized was that it wasn’t my migraines contributing to my messiness and not caring about it. It was depression, which had been worsening for some time, but gradually enough that I hadn’t recognized it. Yes, I’m still having too many migraines, but I’m down to eight to 12 a month, and that means that I have more migraine- and headache-free days than I did for quite some time. Not enough “bad head” days to explain why I had let things go so badly.
This was a true learning experience for me, and it occurred to me that maybe other migraineurs have in the past, are at this time, or will in the future experience something similar. Maybe sharing this experience can help someone else. If nothing else, maybe it will help someone else feel less alone in their situation. So, here’s what I learned:
- Blaming everything on our migraines can lead us to miss something else that needs attention.
- I need to take my own advice and evaluate my health quarterly:
- How are my glucose levels doing? (I have type 2 diabetes.)
- How are my thyroid levels? (hypothyroidism)
- How are my B12 levels? (Without B12 injections, for some reason, my levels are extremely low.)
- How are my migraines? Frequency? Intensity? Any new or troubling symptoms with them?
- How am I feeling mentally and emotionally?
- If any of the answers to the questions above aren’t optimal, I need to contact one of my doctors, and I need to not put it off.
- I can’t do my best to help other people if I don’t take care of myself.
Can you relate to this experience? Do you have one of your own to share? If you do, or if you’d just like to discuss something in this post, please leave a comment below.
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_**Reviewed by David Watson, MD.
© Teri Robert, 2014, - Last updated September 4, 2014.
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+.