Dr. Melissa Geraghty, Psy. D, is a fierce advocate. Looking at her CV, you are struck by her vast experience working on behalf of others. In addition to her many years as a successful Licensed Clinical Health Psychologist, she is a board member for the Coalition for Headache and Migraine Patients (CHAMP), a past board member for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) and a U.S. Pain Foundation Ambassador. This is all in addition to a full-time practice seeing patients.
No Stranger to Chronic Pain
Melissa, or Dr. G as she is affectionately known, is no stranger to fighting for access for herself and others. She deals with five types of migraine/headache including: chronic intractable migraine, tension headache, cervicogenic headache (pain from the neck up to the head), cluster headache and possible occipital neuralgia. Her first migraine happened in her teens after a car accident and successive wisdom teeth removal, and they started to occur 24/7. Twenty years later, they are still a part of her daily life.
In addition to multiple types of head pain, Dr. G lives with a spinal injury called Tethered Cord Syndrome. She received the diagnosis 3 years ago, though she has had it since birth. She also lives with more than 30 chronic and pain-related conditions.
Fighting for Access: Adding Covid-19
Dr. G’s life was greatly affected in March of 2020 when she contracted Covid-19. It was early in the pandemic’s arrival in the United States, before the vaccine and before masking recommendations. Although she was very ill, she couldn’t get hospitalized; she was forced to use oxygen at home and deal with a plethora of scary symptoms.
She continues to battle long-Covid. One of the frustrating parts of this new disease is there are no resources, so Dr. G is again fighting for access. As a result of long-Covid, she has had to cut her patient load in half.
Phoenix Rising with Dr. G
Realizing that she would need to keep working while also dealing with extreme exhaustion and increased headaches from long-Covid, she created Phoenix Rising with Dr. G. The program was “born out of pure necessity” and will feature various online mental health programs.
Dr. G uses the experiences from her life to teach others how to advocate. At RetreatMigraine 2022, she presented a session about dealing with medical trauma and gaslighting.
“If you are not aware of it (gaslighting), it can take you off-guard. Being able to advocate for yourself is so important, especially with the complex patients I see. We’ll get a lot of, ‘Oh your symptoms can’t be that bad, you’re still able to function,’” she shared during the session.
She stressed that it is important that patients realize that this can occur, and if it does, and they are able, to switch providers. If patients are unable to switch providers, it’s important to strengthen the skills needed to deal with gaslighting. Dr. G recognizes that this kind of self-advocacy is difficult, and it can take many years into one’s diagnoses to assemble the perfect medical team.
Advocacy’s Big Impact
Whether it is self-advocacy or engaging in outreach, advocating can have a big impact.
“Validation and being listened to is so empowering and can absolutely have an effect on emotional bandwidth with living with chronic illness. If you advocate, and even if you don’t think you have gotten what you should have got, you also just feel that ‘hey, I put my voice out there.’ And that means something,” she said.
With her involvement in so many organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of those with migraine and headache disease and a roster of patients, Dr. G continues to give encouragement and hope to those living with chronic disease.
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