Migraine Management: Partnering with Family

I like sunny days because when the sun hides behind the clouds or fog, my troubles begin. A day without the sun is an inevitable migraine trigger for me.

My Home, My Family

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Yours truly, writing about migraine management and enjoying the sunny backyard.

So when my husband declared his love for San Francisco and his desire to buy a home in the city, I couldn’t share the same excitement. San Francisco is known for its foggy weather. Karl (yes, the San Franciscan fog has a name) even has a Twitter account. No seriously, go check out Karl’s musings here. I like Karl, he is charming, but we can’t be friends because — well, my migraine. So, I couldn’t live in his city, and I crushed my husband’s dreams of owning a home there.

But, eventually, we found a beautiful home in Oakland, a city just outside of San Francisco. In the distribution of micro climates in the Bay Area, Oakland got lucky and has beautiful, sunny weather. As I write this article, I’m sitting in our backyard, soaking in the sun and counting my blessings. And that brings me to the topic of the important role of family support in living with migraine.

Migraine is a complex neurological disease with no cure. It affects one in seven people around the world, and is three times more common in women. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 85% of those living with chronic migraine are women. As a woman living with migraine, I can attest to the crucial role of my family’s support in managing this condition, which can often be debilitating. Migraine is often misunderstood, and often misinterpreted as “just a headache” (mind you, even just a headache can be debilitating by itself), so it’s important to garner the support of family, to help them understand what it is, how it is different and the ways in which it impacts us.

Understand Your Migraine First

Migraine is a variable disease and affects each person differently. Learning your triggers is a good first step to understand the things that you need to do and things you need to avoid to keep migraine at bay. This can set the foundation for communicating your needs to family members effectively.

Communicate Your Migraine Management Needs

Explain your needs to your partner and other family members you live with. You might suggest some changes that will help you live better by elevating the threshold for your migraine triggers. Help them understand why this is good not just for you, but for everyone. A migraine-free you means more quality family time that everyone can enjoy. For example, had I not communicated the need to live in a sunny area to my husband, we would not have made the weather a priority in our home search, leading to a potential increase in the frequency of my migraine attacks. This would not have been a great way for my husband to enjoy his dream home either.

Suggest Changes, But Do Your Part Too

My husband enjoys electronic music with a lot of bass. But sound sensitivity is a migraine trigger for me, so he has had to make changes to his preferences. Sometimes he goes grocery shopping on his own so he can blast some music in the car with full bass 😉 but he respects my need when I’m around. When I feel my muscles tensing up because of migraine, I go for a massage at a spa rather than asking him for one. During the pandemic, when I couldn’t step out of my home, I bought an electronic massager that has been a life saver.

Migraine has an impact on everyday lives of those living with it. Migraine management is highly intertwined with regular things like where we live, what we eat and how we spend our time. When migraine affects one person in the family, it affects the rest because of the amount of time and responsibilities shared together. It can require significant adjustments for everyone. Many of us, especially women, are often prone to putting family needs over our own. Remember: You can only take good care of your family when you are yourself healthy. Prioritize your health. Speak up to help your family members empathize with your needs. The best way to get the support you need is to ask for it.

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Written by:
Pratyusha Ghoshal
Migraine World Summit

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