by Delia Harrington
Medically Reviewed by:
Deena Kuruvilla, MD
by Delia Harrington
Medically Reviewed by:
Deena Kuruvilla, MD
I used to feel guilty spending money on migraine treatment. Now, I remind myself that I deserve whatever relief I can find.
It’s in my nature to hunt for deals, cut costs, buy in bulk, and get the store brand instead of the name brand. Sometimes, I can even be thrifty to a fault, like when I noticed I was continually so caught up in the price of various items related to treating migraine that I was buying cheap alternatives or foregoing treatment options altogether.
Certainly, it’s far too expensive than it should be, being chronically ill and/or disabled in America, and these costs can be prohibitive. But finding myself struggling over relatively small costs that are manageable within my current budget forced me to consider that this particular spending issue has more to do with the emotional component than strictly the dollars and cents.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated my migraine attacks. It also changed my relationship with chronic illness and disability, and it changed how I spend my money to prioritize caring for myself. This may sound obvious, but many of us need to be reminded that our pain matters, and we deserve to feel better, even if it’s just for a little while.
Often, we’re so used to pain that we might even forget how much better relief can feel, or we think that our relief isn’t worth the money it costs.
Cold is one of the few things that gives me some relief during a migraine attack. I used to put a cold drink on my forehead for a bit of momentary relief. It wasn’t until others suggested it that I started using actual ice packs. Eventually, I sought out ice packs specially designed for people with migraine, ones made to fit around our face, neck, and head.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed to say that buying the ice packs felt like an unreasonable expense. I couldn’t recognize that if cold made me feel better, I could, and should, find a way to capture that momentary relief and bring as much of it to my body as possible. If I needed more, I should simply buy more.
When I looked at the price of various headache hat ice packs online, I hesitated and went months longer without buying any at all. In those months, I could’ve been trying new ones or getting back-ups of my favorites, but I didn’t. I couldn’t contend with the sticker shock, even though all of the items cost $40 or less.
It wasn’t just the ice packs, either. Every time I went to the pharmacy to buy ibuprofen, I found myself agonizing over whether to buy the kind I vastly prefer, with the coating, for $10 more or the cheaper kind that has a bitter taste.
When it came time to order a new neurostimulation device, at first, I balked at the $49 price tag. The device almost immediately became a crucial part of my headache rescue kit, so why did I hesitate?
Money is tight, sure, but I could swing the $40 for the most expensive ice pack, and most cost $20 or less.
Adding $50 to my monthly budget isn’t ideal, but considering that I respond very well to neurostimulation, it feels like a small price to pay for drastically lowering the intensity and duration of my migraine attacks.
I was forced to consider: Was it really the money, or was I just used to downplaying my own pain?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there were other areas where I could tighten my budget if necessary. My hesitation wasn’t really about the money. It was about how it felt to spend money on myself this way, on caring for my chronic illness.
I wasn’t used to having migraine take up this much space in my life and in my budget. But that didn’t change the fact that migraine is a complex neurologic disease, and the attacks are now a persistent part of my daily existence.
It took me way too long (more than a decade!) to realize this, but if there’s something out there that can bring relief or make life easier, and you can afford to buy it, you should.
I used to feel guilty for spending so much on “the good ibuprofen” with the coating or the single-use cool patches ($5 for a pack of four) to carry with me when I’m away from home without my ice packs.
Now, I just remind myself that I deserve whatever relief I can find. I can pinch pennies over other things, but I only have one body. What else is my money for, if not to improve my daily life?
Confronting how I feel about spending money on migraine treatment is an ongoing process. What it really comes down to, though, is a shift in how I see myself, treat myself, and in turn, how I determine my financial priorities.
Investing in appropriate symptom relief measures regularly, like setting up subscriptions so I always have what I need in stock or buying the better, long lasting versions of products that work, means understanding that migraine isn’t leaving my life anytime soon.
In fact, migraine is a major part of my life that warrants space in my annual budget. Moreover, I deserve to have these supplies to feel as good as I can during these times, which can frankly be quite miserable.
The process of accepting migraine as chronic has required me to continually realign the way I think about my health and all things related to it.
This is not a temporary condition. I’m not going to magically stop needing these medical supplies if I just wait it out a few more weeks and months. Migraine will not simply resolve with some rest and relaxation, a yoga class, or deep breathing exercises.
Even if I do eventually reduce the frequency or severity of my migraine attacks, I still deserve to feel symptom relief now.
Medically reviewed on March 31, 2023
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About the author
Delia Harrington is a Boston-based freelance writer, culture critic, policy nerd, and activist. Her work has appeared in DAME Magazine, The Rumpus, Den of Geek, Nerdist, Ravishly, The Mary Sue, Hello Giggles, and more. You can keep up with her work on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.