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7 Things I Struggle to Do with Chronic Migraine

Real Talk

November 28, 2022

Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More

Photography by Natalia Mishina/Stocksy United

Photography by Natalia Mishina/Stocksy United

by Amy Mowbray

•••••

Susan W. Lee, DO

Medically Reviewed

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•••••

by Amy Mowbray

•••••

Susan W. Lee, DO

Medically Reviewed

•••••

•••••

I’ve learned a lot about how to best manage my migraine symptoms over the years but there are still tasks I find challenging.

Chronic migraine is so much more than just a bad headache. It is a neurological condition that can be extremely debilitating. Many aspects of day-to-day life can be difficult to navigate when living with chronic migraine.

Here are seven things I personally struggle with as someone who lives with chronic migraine.

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Loading and emptying the dishwasher

It might sound like the ultimate excuse for getting out of doing the dishes but loading and emptying the dishwasher is something I find incredibly difficult.

The combination of bending forward and the noise of crockery and cutlery clanking is something I find triggering. Phonophobia, sensitivity to sound, is not spoken about as frequently as photophobia, sensitivity to light, in regard to migraine. Hyperacusis is, however, a symptom that affects many people with migraine.

If doing the dishes triggers an attack or exacerbates your symptoms, you are not alone.

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Planning ahead and making commitments

Making plans when you live with an unpredictable chronic illness is not an easy feat. I always encourage others living with chronic migraine to try and continue living their life as much as possible. Still, making plans in advance can be extremely tricky.

Chronic migraine means you can have manageable pain, or even no migraine symptoms, one day, and then feel completely debilitated, and bed-bound, the next day. You could get plenty of rest and do all the “right things” and still sadly wake up with a migraine attack on a day when you had made plans.

If possible, try to keep plans flexible and ask your loved ones for any accommodations that might make outings or events more doable.

Timing my acute medication right

Even after living with chronic migraine for over 7 years, this is still something I really struggle with.

If you live with migraine, you’ve probably been told by doctors to treat it at the very first sign of an attack. The earlier we abort a migraine attack, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

When living with chronic migraine, it’s common to have daily fluctuating pain and symptoms. This can make it difficult to identify a definitive start and end to our attacks. One attack may merge into the next.

This can make it very difficult to “treat early.”

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Driving at night

Driving at night is not actually something “I struggle to do” it is something I currently cannot do at all due to my chronic migraine symptoms. The harshness of car headlights in contrast to the darkness of the night sky is too much for me.

The lighting while driving at night is not just bothersome, it can actually make my pain worse. I cannot safely drive at night because I can’t keep my eyes open as cars drive toward me with their bright lights on.

As frustrating as this is, it is important to know our own limits and always put our safety first. I always make alternative plans or ask for a ride if I need to get home from somewhere in the dark.

Explaining how painful and debilitating migraine is

It can be difficult to put into words the pain we are feeling.

Migraine is largely invisible and those of us with chronic migraine are often seasoned pros at putting on a brave face and appearing to be fine.

It can be hard for others to grasp the idea that we are in pain all of the time, or that we can function at all during some of our attacks.

Unfortunately, those of us with chronic migraine are often forced to adapt and function with high pain and symptoms. Masking our experiences does not make our pain less severe, or our symptoms more manageable.

Many of us have just learned to live this way.

One of the most effective strategies I have found to communicate my pain and symptoms to others is to explain how migraine debilitates me.

Explaining what chronic migraine means in terms of what I can do, or not do, (both in the day-to-day and during an active attack) makes my experience more easily relatable to others. Saying my pain is an 8 out of 10 doesn’t give others a clear picture of the full experience.

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Going to busy places

Going to busy places such as shopping centers, train stations, and city centers, is something I find really hard. There are too many stimuli.

The lights, the noise, and the smells often are overstimulating. These spaces can be exhausting and also triggering for those of us living with chronic migraine. I largely try to avoid being in busy places entirely or go at quieter times.

If I do have to go somewhere I know will be busy, I make sure I am armed with my migraine toolkit. Wearing my migraine glasses or sunglasses, having earplugs to block out the noise, and carrying my acute medication with me, can help me avoid triggering an episode.

Bringing my toolkit also helps me to feel safe and prepared in case my symptoms do start to increase.

Having a conversation when there is background noise

This may seem like a strange one, and when I explain it to others, people tend to think it has to do with the volume of background music or noise. It is far more complex than that.

I have difficulty processing a conversation if there’s any background noise or conversation. Background noise can be a radio turned down low, or another conversation happening in the same room.

My brain finds it hard to filter out the other sounds and focus on the conversation I’m having. I’m not sure why this happens exactly, but I imagine it is something to do with my brain being particularly sensitive to noise and other stimuli.

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The takeaway

Everyone living with migraine has a unique experience. It’s important that we speak up and share the things that we’re having a hard time with to get the help we need and bring attention to what it’s really like to live with migraine.

Share your story

What do you struggle to do with chronic migraine? Introduce yourself in the Bezzy Migraine forums and connect with hundreds of others who understand what you are going through.

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