July 18, 2019
Advocates are always working hard to educate people about migraines and encourage support for those who suffer from them.
So this column is about all the ways you can support loved ones who live with migraines. Trust me, no gesture is too small for us. Even sending a text that says “I hope you have a pain-free day” or “I’m sending you strength!” is such a huge pick-me-up for us. The reason? Because our pain is ignored so often or we are shrugged off as being dramatic or lazy.
When we are shown the tiniest empathy, we soak it up. It doesn’t matter if the gesture is big or small, any sign of support will lift our mood and ensure that you are appreciated forever.
So, what can you do to support us? As a frequent migraine-haver, I have a few ideas:
Getting packages rocks. Getting packages that are gifts rocks even more. Anyone who struggles with a chronic illness holds tight to the little joys in life, including gestures like care packages. Subscription boxes have taken off and are great gifts for any circumstance. When you gift one to someone with a chronic or invisible illness, these monthly surprises are like tiny bursts of joy during a very difficult struggle. Your loved one has something to look forward to and be excited about every month and when that delivery lands on a tough-pain day, it gives a dark day a little light.
When my migraines reached the chronic stage, I noticed a change in my music preferences. I went from being heavy into classic and alternative rock and shifting into pop and hip hop. I started listening to Carly Rae Jepsen daily. (I am absolutely serious, she is the best to listen to when you need a pick-me-up.) Just recently, I created a playlist with every fast-tempo song that puts me in a good mood.
Even though I know what I like, I still enjoy music recommendations, which is why friend playlists are so exciting to me. It’s like unwrapping a present with every song. Plus, creating a special, curated playlist specifically for one person is a quick and easy way to improve that person’s day.
Remember that whole getting mail thing we talked about earlier? It’s a big deal. Many people with migraines have trouble leaving their homes during attack days, or if their condition is chronic. Send some thoughtfulness straight to them through the mail. Grab a blank card, write in all the things you love about that person and send it off. Chances are high that you will incite some waterworks, but don’t worry, that’s a good thing.
A migraine coping mechanism I have is to turn on one of my favorite shows and let them play. I have a few “chicken soup” shows ("30 Rock" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and movies ("The Wedding Singer," "Baby Mama") for when I feel well enough to look at a screen but in too much pain to follow along with a storyline. These shows are great because if I fall asleep, I won’t miss anything because I already know what happens.
I also like to turn on comedy specials and what I call “popcorn” shows. These shows have one-and-done episodes, so you don’t have to focus on season-long plot lines when you feel like crap. Some of my favorite popcorn shows are "Forensic Files," "Drunk History," "The Twilight Zone" or "Unsolved Mysteries." (And now you know my favorite genres are comedy and creepy.) If there are any great “popcorn” shows you know of, send your loved one a list that fits with their television-watching interests.
One thing I don’t think many people know is how difficult it is to feed yourself during an attack — that’s if you’re not too nauseous to eat. When it takes all the strength in you to just walk to the bathroom, going out to the grocery store is impossible. There have been multiple times when attacks happened and all I had for sustenance was cereal and peanut butter. When you’re in pain and hungry, having limited choices can feel like the end of the world. That’s where your help comes in. Whether you choose to pay or put in the order for us, helping us access food is huge, especially when we are in too much pain to look at a screen to place an order. Bonus points if you already know our favorite delivery meal.
I’m serious! One of the hardest things about suffering from migraines is having a steady supply of ice packs to swap in and out. When a migraine can last up to 72 hours, that’s a lot of ice packs to go through, and nothing is worse than going to the freezer and having all your ice packs thawed. Make sure they are migraine-friendly packs, though. What that means is that they are able to stay on the head on their own, so anything that is a helmet or has a band to wrap around the head.
When my migraines get chronic, I live in my sweats. It sounds like a dream, but it’s not. I feel so unattractive and bland, especially when all my sweats and pajamas are mismatched. We all know there are plenty of fashionable matching sweat sets out there, and if you have a little money to spend, new sweats will make your migraineur loved one feel a little special during their bad days. (I personally love Puma. Just putting that out there.)
The Monthly Migraine is a series dedicated to migraine awareness and support. If you suffer from chronic migraines, you are not alone and we hope to amplify your voice through these pieces. Lindsay Patton-Carson can be reached on Twitter @LindsayPatton.