You don’t need to face your symptoms alone.
With all the pandemic memes circulating relishing the year of canceled plans, it’s easy to forget that humans need social connection for survival. After all, socializing has benefits for your physical and mental health. This is true even if you suffer from a health condition that gets in the way of your social life, such as chronic migraine.
Migraine and other chronic conditions can take a toll on your quality of life, and finding a support system is essential. That’s why it’s even more important for migraine sufferers to not let their condition control their life and future happiness. Of course, that’s easier said than done. In fact, many people may find that their migraines are getting in the way of their social life.
How Migraine Can Affect Your Social Life
People with migraines might frequently cancel plans because of an unexpected migraine attack. This is necessary to help the individual recover in a dark and quiet space. The downfall is that constantly canceling plans on friends and family can put a strain on your relationships. Not everyone understands how debilitating a migraine is, so they may not be compassionate about your need to stay home.
To make it worse, socializing itself can trigger migraines. Social events with alcohol can be challenging for people with migraines, or the available food might be triggering. Your social circle may also want to attend events with bright lights or loud noises, which may be triggering to you. For these reasons, some people may avoid making plans at all out of fear of getting a migraine.
Avoid Withdrawing or Isolating From Friends and Family
Connection with others is good for mental health and provides a buffer against depression and anxiety. People with migraines (and all chronic diseases) have a higher risk of these mood disorders.
It can be helpful to talk to your friends and family about migraine so they:
- Better understand what you’re experiencing
- Have more compassion for how your symptoms affect you
- Be able to support you or make accommodations when possible
- Know how to adjust plans going forward
Once you’ve had this conversation, it should be easier to maintain a social life with the people you care about. Here are some ideas for how to feel connected with migraine pain:
- Ask a partner or family member to sit in the room with you. Even if you are sensitive to light and sound, having them reading next to you, cuddling, or even giving you a head massage can be comforting.
- Find a support group. No one knows the condition better than those who also suffer from it. Plus, they may have found solutions you haven’t thought of so you can be prepared for your next outing.
- Use technology to communicate, if you can tolerate it. You can keep your camera off, the sound low, and lower the blue light settings of your computer or phone screen.
- Reschedule plans for when you think you’ll feel better. For example, if you have menstrual-related migraines, you know that some weeks are safer than others for scheduling big plans.
- Keep plans simple, and let them do double duty. Taking a low-impact, restorative exercise class together can strengthen your bond and your mental wellbeing.
- Be flexible. Some plans may not work out, so be willing to alter the activities or change the day if migraine occurs.
Ready to take back the role of social director from your migraines? If your migraines are interfering with your social life and mental health, talk to your doctor. There may be different treatment options that could work better for you, so you can get back to living a full and healthy life.
Noah Rosen, MD, is the director at the Northwell Health Headache Center.