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The Anxiety of Making Plans With Migraine

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Making plans as someone with migraine is sort of like planning an outdoor party. If it rains, you’re screwed and a tent is not going to help. I, along with many others, have challenges with unstable weather patterns. Large storms can be a challenge and in Virginia, we have had storms that have lasted about a week lately. I posted a screenshot of my iPhone weather forecast on Instagram a few weeks ago that indicated the entire 10-day forecast called for rain. Rain is just one of the many migraine triggers out there.

Avoiding making plans can damage relationships with friends and family just as much as consistently canceling plans. The last thing I, or most people, want to do is to hurt someone I care about. Showing up to a party in pain with visual disturbances and other super fun side effects can distract attention from the party. Not only do I not want that kind of attention, but I don’t want people missing anything because they are concerned about me.

I was five days into my Aimovig journey and had already had two intense migraines. I did not expect anything to result instantly, but it was definitely disheartening to have an intense migraine the very next day. I had completely forgotten that my awesome mother-in-law got us tickets to see Pentatonix as a birthday gift. I’ve loved Pentatonix since college and couldn’t wait to go when she first told me about it. When she reminded me on the day I was recovering from a migraine, I was so ashamed by the feelings of dread that crept in. This was an exciting, generous gift and I was not about to do anything to ruin it. I hoped for the best. Then came another migraine the night before and it was pretty intense.

An article by Erica Carrasco of the Achy Smile helped me put a name to those feelings. She wrote an article about the anxiety that people with migraine feel and it was like a light clicked on for me. The anxiety that I feel making plans makes no sense to most people and some of the time doesn’t make sense to me. I am so afraid that if I make plans and get hit with a migraine or experience any prodromal signs, then I will have to cancel and hurt my friend’s feelings. Worse, it could hit during an event and I cause attention to shift to me as I try to make my escape. The last thing I want to do on someone’s birthday is to make them worry about me.

There are definitely multiple aspects of migraine-related anxiety, but this is the one that sticks out to me recently. I didn’t realize until the fear crept in about the concert that I avoid making plans out of fear. I remember in the weeks leading up to my wedding, I had struggled with migraines related to allergies and changing weather and I kept thinking, “What would happen if I had a migraine on my wedding day?” I would have pushed through, but what would I have lost on that special day if I was just pushing through? Fortunately, that did not happen and my wedding day was amazing.

As for the concert, it worked out much better than expected. The flashing lights were rough and certain sounds presented a challenge, but overall, I was able to really enjoy it. I would have regretted it so much had I not gone. That scenario worked out very well and we had an amazing time. If you’ve never heard of Pentatonix, you should check them out.

I do have to consider the reality that it could have gone the other way and could have been really bad. While I was equipped with naratriptan and ondansetron… it still could have been a bad time. This time I was blessed and it was an awesome experience, but fooling myself into thinking that if I am having enough fun, the migraine won’t matter is a really risky decision. Driving with certain types of migraines can endanger your life and others if you have visual disturbances. Assessing all of the risks, developing plans in the event that something does happen, and making sure there is someone who understands the situation is usually how I manage.

One of my intentions for August, and going forward, is to show up. No excuses. Not just attending. Showing up for my friends and family but still managing the migraine journey.

How do you manage social expectations with limitations from migraines?

(Work and similar responsibilities are totally a separate issue.)

Photo by hiva sharifi on Unsplash

Originally published: October 23, 2018
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