Thursday, September 8, 2011

Migraine and Suicide: For Family, Friends & Caregivers

One in 10 suicides linked to chronic illness, study finds. Click on the link and you'll find an article about a study done in the UK that found just how at risk those with chronic illness are. Globally, we are suffering and we need support.

This post is from those of us who have Chronic Migraine and Chronic Pain to you, loved ones, family, friends and caregivers. Thank you for reading this post because it means you must care and that means a great deal to us. In this post, we want to tell you how we feel, why we need you and what you can do to support us. I have also included linked resources that you can use for your loved one in crisis.

When I asked the community to share what they would want you, family/friends/caregivers to know about why they sometimes feel suicidal, here are what three individuals said:

I sometimes feel like I'm at the end of my rope because of my chronic migraines because it's unrelenting. It has changed so many things in my life that I sometimes don't even recognize my own life. It has flipped my world upside-down, and there's no guarantee that things will get better. It can be very difficult to accept that my life has completely changed.
I would want them to know its not that we’re crazy or that we just have emotional issues. When you are sick and you don’t think you are ever going to get well again sometimes you want to make that sickness or that pain stop. Its not that you’re mentally ill. It is a matter of just wanting to stop the pain/illness.
When you have chronic, intractable migraine (and fibromyalgia), a loss of quality of life is inevitable, especially if you are young and in the prime of life. At my age, I am supposed to be building a career, saving money, having children, and moving about in the hustle and bustle of society. But I am not doing any of these things. I am stagnant. I have to say "no" to the majority of activities my friends go out and do, because even if I am not in pain at the moment, I have to carefully weight the consequences of my actions on what I might feel like the next day. As much as I love my friends, I think if they had just one 24-hour bout with migraine they might understand why I hesitate to put myself in a position to bring one on. Therefore, it cuts me to the core when I have to say, "I cannot attend your function", and it adds to the stress of having migraine because I feel as if I am a letdown. I am happy to know that people want me around, but it hurts that I know I'll pay for being someone's company. This disease silently takes things from you that you took for granted before. Things that other people do daily without thought. Migraine causes a constant battle within.I just want my friends to understand that I love them, but migraine has radically changed my life and in some cases it's changed me. I am not who I was 6 years ago. I am not in a good place. There are many days when I don't enjoy life and it's a rare day when I don't have to push myself to leave the house. This is not life. It's imprisonment.

When a person who has chronic Migraine/pain  is suicidal, that person cannot see a way out of the unending physical trauma that is happening to them. That they are talking about suicide or feeling like they want to leave this life is not a commentary on how they feel about you. In fact, their thoughts of suicide have nothing to do with you. Yes, it affects you, but in the moment our feelings are about ourselves.

Before I share with you the community's list of how they want you to respond when they are going through a dark time, please read the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's What if Someone I Know Needs Help. There you will find some information on topics such as guiding someone who needs help online, how to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide, how to be aware of the feelings that the person is going through. The following is what the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says to do when someone is threatening suicide:
  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don't dare him or her to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention
Click here to find out common warning signs of suicide.  “What to do if you think a person is having suicidal thoughts” is a guide that will help you talk with someone you think might be having suicidal thoughts.

I had spoken with a friend for a few hours on the phone after she told me she was suicidal. I had supported her in many different ways, but she was not following through on getting help and I was very scared she was going to hurt herself. So, I decided to call the lifeline. The person on the phone supported me in supporting my friend. The lifeline was a vital resource for me at that time. Do not hesitate to use it. I was very relieved to get an outsider's opinion on the situation I was going through. If you think your family member or friend is in crisis or you simply need support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

So, now I want to share with you the ways the community want you to know how you can help support them when they are feeling suicidal or close to the end of their rope.

Ways To Respond:
  • “Just be there for me.” 
  • “Just be there to listen."
  • "Ask: how can I support you?"
  • "Pay attention."
  • “I would tell others to make sure they express their love and support, but without any judgment.”
  • "Extend meaningful hope to the pain sufferer not trite euphemisms."
  • "We just need to know you care.  The words “I love you,” “I’d give anything to be able to help you feel better,” and “I’m on my way over” are powerful words.  There is great hope to be found in love."
  • “ Try to help the person in question realize they have a purpose, they aren't just a burden.”
  • “Try to talk me down lightly.”

 Things To Avoid:
  •  "Don't try to keep us from attempting only by saying you would miss us and you would be heartbroken. It makes us feel you are not acknowledging our suffering and that you think this is about you when it is not."
  • " Do not be judgmental of my feelings or actions."
  • “Do not make light of the subject no matter how many times you hear someone say they wish it was over, and they don't do anything. You never know when they may reach the end of that rope.
  • “Anything other than being supportive is probably not a good response.”
  • “I do not want them to freak out.”
  • “Don't go the, 'This is stupid! You know better!' route. That makes the feelings only worse."
  • "When someone is saying you're playing 'woe is me, people has it worse than you', that makes the feelings worse, because it brings up the thoughts, 'well others have it worse than me, than I'll prove I can make my life worse.'"
  • “Don't act like you know what I'm going through, unless you've been through something very similar."
  • "We who are in pain, don’t need to hear that “it’s going to get better,” “it could be worse,” or “just trust."
  • "Don’t try to solve our problems."
  • "Saying "don't say that around me" is terribly disempowering. If I trusted you enough to say that I feel awful and that I'm reaching out for your hugs or support, the fact that you shut me down means that I'm not going to ever going to feel the same way about trusting you with my intimate personal feelings again."
One community member summarizes this section very well when they said,
Do not freak out when the pain sufferer says “I can’t take it anymore.”  Don’t try to reason with them about how selfish they are or how much you’d miss them; just be there.  Try saying “Boy, I don’t know how you handle this - you truly amaze me by your strength.”  Also, don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.”  It’s okay to ask if the individual is thinking about harming themselves.  If they are, form a “no suicide” covenant with them.  Be the person who will be there during the dark times - not to keep them safe - but to let them know they are loved and not alone.  You may not be able to take away the pain, but you can take away the sense of isolation.  Words don’t do it; presence does.
 If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

As a family/friend/caregiver, I recommend you read this very short post written on another site by a mother about her son called migraine kills.You might also read the comment section as it is very moving.

Please read today's post from a community member, I Want to Live! But I Don't Feel Like I Am! 

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