BEYOND MIGRAINE – EPISODE ONE OF A NEW PODCAST SERIES EXPLORES THE IMPACT MIGRAINE CAN HAVE ON YOUR MENTAL HEALTH…
Beyond Migraine is a six-part podcast series created for people living with migraine in Ireland, brought to you by the Migraine Association of Ireland and Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland. Every Monday a new episode of Beyond Migraine will be made available to download at the Migraine Association of Ireland website or wherever you stream your podcasts. Over the next six weeks, we will be spotlighting the theme of each episode providing insights from people living with migraine and expert advice from healthcare professionals treating migraine on a daily basis. If you are living with migraine, tune in to the episode to find out more each week.
Beginning the podcast series is a discussion about migraine and mental health – two internal forces that work in tandem. Experiencing migraines will affect one’s mental health; just as neglecting one’s mental health needs might contribute to the onset of a migraine attack.
The discussion features stories from those with a personal experience of living with migraine, to further understand the relationship between migraine and mental health. Aoife Gallagher lives with migraine after being struck by a viral infection a number of years ago. Jane Whelan is a Migraine Association of Ireland patient ambassador, having experienced chronic migraine for more than 30 years, and teaches a form of specialist yoga, tailored for those with migraine and chronic pain conditions. Dr Sabina Brennan is an Irish Neuroscientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin.
Acceptance of the recurring pain
Important to the series is presenting the stories of people’s experience with migraine to illustrate the real impact of the neurological condition on people’s lives. For Aoife, the pain never ends. “I woke up one day with a really severe headache but over the following few days, it got worse and worse until eventually I went to the doctor, and I was rushed into hospital because they weren’t sure what was going on. Initially it was thought it was meningitis, but it turned out to be a severe viral infection that we don’t know the cause of. It was 1st April 2015 and I’ve had a headache since”, said Aoife.
“For a long time, I felt that if I accepted the pain, then I was giving in to it. But over time, I realised that if I accepted the pain but didn’t feel bound by it, it had given me a freedom”, she explains. “There’s more to me than just headaches. There’s more to me than just this constant pain – the person I was before is still there, just slightly different and that gave me the freedom to just not always be looking on the negative side”, Aoife continued.
The way you work will have an impact on the recurrence of your migraines – and vice versa. Jane organised medical conferences as part of her career, before realising that her career was worsening her experience of migraine. “I did that job for almost twelve years, and it wasn’t a very healthy lifestyle for anyone but particularly not for anybody who has any issue with the brain. I was also living with endometriosis – living a life like that was just not good. I was getting up at four o’clock in the morning, taking early morning flights which meant by three o’clock that afternoon, I had a migraine. Different time zones, erratic eating and then the stress and instability of working in events… So, I reached a point where I went, what am I doing? This is not any way to be living and this is not helping my migraine.”
Frustration, exhaustion, and depression
A recent survey conducted by Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland, found that 51% of people with migraine claimed to feel frustrated, 53% exhausted, and 30% depressed and sad.
Neuroscientist Dr Sabina Brennan can’t provide a scientific answer for the relationship between these emotions and migraine, but she believes that it’s logical that they interact. “I don’t think science has the full answer yet. Two of the key possibilities are, the burden of the constant pain, and that migraine, depression and anxiety share a common pathophysiology so that there’s something in the way the brain operates that is shared between anxiety, migraine and/or depression.”
Experiencing migraine as a parent
The survey also found that 57% of people felt that their children’s life was impacted by migraine because they cannot support their kids unconditionally.1 Dr Brennan advises that parents living with migraines are entitled to put their needs first so that they are able to look after their children. “It really is important if you have young kids to look after yourself. It’s not being selfish. It’s being sensible. Perhaps consider factoring that into a routine. If you really do need a nap, train your kids to have a nap at the same time as you. Rather than spend money on dinner at a restaurant, or other things, I get someone in to help clean the house and then you can focus when you are good on being with your children rather than going around and cleaning the house.”
Aoife agreed, “the family dynamic tends to change when one member has migraine. My older kids, while they had a great understanding of what was going on, they had to grow up a little bit faster than other kids the same age. They had to take up more slack with chores around the house and they became really good at doing the shopping. They’re much better at doing the grocery shopping now than I am.”
Exercise, migraine and mental health
Moving around directs oxygen toward the brain. As Dr Brennan explains, “physical exercise is really good for your mental health. Getting outside, particularly if you go walking, is really good for your brain. This is important too for migraine, as it can be related to vascular issues. Your brain depends on your cardiovascular system for the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to function. It’s a really, really high energy organ. It only weighs 2% of your body but it consumes 25% of the nutrients circulating at any point in time.”
You can listen to the Beyond Migraine episode featuring Dr Sabina Brennan, Jane Whelan and Aoife Gallagher here.
The series can be streamed via the Migraine Association of Ireland website as well as wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you suffer from migraine and/or mental health issues, speak to your GP. For more information about migraines, visit www.migraine.ie.
People living with migraine can also check out Life Effects. Life Effects is an initiative shaped by patients, for patients. It explores the latest science and thinking around the condition, it contains tips and patients share stories about the reality of living with chronic conditions. Find out more about migraine on lifeeffects.teva/eu/migraine.
This article is part of a sponsored series linked to each Beyond Migraine podcast episode brought to you by the Migraine Association of Ireland and Teva Pharmaceuticals Ireland.
The Beyond Migraine podcast is supported by funding from Teva pharmaceuticals Ireland. Speakers have received an honorarium for their contribution to the podcast.
 Beyond Migraine: The Real You Research by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Research conducted by Empathy Research. Prepared October 2020. This survey was carried out among 265 Irish Migraineurs.
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