Today’s guest post was written by my husband, Casey, who is the spouse of a migraine sufferer…as many are. I was finally diagnosed with chronic vestibular migraine after my health deteriorated over 5 months to the point where I couldn’t leave the house. We had only been married for a year and we were in the process of buying our first house when all of this knocked us over like 1,000 bricks. I often felt like he would have been better off without me and deserved a wife that was healthy. We got into many fights, but we made it through with lots of hard work and communication. Now he’s my biggest supporter, always “liking” my photos and sharing the news of my website. He tries all my recipes, good and bad….oddly he doesn’t gain any weight because he’s a freak of nature. He still comes to my important doctor’s appointments, and was my rock when this happened last year. I hope you enjoy hearing his side of the story.
My wife wrote a wonderful post last week about how those who suffer from vestibular migraine might approach the New Year. I want to take that post one step further to help you adopt these changes. Changing your lifestyle, moving out of your comfort zone, or simply changing one habit is extremely difficult for anyone, let alone someone suffering from a chronic illness. You all are having a hard enough time adjusting to your new normal of life with vestibular migraine. It’s an invisible illness that even the affected don’t always fully comprehend. And because it is an invisible illness that is difficult to explain to others, you can feel very alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
To the partners and spouses of someone living with chronic migraine –
Now I would like you to invite your spouse, partner, friend, parent, whoever you love and trust in your life to read this post with you (at least send it to them after you are done reading it). I want to take some time to talk to whomever that person is.
Introducing a new diet is really difficult. We make more than 200 food choices a day! Making the right decision (especially with a diet that has few resources) takes more will power and thought than most people can pull together, let along someone suffering from a chronic illness. Having a partner to help them figure out the diet, cook with, and even go out to dinner with, is a tremendous help. It’s especially helpful if you both live in the same house. If that person is having a difficult day with their symptoms, you can go to the grocery store and feel confident about buying the right food. There are some added benefits for you too. Because the Heal Your Headache diet removes processed food, additives, and other bad parts of the American diet, there is a good chance you will start feeling better too. And if one of your New Years’ resolutions is to learn a new skill, cooking is a great one. This is just one small way to be a supportive spouse of a migraine sufferer.
Being a supportive spouse of a migraine sufferer
We all spend too much time binge watching Netflix, scrolling through Facebook/Instagram, and mindlessly letting the day pass us by. If you were given the option of doing something fun with the person you love or staring at your phone, ten times out of ten you will pick the former. Go and try new things with that person. A yoga class can be an easy thing you both can do together. Grab a real camera and take a walk together. Take pictures of your neighborhood, a park, or if you’re lucky enough to live near nature, the forest. Maybe you really enjoy a good massage or facial. In that case, treat yo selves! Then you can learn how to give a massage or apply a facial to your partner. Or learn to make essential oils for an upcoming trip. If nothing else, it will give you both an opportunity to spend more time with each other.
One of the highlights of the post was to “decide this is the year you will not let this rule your life.” Alicia recommended finding a counselor to help you with goal setting. But you don’t have to find a counselor to help you adjust to this unexpected chronic illness.
The person you should ask to help you with this journey is the person reading this post with you.
How our relationship changed because of chronic migraine
When Alicia was first diagnosed with vestibular migraine, we had already spent five months not only trying to figure out what was wrong, but trying to adjust our lives to accommodate her symptoms. As the spouse of a migraine sufferer, adjustments weren’t just lifestyle changes like taking time off work to drive her to all of the doctor appointments and vestibular therapy sessions. It was trying to be empathetic to her situation, but this didn’t come easy to me. I never had to deal with any serious health scares in my immediate family and trying to relate to what she was going through simply wasn’t possible. I had a really difficult time trying to empathize with her. In fact, I sucked at empathy. But I got better. It takes effort and truly listening to what this person has to say.
To do this, you have to remove all biases and preconceived ideas about what he/she is going through.
Ask questions. On the flip side, you cannot be expected to understand what they are going through. But if they get frustrated with you, take a deep breath and apologize for not fully understanding. Because while you may feel like you are just trying to help, their world has been turned upside down and they are trying to comprehend this too.
Don’t try to fix every problem they are telling you.
Sometimes all they want is someone to talk to. Over time, you both will get on the same page but you have to be patient. And the reward for your empathy and patience is you will become closer to each other and have a better relationship because of your effort. This illness can either break your relationship or it can strengthen it. If you choose to make the effort and put that person’s needs ahead of your own, the benefits of a stronger relationship make the struggle worth it. And if this isn’t enough to convince you to go through this journey with them, there is one more benefit you will get – you will feel better about yourself and be happier with yourself.
To quote Adam Robinson, “One of the problems with self-help books is they rivet your attention on exactly the one thing it ought not to be focused on: yourself. You look at any of the great religious traditions, and the great philosophers, and the great poets, they all had the same message of focusing on others, and being of service to others.”
Life was meant for two. Enjoy the magic of truly connecting with another person.