Signal Boost: Migraine and Suicide

Kelly of Fly with Hope just posted Migraine and Suicide: What to Do when You Are in Crisis (Suicidal). Here’s the beginning of her post:

This week, September 4th through September 10th is the 37th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week. September also happens to be Pain Awareness Month.  In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week and Pain Awareness Month, I will be continuing the series I started with the post Migraine and Suicide. Please check in every day as there will be posts with contribution from the chronic Migraine and chronic pain community on topics related to chronic Migraine/chronic pain and suicide including how to cope when you are close to the end of your rope, personal stories from those who have been there, on suicide and faith, a post especially for loved ones (family, friends, caregivers) and links to other blogs/articles on Migraine and suicide.

I’m so glad to see this happening. The people I know who are chronically ill who committed suicide were people who were living with chronic pain. I think that when you live with uncontrolled severe and/or chronic pain, a sense of desperation and unbearable suffering is more common than not. I know many people who live with chronic or severe pain who are or have been suicidal, and of those I know who have killed themselves, most were in severe, chronic pain.

There are a lot of reasons to discuss suicide in conjunction with chronic pain and/or migraines. One reason is that the actual  physical  suffering can be so severe that people can become desperate enough to want to end their lives, or more accurately, to end the pain they’re in.

Another is that there are harsh, judgemental attitudes in our culture about both suicide and chronic pain/illness. When someone is suffering emotionally or physically or both, they may have internalized cultural messages that they are “weak” or that they are alone or that they are “selfish” to feel the way they do. This creates a barrier to reaching out for help and support. It’s crucial that we remove the stigma from talking about both suicide and chronic pain so that when we are suffering, we can receive empathy and kindness which will hopefully ease our suffering and provide options other than (or at least, in addition to) suicide.

Another reason is that chronic pain rewires our brains. It affects who we are and how we think and feel. Migraines, specifically, are a form of neurological disease. Migraines are thought to be a form of slow seizure. So it makes sense that often, during a migraine, emotions are altered or heightened. I know that during severe migraines my moods and thought patterns are altered. I often become weepy and anxious and think strangely. When the migraine has lifted, I often don’t even remember what I was thinking or feeling, or if I do, it doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

Flying with Hope will be posting links and resources for migraineurs, those with chronic pain, and those who are or who have been suicidal. She’ll be talking about feeling suicidal herself and linking to others with chronic pain who have. I wanted to let you know about these resources for any of my readers who are or have been feeling suicidal, as well as for those who want to pass resources on to others, or for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Kelly is asking those who have felt suicidal to blog about it. I’m quite sick and exhausted right now, so I’m not up to saying much, but to try to help reduce the shame and isolation you might be feeling if you have struggled with thoughts of suicide, I want to let you know that I have been suicidal. I am not suicidal now, but for several months, when I was at my sickest, I was in excruciating physical and psychological pain, and I did research ways to kill myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that because I didn’t want them to stop me. I was having pretty much round-the-clock migraines at the time, but I think the primary reason for my suicidality was neuropsychological damage caused by Lyme disease and bartonella infection. I did not know at the time that I had these diseases and that they could be causing these symptoms.

There have been other times in my life when I thought about suicide, but that was the worst time. I feel very grateful that I am not chronically psychologically altered and depressed anymore. I hope I never feel that way again. At least I have lived through terrible, terrible times and know it is possible for life to get better.

If you are feeling suicidal, please talk to someone who will be kind and supportive. If you don’t think you have anyone like that in your life, you can talk to these people any time of the day or night, for free, who are dedicated to providing support to people who are feeling suicidal:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline contact info:

Voice/English: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)*

En Espanol: Red Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio:  1-888-628-9454

You can also get support and information at their website, suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

*When I was suicidal, most of the time I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t use my computer, so the only way I had to communicate was by TTY. I would really have liked to have known there was a dedicated TTY line for a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. The only hotlines I found, I had to use relay, and you really don’t want to use relay when you’re in that state, believe me! People with speech or communication disabilities, Deaf people, and deafblind people experience suicidal feelings, too. Please pass on all the links!

A different, and unique, approach to the discussion of suicide is at Write Me! Leah Petersen’s blog, where the 5 Minute Fiction challenge is held. Another part of her blog is called Suicide Notes. Leah says:

Prompted by many debates on various internet boards, my own experiences, and the comments of others, I have decided to take on the topic of suicide.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve lost someone very dear to me that way, and I’ve looked it in the face myself.

It’s an ugly, horrible, scary place to be. And it’s almost impossible to understand if you haven’t been there. So people hurt. And people get angry. And they get judgmental. And people don’t get the help they need. And people make attempts and…

Anyway, it’s hard even for me to articulate in cold, clinical terms this particular issue.

So naturally I’ll retreat behind a fog of fiction.

Therefore, I’ve taken on a new project. A collection of flash fiction pieces called Suicide Notes.

Please keep these resources for yourself and pass them on to others.

One note: Fly with Hope’s tagline refers to Jesus, but there hasn’t been anything remotely religious or Christian in the two blog posts of hers I’ve read about migraines, pain, and suicide. So, if you are not Christian, please don’t let this get in your way; I didn’t find anything “Jesus-y” in her discussion or in the resources provided.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (my best suicide prevention treatment), and Barnum, SDiT and antidepressant

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1 Response to “Signal Boost: Migraine and Suicide”


  1. 1 brilliantmindbrokenbody September 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    *offers as much of a hug as you would like and are comfortable with*

    I am sorry that you, too, have been at the point of pain where ending it seems like a good idea.

    I spent far more time than I like to think about there in the first two years after I really got sick. I can remember crying myself sick because I felt so unable to continue. It was only made worse by the fact that I did attempt to kill myself when I was 15 and saw how it affected my family, so I felt like suicide was even less of an option than I expect the average person does.

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll put up a post about pain and suicidal thinking/impulses this weekend – mine haven’t been tied to migraines, but I can certainly speak to how pain can bring you there and how altered mental states can bring you there.

    Migraines do have an affect on my mental state as well – I am often unbearably angry when I have migraines, and I too have muddled thinking.

    ~Kali


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