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8 Skills You Need to Manage Chronic Migraine

Reading time | 4 min

I have two full-time jobs: my regular nine-to-five and my job as someone living with chronic migraine.

Living with a chronic condition is like having a second career because of the time and effort that go into managing symptoms. The only difference is that I don’t get paid to manage my migraine. In fact, it drains my bank account.

Here are eight skills I use to effectively manage my chronic migraine:

Networking

When you’re living with chronic migraine, finding others you can relate to is essential. Creating genuine, lasting friendships may take a lot of time and effort, but having someone who “gets it” can make all the difference on bad days.

Research

I’m seeing a great neurologist, but I still spend a lot of time researching migraine treatments. There are also diet changes to consider, holistic approaches to try, and much more. I like to stay on top of new information so that I don’t miss any potential chances for relief.

Resilience

My migraine is a mystery. To solve it, I need to try new treatment options all the time. When they do not work, I need to recover quickly and try something else. This pattern repeats again and again, and comes with having to find new doctors and audit my behaviors to note any improvements in symptoms.

Positivity

Staying positive is necessary when you’re living with chronic migraine. You have to coach yourself to be optimistic when things don’t work out so that you have the strength to keep trying. All your hard work will pay off, although it may not be in the immediate future.

On days when it seems my “business” is failing, I do my best to keep a happy appearance. This allows me to stay afloat and show that I'm OK.

Budgeting

Migraine is expensive. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of how much I spend and update it regularly.

Some of the details I include on the spreadsheet are:

  • the date of treatment
  • the doctor or clinic
  • the type of procedure
  • the date the payment was made
  • the amount paid
  • the form of payment

I’ll also make a note stating whether I ran the claim through my Health Savings Account (HSA) and if the claim was approved.

In the totals column (the scariest part) I tally all of my medical expenses thus far for the year.

Tracking my expenses takes time, but there is a lot of value in knowing the amount I’ve spent to treat my migraine from year to year.

Organization

I know little about the medications prescribed to me, but I know a lot about the importance of adhering to them. It’s not an easy feat, but staying on top of your treatment plan is vital to seeing an improvement in symptoms. Such responsibilities include:

  • keeping track of what you’re taking
  • making sure you’re taking it at the same time each day
  • making regular trips to the pharmacy to refill your prescription

Missing a step, no matter how small it seems, can greatly impact the effectiveness of whatever medication you’re taking and hinder your chances for relief.

Bargaining with stakeholders

I speak with insurance companies regularly. Whether I’m calling to ask a question about coverage or dispute a charge, it’s an endless game of call transfers. It’s comical how long it takes (and how many people I have to speak with) to get an answer. And, usually, it’s not an answer I want to hear.

There is a lack of empathy from the people on the other line. They don’t seem to care that I’m in pain or understand how hard it is to navigate health insurance while managing migraine symptoms.

Setting expectations

When I make plans, I make sure my friends are aware there’s a chance I’ll have to bail because of my condition. Having honest conversations like this can help take the pressure off so that you’re able to enjoy your time with them and feel less anxious about needing to cancel or leave early.

Understanding limitations

Taking time off is as valuable (and needed) as the work you put in. Sometimes, you need to reset! Although the breaks I take are short, they’re monumental to my mental health and help me stay sane.

This is especially true when I’m in the process of testing new medications. Since it can be really defeating to keep trying new treatments and not see results, I’ll sometimes hit the pause button before starting a new treatment to make sure I’m mentally prepared for a potential letdown.

To unwind, I’m a big fan of meditation or going for walks. I also love reading or watching TV when I’m feeling really sick.

The takeaway

When I started my migraine journey, I didn’t know the amount of time, effort, and money I would need to put into managing the condition. It’s challenging at times, but all of the above skills are necessary to stay strong and live the best life I can.

 

MIG-US-NP-00084  JULY 2018