Male Migraine and Depression

March 11, 2007 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

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By Lawrence Angell

While it’s true that my website pertains almost exclusively to house building, there remains a sentiment of human emotion, which lives in all of us that pushes me to accomplish difficult things.

I rarely talk about the strong, positive attributes we all need to do extraordinary things, but if I can offer even a small measure of assistance or comfort to someone that struggles then my words will have been worth it.

I grew up in the country on a farm where work was plentiful but money was not. Coming from a large family I often saw my parents shuffle expenses around to make ends meet. The moments we had together with our father were few because he had many jobs and church responsibilities. I recall those treasured memories as being unforgettably wonderful though.

I learned to work hard taking care of the farm animals with my brothers. We inadvertently learned the value of hard work at such a young age. We have all carried this conditioning into our adult lives and it serves us well. Our parents taught us that hard work and integrity was better than a college education. Back in the 1960’s that was probably true, so our parents didn’t intentionally give us bad advice.

None of my brothers or sisters got good grades and we struggled just to get by. There was always work to be done and sometimes homework had to be put aside until the work was done. My teachers believed in using the paddle and negligence was worthy of discipline so I got paddled a lot for not doing my homework.

I think our parents probably knew that they wasn’t raising a bunch of “little Einsteins” and saw no other recourse than to teach us the value of hard work. We enjoyed life though. I guess ignorance really is bliss.

I remember being very young when I started having headaches. I was probably four or five years old and my parents were reluctant to give me any medicine for the pain. I would get so sick with nausea, disorientation, and of course head and body pain.

I always felt ashamed to ask for help when I was in pain. To this day, I prefer to be alone when I’m sick. It was sort of an unspoken rule when I was growing up that sickness meant weakness.

I think perhaps that is why I prefer to be alone when I’m feeling emotional or physical pain. Along with migraine pain, I also quite often feel a deep sense of despair and hopelessness, which is now common knowledge. Migraine and Depression go hand-in-hand because of low levels of a brain chemical called Serotonin.

In my teenage years, I was often alone to deal with such emotions. People are usually unable to offer comfort to those who have brain chemical disorders by talking to them.

This is a difficult concept to understand, but it’s completely true. Human beings are creatures of emotion, not logic. Everything we have learned, we have done it through a process of emotionally enhanced memory retention.

To help people better understand emotional breakdowns, I often use the expression, “We believe what we feel, not what we know.”

That’s why you hear people say, “I know I shouldn’t be feeling sad but for some reason I still do.” Migraine and Depression are usually connected and are often treated with the same medication.

In my late twenties, I started having these headaches every day. The medication got more expensive. I continued to try and find a cause for my headaches, but have never had any success.

Many years of pain, anxiety, and despair have taught me a lot about how humans process emotions. It has helped me be more understanding and tolerant. My mother said I’m much nicer and more humble because of all my headaches. I guess I’ve been worn down over time.

There have been many moments in life where migraine headaches have deprived me of great things. I have battled this intangible enemy almost all of my life. I used to live in fear of the next headache. A few years back I finally learned that it was an enemy I wouldn’t be able to defeat, so I found a way to make peace with it.

I always used to feel guilty for being so undependable not only to family and friends, but also to employers and those who relied on me because I was sick so much. I felt so guilty of depriving my family of a better life because I was spending most of my income on medication. I felt defective as a person and always tried to downplay my condition.

It’s hard to work through pain. It’s easier to stay in bed when you’re sick than to get up and go to work. When you’re sick every day though, you have to make a choice. Many years ago, I had to decide if migraine was a condition that would rule me or I would rule it. It could have gone either way, but I decided to have a life instead.

The choice was more complicated than that. I don’t know anyone that can work while being in so much pain along with nausea. That would be difficult and dangerous. I have to take a lot of medication. I take mostly Vasoconstrictors (Imitrex) which have unknown long term effects. I take some painkillers, but keep them limited to synthetic narcotics (Darvocet), which are less addictive. I am now forty-four years old and have liver and kidney problems, which are most likely, caused from the meds. So the trade-off is a shortened life, but it’s a decision I made many years ago and I stand by it.

There have been many adversities in life, but they don’t overwhelm me because I made the decision to rule my life and not let any part of life rule me. I have gained a sense of confidence and have noticed that the stresses in life are the worst migraine triggers of all. I understand that we can’t get rid of all the trials in life, but we can definitely control our reactions to them.

Many of the things in my past have contributed to my character. Most of it is good. When difficult things in life present themselves to me, I always know everything will be fine. My sense of confidence is one of the things that helped me build my own house. It was hard and I didn’t know much about house building, but I knew that once I made the decision to do it, that house would get finished.

Life isn’t fair, it never will be. There are a lot of us in the world who can change our circumstances, but we have to change our mindset first. We have to realize that we put ourselves in to our current situation and nobody can get us out except ourselves. When we make that change in our thinking, we regain power over our future.

There are billions of ordinary people in the world. There are a handful of extraordinary people on this planet. The best people though, are ordinary people that do extraordinary things.

Larry Angell

Larry Angell is the author of sweat equity, a house building resource book for homeowners. He helps low-income individuals secure financing and teaches them how to build homes of value. He is also a daily chronic migraine sufferer. He has been an active member of many migraine support groups and has participated in numerous types of headache research and testing.

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