FAMILY DISEASE MIGRAINE How to help yourself and your family

Migraine not only puts a strain on sufferers but often on the whole family as well. Pain neuro-coach Meike Statkus is a migraine patient herself - here, she explains how a migraine candy list can make it easier to deal with the symptoms.
About 15 percent of women and six percent of men in Germany are affected by migraine, plus an enormous number of unreported cases. However, no one wants to have them, because they are extremely painful. Those affected often have no choice but to take a break. But that's easy to say, because it can cause a lot of trouble both for the migraine sufferer and for those around him.
I work as a pain neuro-coach and often coach migraine sufferers, because that's what I know. I used to have severe migraine attacks myself several times a week for years. Today, I only have two or three attacks a year. My chronic migraine period was not easy for me or for my immediate environment. Pain is very complex and has levels that go far beyond the physical. For example, severe migraine attacks trigger something in the entire family system, not just the sufferer. The rest of the family may not have direct "physical" pain. "Emotional" pain, however, may well occur in the "healthy" part of the family as well.

The family suffers
Such entanglements are not only difficult for family life, but can also intensify pain in the sufferer. Because everything that triggers negative emotions in addition to the migraine causes new stress. And stress, in turn, often triggers migraine attacks.

Such pain-reinforcing cycles are often found in my clients. Pain-reinforcing "emotion ping-pong." I will give a concrete example of how something like this can look in a family: Bettina is 34 years old and happily married to Manuel. They have a daughter together, little Elena (6). Bettina suffers from regular, acute migraine attacks.

So far, so difficult, because the exact biological mechanisms behind this neurological disease are still not fully understood. Scientists all over the world are doing their utmost to solve the many existing mysteries. So it's not surprising that when an attack occurs, Bettina herself doesn't know exactly what to do about it. And she is not alone in this: the majority of my clients report that even after many visits to various experts, they are still "trying out" what might help against a migraine attack. They describe the whole thing as a "game of chance.

The same measures do not always work
Whether and which measure works is unclear before the attack and does not allow any conclusions afterwards as to whether this variant will also work the next time. So it is quite a frustrating situation. Now we have Bettina's husband Manuel and daughter Elena on the other side. The two of them know by now that Bettina has frequent severe migraines. They are worried about Bettina and would like to do something to make her feel better. Since they don't know what helps, helplessness sets in.
So they ask Bettina, "What can we do? What do you need?" A simple question - but as described above, in this extreme situation Bettina herself may just be trying things out and not know. This can then quickly result in a stroppy answer or a helpless shrug from Bettina. 

Incomprehension and even anger
Each family member reacts differently to the situation:  

Husband Manuel may be annoyed because he can't seem to do anything right by Bettina and gets angry: "I only mean well!" 
Daughter Elena, on the other hand, may even feel to blame for her mother's migraine attack. "If I had been quieter/lighter, Mom wouldn't have a migraine now," Elena might think.
Bettina might get angry at husband Manuel for not having a shred of understanding in this situation, but now tackling her too! In addition, she may feel the distress of her family - which wants to help so much and can not. This could then, in addition to the migraine, also trigger emotions such as feelings of guilt in her: "I can't take care of anything right now and now I'm also to blame that everyone is worried about me," would be a possible thought.  
The whole thing can result in Bettina's next migraine attack being much more tense. Bettina desperately wants to avoid a repeat of the unpleasant situation in the family. As soon as her next migraine attack is imminent, she therefore reacts much more stressed and the pain gets worse, not better.

Emotions can be overwhelming
We are emotionally highly developed beings and feel much more than we sometimes like. Particularly in families, the members are aware of each other's emotions and react to them. This sometimes leads to the aforementioned emotional ping-pong and is something I encounter with many of my clients. This ping-pong can be changed in a sustainable way within the framework of coaching. But even without coaching, something can be done about it!

It makes sense to deal with migraine as a family. It is important to recognize that it does not only affect the migraine sufferer, but the whole family. Only then can everyone learn to deal with the situation in a relaxed way in the long run and not to aggravate the pain situation any further.

Problem: SOS measures
What is the best way to proceed? If everyone in the family knows what to do if the worst comes to the worst, such difficult situations often become much less stressful. Unfortunately, the stupid thing about SOS measures is that we usually don't think of them in an emergency. This is due to the fact that in such a stressful situation our body usually switches to fight mode: We then react more in the instinctive realm and have only limited access to our conscious mind.

The solution: A migraine-flattering list
I have therefore designed a Migraine Flatterer List for sufferers and their families, which does what our example "Bettina" cannot do at this moment: Giving your family and yourself very specific advice on what might help now!

And this is how the list works
For each letter from A to Z, the sufferer enters things that could do him good before or during a migraine attack. The A to Z principle helps to think laterally as much as possible. If you are affected yourself: Concentrate with the list thereby only on positive things. This makes sense because we can usually say very clearly what does not help us - but unfortunately rarely know what would be helpful instead.
The right place
Hang up the completed list in a visible place, for example on the refrigerator. This way, you make sure that you and your family can always take a look at it. Why is this so important? The more often you see the list and the helping things, the higher the chance that your brain will remember any of it in an emergency! Also, your children and your partner will probably have at least the letters A and B immediately in case of an emergency - without having to look at the list at all.


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