Shoshana Lipson, 56, has lived with migraine for as long as she can remember. Many people think of a migraine as a bad headache, but Lipson and others with the condition know that it’s actually way more involved than that. Migraine is a complex neurological disorder that can cause intense head pain and other symptoms like nausea, weakness, and sensitivity to sound, light, and smells.1 A migraine attack can strike at any time, disrupting so many aspects of your life, from work to time with family and friends. People with migraine may need to cancel plans at the last minute or avoid certain activities that trigger an attack such as going to the movies, which can strain relationships. Lipson talks to SELF about how she’s learned to get to a place where her relationships are thriving.
Migraine impacts my relationships in a big way because everything has to revolve around the condition. Migraine dictates where I can go and what I can do, and my plans always need to be flexible. Sometimes I can’t be available to my partner or my children. Some people think I can just take an over-the-counter pill and be fine, or that I am faking my condition. My first marriage was very challenging because my spouse really did not understand my condition. I was pushed to work a 9 to 5 job on top of caring for three young children and assisting my husband in his own business, which healthwise I wasn’t really able to do. I was pushed into doing things that I couldn’t do. The marriage didn’t survive the strain—it was just too much.
When I eventually started dating again, I was pretty open about the disease with other people. But I was also so afraid of starting a relationship, wondering if the next person I met would be understanding. I did meet a partner who is incredibly supportive, and we’ve been married for nearly eight years now, but we had a challenging start. Around the time we decided to get married, my migraine attacks were out of control to the point where they didn’t respond to medication.
My fiance knew I had migraine, but he didn’t see me in a full-blown attack until the night we got engaged. I spent the evening in the bathroom in excruciating pain and was unable to stop throwing up. When my migraine attacks happen they are completely and utterly debilitating and bring my life to a grinding halt, regardless of my responsibilities or plans. Within a month of getting engaged, I was no longer able to work and my health basically just crashed and burned. We expected to have a longer engagement so we could merge our lives together slowly. But because I was no longer able to financially support my family, we got married much sooner than planned.
My fiance was understanding and really supportive of my condition. I think it helps that I constantly educate him about migraine, and he does his own research too. Still, in the beginning, I didn’t know if we were gonna make it. The strain in our marriage at the time was due to three things. First, we had full custody of five teenagers between us, so there were normal challenges to work out in a blended family. For example, fragrances can trigger a migraine attack and my stepdaughters didn’t understand why they couldn’t wear perfume or body spray as their friends did. Secondly, I was not able to work at all at that time, which caused a lot of financial strain. Thirdly, my health was so bad I had trouble doing basic housekeeping and being there for our children as needed.
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