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Advice for anxiety headaches and supporting partner


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I need some advice. My partner and I have a very happy and healthy relationship, we adore each-other and generally get on like a house on fire. He's had his struggles with drug use and anxiety/depression in the past but has been able to break away from that what the coke use. He has the occasional slip up but it's rare. He lives away from that old life and moved in with me 6 months ago. He has been working hard but has horrific tension headaches which come from his anxiety. He's on medication for his anxiety which he's been on for 7+ years and has now also been given 'amitriptyline' for the headaches, he's even having CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) as well. But his headaches are still so bad hes unable to work for day at a time. He then gets fired and the pressure is on me to pay rent and bills but I can't afford it on my own. I love him and want to help but it stresses me out because I get worried I can't pay for everything.

 

So firstly does anyone have any advice with tension headaches and how to ease the pain? Secondly has anyone been in a similar situation with supporting a partner this way?

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My SO also takes amitriptyline. He has migraines. I think headaches confound doctors and we don't always know what is causing them. What are his symptoms when he has headaches? Is he also light and noise sensitive or is it just pain? What about stomach problems? Where is the pain localized, or is it all over? Is it sharp and stabbing or dull? Has he visited with a neurologist? Has he had any brain scans for things like scar tissue or inflammation? Discussing the answers to these questions with a neurologist can help with medication therapy and finding the best medications. Sometimes you may have to try a combination of meds to see what works. I advise keeping a diary of the headaches so you can see if there is a pattern, and isolate any potential triggers. Alcohol, sleep disruptions, changes in the weather, caffeine, even the amount of dietary fiber - these are all triggers for my SO's migraines.

 

As for the anxiety, which you seem to know is at least one of his triggers if not the biggest, do you think that he gets enough exercise and outdoor activity? That seems to help a lot of people with anxiety - getting outside and expending physical energy. It raises endorphins, channels nervous energy toward exhaustion.

 

Being a supportive partner is helpful and you're strong for doing so. I have struggled as well with managing life when my partner was sick and couldn't contribute much. We were so grateful to have help from family members at the time. Do you have any supportive network who can give you a helping hand?

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I know you don’t want to hear this, but I would not support my partner in this way (unless we were already legally married).

 

Your boyfriend has a lot of problems. Drug abuse issues. Mental health issues. And these issues are not in control. He may be in a better place than he was... but if he can’t hold down a job, he doesn’t have it in control. The only people who can help him is a team of doctors - and it will be a very long journey.

 

He is not in a place where he can contribute to a healthy relationship. Maybe you feel your relationship is healthy because you aren’t fighting - but if he needs to lean on you to be his doctor and his therapist and his provider - it’s not a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is one of two healthy, equal contributors to a relationship walking together.

 

In the meantime, you are putting your life “on hold” trying to get things better. You should - especially this early on - be working on shared goals and dreams and having fun - not struggling to keep him afloat.

 

What often happens in these relationships is that you spend all sorts of love and energy and money trying to make things right - and if they ever get there - the relationship usually ends. Why? Because it wasn’t healthy. Because he will likely want to put that period of time in his past and move on to happier memories.

 

Yes, I have experience being in this type of relationship. I loved him and i’m sure he loved me - but I would not do it again.

 

Sorry - that’s a lot of doom and gloom, but my advice would be to quit helping him and find someone healthy. He needs to fix himself first.

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Thanks for your response. He says it's like pressure in his head and it goes around the eyes, he can get dizzy but not very sensitive to light or noise. I queried if it was migraines for a while but we've seen doctors about it several times and been told they are tension headaches. He can have stomach issues but I know that can be a sign of anxiety as well. The problem is the headaches can go on for days, it's horrible seeing him in so much pain. Never visited a Neurologist or had an brain scans. His field of work is very physical so he it's not like he's sitting around a lot but his breaks in between work could be boosted. Yeah I don't understand the different medications he's on so maybe a different combination could be more effective for him!

 

Luckily my dad has been supportive through this time but what we all want is to find a way of solving the issue so he feels okay and can stay in work.

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RedDress, I do understand your stance on this but equally I am very happy and if I felt at any point I was acting as his therapist or doctor I wouldn't be with him. Obviously it's easier to leave someone with mental health issues but we do have a healthy relationship and spend every day laughing and creating happy memories. We just want a cure for his tension headaches so he can provide for his half of bills, he enjoys working and 95% of the time is but he does have these headaches which cause him to take time off. I just hope you can understand that not all relationships that include mental health issues are the same.

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If the headaches are this debilitating and last for days to the point where he can't fuction, time to consult a neurologist. It could be caused by so many things, it's really impossible to give you any kind of generic advice about it. Sometimes you even have to go to multiple doctors until you get one who actually pays attention long enough to diagnose properly. Sad, but true.

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It's sad that you feel the need to fix him so he can work and help you pay the bills. How did he support himself/his habit before moving in with you? Are you sure his work absences and inability to pay his way are due to "tension headaches from anxiety"?

 

First off how do you know he even has headaches? It's a subjective symptom. Secondly what makes you believe his tension headaches are from "anxiety"? Thirdly, don't be so sure "he's left that life behind" because moving in with you miraculously cured him or that he forgot how to be deceptive about drug use, malinger or lie.

 

Also, why can't he keep a job, but refuses to get an appropriate work up from a doctor or get in an appropriate drug treatment program? If he indeed had a problem that he would admit to he would be eligible for disability. Ask him to move out until he gets a workup and gets on disability. If he won't... you have your answers.

He's had his struggles with drug use and anxiety/depression in the past but has been able to break away from that what the coke use. He has the occasional slip up but it's rare. He lives away from that old life and moved in with me 6 months ago. He then gets fired and the pressure is on me to pay rent and bills but I can't afford it on my own.
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I would also have him checked by a neurologist . If it has gotten to the point he is nonfunctional ( can’t work)some intervention is needed . I have three chronic pain conditions two of them neurological however I can still work and function. When it gets to the point that you can’t you need to be under neurologist’s care .

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