When Pain Comes Between Us
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ROBIN ROBERTSWhether you or someone you love suffers from recurring migraines, they often test the patience and resolve of family and friends. Here now, the story of how migraines turn one family upside down, and why understanding migraine's impact on caregivers is so important in successfully treating and supporting patients.
MELANIE GROSSIVery first trip we ever took together, Mr. Grossi.
ROBIN ROBERTSMelanie and Chris Grossi were enjoying a life of adventure.
MELANIE GROSSIOne of the things he wrote to me in one of our early emails when we were first dating was that if I stuck with him, I'd go places. And it's really true.
CHRIS GROSSIWe've got a globe on here, because the world is our oyster.
MELANIE GROSSII have a charm bracelet, and we have charms that are related to all of the different places that we've gone. So I always have this reminder on my wrist of all of the wonderful things we've done.
ROBIN ROBERTSBut then her once a month migraines started recurring more frequently.
CHRIS GROSSIWe went from here, occasional migraines, to there. And you know, by the time we're on day eight of a migraine, it's like, we have a problem here.
MELANIE GROSSIThere are days where everything, including the bottom of my feet hurt. And I can't wear socks. And clothes hurt. And everything hurts. And you'd cry, but the crying makes everything feel worse. To be 44, and to realize that this could be my new normal forever is really heartbreaking. MELANIE GROSSI: That new normal completely altered the dynamics of their marriage. Seven years later, nearly everything about the Grossi's life has changed. The once jet-setting couple is now homebound.
CHRIS GROSSIIt was really hard when we had to cancel the vacation that I had planned for my 40th birthday. We were going to go to Europe for the first time together. And you know, we weren't able to do that. For me, that was a low point, because we didn't know whether we'd ever be able to do some of these things again.
MELANIE GROSSII have a lot of guilt about that. How can I do this, and have him tied to a life like this, where he wanted to travel and do all of these things? But I'm holding him back.
DAWN BUSESo a lot of people will feel very guilty about the effect that migraine is having on their marriage, or in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is a condition that is a genetic predisposition. They certainly didn't choose to have this condition. And they don't need to feel guilty, and yet they do.
ROBIN ROBERTSMelanie's migraine forced her to leave her job at Brown University, and she can't take care of her home the way she always wanted to.
MELANIE GROSSII didn't really have a good example of what it was to have a good marriage. I thought about what being a wife meant to me, and what I wanted that to entail. And for me, to not meet the self-imposed expectations-- and they were never ever expectations that were imposed by him-- it hurts my soul. Because it's not the wife I thought I was going to be.
ROBIN ROBERTSWith Melanie frequently in pain and out of commission, Chris handles most of the daily chores like vacuuming and laundry.
CHRIS GROSSIAt any given point in time, we're doing as much as we can for each other. And if that means that she can't get out of bed on a given day, then I trust that that's because she can't get out of bed on a given day. And that's how it is. But she does what she can.
ROBIN ROBERTSMelanie and Chris know that a weaker marriage would not have survived her migraine. And Dr. Buse says they're defying the odds.
DAWN BUSEWhen someone is not able to participate, from finances to chores to the fun things in life, it puts a lot of strain on the other partner, who may feel like they have to pick up a lot of the slack. Certainly, talking about expectations and feeling within the marriage is really essential for keeping the relationship strong.
MELANIE GROSSIWe do have to be conscious about like, talking about how we're feeling. And I have to make sure that he knows that I'm not taking it personally if he's upset about something, that I just want him to express it to me.
CHRIS GROSSIThere's no point being angry at each other. I mean, I'm angry at the world, at the universe for having this happen. But it's not your fault. There's no reason to be angry at you for all these things. It is what it is. That anger leads to bad places. And I just refuse to go there.
ROBIN ROBERTSBut a place they did finally make it to, three years after they planned it, was Europe.
MELANIE GROSSIWhen I look at the pictures from that London and Paris trip, as opposed to looking to the pictures over the last seven years, that was one of the first times in a couple of years that you could see true joy in my face. I couldn't believe that I was standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. I couldn't believe that we were in London. In my life, I'd never imagined I would ever get there. And all of those things happened in my life because of my husband. All of the things that are good for me are because of him.
CHRIS GROSSIAnd that's what I want to have happening, and not migraines. Now it's my turn to tear up. But yeah, that's what we wanted, what we want. So we just work through the rest.
ROBIN ROBERTSSo how well are you managing your migraines? Go to WebMD.com/migraine to take an assessment. You'll get personalized results, with strategies to help you live better.