Liz, a recent college grad who just moved to New York City, loves to spend her weekends exploring the city’s eclectic ethnic restaurants, used bookstores and coffee shops. Liz also suffers from migraines, and, due to severe migraine pain, she has to cancel plans she makes with friends at least twice a month because of her migraines.
“My friends just don’t understand,” says Liz. “They frequently tell me that it ‘can’t be that bad’ and that I just need to ‘get out there and have fun.’ The worst, most hurtful comments are when friends say that it’s ‘all in my head’ and that I ‘don’t even look sick’ despite my ‘migraine symptoms’.”
If you suffer from migraines like Liz does, you’ve probably heard one or more of these statements before. It’s frustrating to deal with such painful and debilitating migraine symptoms that can strike suddenly with little warning – and have friends, family members and coworkers doubt that you are actually sick.
“The worst experience I’ve ever had was when my boss yelled at me for missing work on the day of a big presentation,” said Liz. “He honestly thought that I was faking the migraine to stay home and avoid presenting to our client. I was so sick I could not even get out of bed, but my boss said I was lucky to be able to stay home and nap.”
Are loved ones, friends and coworkers failing to understand your debilitating migraine pain or take it seriously? This is largely due to misunderstandings about the severity of migraine pain and migraine symptoms. If so, consider sharing this article with your loved ones so they can better understand why seemingly innocent comments are in reality incredibly hurtful.
1: “You don’t look sick.”
Someone who suffers from chronic migraines may not look sick the same way that someone who as the flu or a cold appears sick, but that doesn’t mean they are not still in serious pain. Even if you tell someone that they ‘don’t look sick’ in hopes of cheering them up, this simple statement can really backfire. It marginalizes their painful migraine symptoms. Instead, tell them that you are sorry they are in pain and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
2: “I wish I had time to take a nap.”
While migraine sufferers may need to go home and lay down in dark room with no sunlight, that doesn’t mean they are enjoying a relaxing afternoon nap. In fact, this “nap” may be very restless sleep and not at all restorative. The truth is, the individual suffering from migraine symptoms is in so much pain the only thing that they can do is lie down.
3: “It’s all in your head.”
Migraine pain is not “all in your head” – it’s very real! Migraine symptoms have a debilitating effect on the average individual’s life and can strike without warning. From nausea and blurred vision to throbbing pain near the temples, forehead, and eyes, individuals with migraine pain also suffer from extreme sensitivity to light, sound and even mild exertion.
4: “There are people worse off than you.”
Yes, there ARE people who are worse off than you – in fact, it’s always possible to find someone that may be having a worse day, worse month or just down on their luck. However, for someone with chronic migraine pain, hearing this statement can be incredibly hurtful. Like the other statements, this one marginalizes and trivializes the migraine sufferer’s pain.
5: “It can’t be that bad.”
Actually, it can be that bad. Throbbing migraine pain and accompanying migraine symptoms can be so severe and painful that individuals quite literally have no choice other that to lie down in bed and avoid physical exertion, sunlight or sounds. Migraines can strike at any time, and they hardly ever occur at a “convenient” time. This can jeopardize career opportunities and interfere with major personal milestones like the birth of a child or a family member’s wedding. When you tell someone suffering from migraine pain that it “can’t be that bad”, you trivialize their pain and what they are going through.
“The worst experience I’ve ever had was when my boss yelled at me for missing work on the day of a big presentation…”
Migraine pain is very serious and debilitating. Consider reaching out to learn more about what your loved one, friend or coworker is experiencing. Communication and compassion are key. Your loved one may need to cancel events at the last minute, but that doesn’t mean that they want to cancel these events – or that they do not realize how much this inconveniences your schedule, too. While it may seem difficult at first to understand the unique life of a migraine sufferer, by talking to them about their migraine pain and reaching out to support groups, you can learn how to better support them through their migraine symptoms.
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