Coping with others’ concern

My family and friends are very loving and supportive when it comes to my chronic illness, but sometimes their concern can feel a little overwhelming. This is especially true for my immediate family—my parents and sister feel very sad when I report that I am in the midst of a migraine attack. Their love feels warm and cozy, but the concern can sometimes be hard to deal with. I don’t want them to worry about me, though surely if they stopped expressing concern I would feel miffed. I find myself not wanting to confess when I feel ill because I know I’ll feel self-created pressure to comfort them, to tell them that things are okay (which they always are). There’s a delicate balance when it comes to reacting to loved ones’ concern for my pain and illness, and I’ve never found where the line is drawn.

Of course it’s important to give your family and friends a heads-up if you’re under the weather. Oftentimes, a migraine attack makes me a little listless and antisocial even when my meds do work. I feel the desire to explain myself—I want people to know that I am not being my normal self for a good reason, that I’m enjoying myself despite the way I feel out of it from migraine and migraine meds. But confessing to the fact that the illness has played a major role in my day feels burdensome sometimes—I don’t want others to necessarily know how often migraines pop up.

Last night I had dinner with a friend who was dealing with a bad tension headache. At one point, she seemed more jovial and talkative. “Oh, does this mean your headache’s gone?” I asked, realizing only as I said it that I sounded just like any number of friends who’ve asked me the same thing over the years. I know for a fact that being in a good mood or feeling happy doesn’t mean the headache is gone. “It’s still here, but it’s a lot better,” she answered. I felt guilty for having brought up her headache after she’d seemed to forget about it for a bit.

So how do you handle it when loved ones express concern for your health? How do you strike a balance between keeping them justly informed and oversharing?

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