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Holiday Migraine Management: Accepting the Limits of Family & Friends

Holiday Migraine Management: Accepting the Limits of Family & Friends

Coping with and learning to accept friends or family who don’t understand our limitations, and sometimes don’t care to, can be one of the most difficult aspects of the holidays for people living with migraine disease.

Almost nothing is more painful in life than the realization that people who are supposed to love and care for you are of such limited capacity they don’t know how to show empathy or understanding for your situation. While the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year when your family and friends do show understanding, they can be downright miserable if your family and/or friends can’t. It’s not hard to imagine why so many people living with debilitating chronic illnesses dread the holidays so much.

Fortunately, while you cannot control how people handle your situation or treat you, you can control how you react to their attitudes and lack of empathy. It takes practice, but with time and patience with yourself, you can come to a place where they no longer have the power to crush you with their lack of understanding. It may sound overly simplistic, but it helps me to remember their attitudes are about them, not about me. I haven’t done anything to deserve their mistreatment, and I can’t control it.

Furthermore, one of the best things about being an adult is that you get to choose who you spend your time with. Even at the holidays. You’re in no way obligated to maintain friendships with people who criticize or judge you. Nor are you required to spend much, if any, time with family members who treat you that way. Limiting your time at family gatherings can be a great way to put in an appearance and keep the peace without sacrificing your own stability.

The biggest obstacle for many of us who face these situations is the loneliness of feeling misunderstood and cut off from those important relationships. Something as simple as connecting with other people going through similar situations online can be incredibly comforting. If a group of you find yourselves alone and feeling lonely on a holiday, why not band together through social media and be there for each other? Volunteering in your community is a great way to combat loneliness, too.

How have you learned to cope with and accept the limitations of family members and friends who don’t meet you with understanding? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • katdan1026
    2 years ago

    I have atypical migraines (vestibular,causes head pressure and vertigo) and when I have an episode there is no “working my way through it” in order to attend a function. I literally can’t stand up. But when I later try to explain to people who I had to now out of dinner/party/ etc I get the “yeah right” look.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    I too am forced into this situation. In laws I’m only forced to endure from time to time-well, the irritating ones at least. I have the nicer ones I can endure. The closest is the spouse that is the hardest one on me and to escape that is the hardest of all. Sometimes I can block it and let it roll off my back and at times when I’m in the most pain and at my weakest is when the attacks are the worse and sometimes I’m not as successulf at blocking and letting it roll off my back that at times when I’m feeling well. I know he acts that way because of the way he was raised but he can chose to change his ways instead of using it as a cop-out and continuing the destructive mean patterns the older he gets. Thanksgiving day after I had my head in the toilet and got my “bashing” for not going to his sisters (the nice one’s) house for dinner I spent 1/2 the day in silence trying to beat the pain and not feeling guilty and when he got home he acted like nothing ever happened. Then he & my daughter went shopping that night and were all jovial as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I let it go. I’ve talked to him in the past but he see’s nothing wrong in what he does. I’m being “over sensative” he say’s and “too emotional” and i’ve been “sick too long” and I need to stop taking “all that medicine becuase it’s doing no good I’m worse and not better” and it’s “all the meds fault” yada, yada, yada. the whole time he’s tripping over his halo cause his horns are sticking out. Ooops, pardon me. I made a jab, or pun. Take it either way. But his mother how will be 91 next week was always “the victim” and never did nor still does no wrong and blames everyone else. Like mother like son. And rude, mean, bitter, angry-like mother like son. She raised her children in a loveless, non-emotional non-supportive household. Well, yep, like mother like son. He’s become more like her the older he gets. I’m repeating myself. sorry. He’s 56 now. If I forget something or do something wrong I’m the 1st to admit it. I’m the only one to do so in this household. That’s the way I was raised. and I was raised w/2 loving parents w/affection, love and support. why am I still here. I don’t believe in divorce. My parents didn’t either. I took my wedding vows serious. But to what degree and how long am I to put up w/this. He went to ONE session w/my therapist. He had on his “public mr. personna nice guy face”. He knows how to put on a show in front of others. I’m always wrong and he’s always right.
    But I can only control myself, not him and not others. When I feel more control over myself and not in so much physical pain I can come back w/the sarcastic and rude remarks w/dry humor and crack jokes that put them off guard and get them off my back. When I can get my pain level to a 6, which now a days is considered good for me I can come up with some real zingers and really get them teetering and they will either have their jaws dropping to the floor or they will be embarrased at their rudeness (I will come up w/some real doozies to embarrass these hard nosed people) or shut them up for a while, which is a feat since they don’t know how to shut up.
    But I use to love the holidays, especially when my parents were alive. Thanksgiving and Christmas were my mom’s favorite and mine too. When she passed and I had to spend more time with the Motley Hateful Crew it became my least favorite. I cannot wait for January 1st. But thank you for the reminder Diana. I have to work harder on me and work harder with my therapist to come to a better resolution.
    Thank you.

  • annemarie
    7 years ago

    I have been the situation you describe, with some relatives who are very unempathetic.
    Some of them even refuse to believe I get migraines! Although that is partly my fault since I am quite good at hiding my distress, and when I can’t hide it, I hide myself. But what you say is true, you only have control over your own thoughts and actions. I have learned this, but the reminder is timely at the holidays. Thanks! Anne

  • laalaa81
    7 years ago

    As my man is always telling me Anne it’s all in our heads (apparently). We all learn 2 hide it or dumb down the pain to some degree to stop those we love worrying so much. The knock on affect being that half those that know us think we are faking. I look at it like this ” you can think what you want about me, the pain has made your opinion invalid and I know that it would soon change if you suffered with 1 day in my shoes”.

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