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It’s Not About You

“It’s not about you.” This phrase is on a mental loop whenever I’m dealing with someone who is rude or clueless about my experience with migraine. At first it was just a way to cope without becoming furious, but it has become a truth that I see in every rude comment someone makes.

People hurt us out of their own fear or pain. Although I can’t remember where I heard this insight, that piece of knowledge has become an invaluable tool for me. Whenever someone has hurt me, I think about where they’re coming from, what fear or pain is present in their lives. Invariably, I see that whatever they’re saying, whatever they choose to believe about me or migraine has very little to do with me at all.

Maybe they have no experience with illness and can’t put themselves in our shoes. They might stick to their rigid beliefs because they are too threatened to step outside their worldview. Or they have to believe that migraine is easily controlled because it is too scary to acknowledge that illness can wreak such havoc on a person’s life. It could be that they’re own lives are so disheveled that they need to feel like they’re right about something (even if they’re totally wrong).

The rudeness, the insipid cures, the supposedly easy fixes, the lack of understanding and empathy all come down to the difficulties in that person’s life. It’s not about me and it’s not about you. Not at all.

There’s no denying it hurts when a loved one, co-worker, or even an acquaintance intimates (or outright says) that we’re lazy or not working hard enough or faking it or exaggerating our symptoms. We can’t stop people from being ignorant or rude, but we can change how we respond to their accusations. Maybe that’s saying, “You have no idea what I’m going through” or just ignoring the comments.

Whatever you say to them isn’t as important as what you do with what they said. Instead of taking their accusations to heart, reminding yourself that it isn’t about you, but about their own pain and fear can go a long way toward rebuffing the hurt.

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.


  • katy
    5 years ago

    I am so glad that you wrote this Kerrie.. It is something I’ve needed to “hear” for a while.

    I currently am in an amazing relationship with my boyfriend, who, at times, gets frustrated. I know that he probably doesn’t understand the pain and other symptoms of my migraines. Most of the time, he is really understanding and takes excellent care of me. Other times, I’m fighting back tears from something he has said when I’m suffering from an attack.

    I won’t go into details, but when I cannot be intimate, he sometimes gets upset. I know the “old saying”, ‘I can’t tonight, I have a headache’ has been used by women in movies (and I hate that saying btw).

    The next morning, everything seems to have faded and our relationship is fine, but I can’t help feeling more emotional during our “not-so-intimate moments” when I have an attack.

    After reading your article, I now have a better understanding of what my bf may be going through. I know that it is not me having a migraine that is upsetting him, it is that he hates seeing me in pain- although he does have a weird way of showing it lol. He also carries a fear that I am cheating on him, because that’s what his ex wife did to him.

    After reading this, I now have a better understanding of his frustration, as well as mine. I know he doesn’t mean to be hurtful or come off as uncaring. I know that he just gets frustrated and has trouble expressing that emotion in a better way.

    So thank you Kerrie, for writing what I have needed to read for a very long time!!!!


    If anyone has a similar experience and has found a good way to work through frustrations with their partners, I would love to hear how you work through them!

  • tucker
    6 years ago

    I can often turn this around when I’m feeling miserable for days on end and *I* end up being the sarcastic, rude, cranky person who can’t seem to find the least bit of happy, happy, joy, joy in my day any longer at work after feeling nauseated and having a dull throbbing head nonstop with broken sleep that just won’t be fixed by any amount of medication. Then I really do have to say, esp to my children! – “it’s not you”, I just wish I felt better. I’m tired of this chronic pain.

    I’ve been very lucky that even my boss seems pretty understanding about my chronic medical problems so far. It was noted on my last review that “when I feel good” I do better work, so obviously he notices. And I do feel guilty when I get in that “mood”, but really, I used to be that person on the other side, wondering why people were like they were and now I know. Chronic pain is just NOT FUN. And it really is hard for other people to know what it’s like – I certainly didn’t know how bad it could get until the last 5-7 years or so.

    Some days I wish I could just stop everything, stay in bed until I was better and go back to the “good” self, maybe like waking up from a bad dream I’m having, and return to my healthy pre-migraine, pre-daily pain days, pre-just sick of being sick days. It’s so much easier to make those around you happier when you are feeling awesome EVERY day too!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Tucker,

    I too find it difficult to be in a good mood often because of my chronic pain. Today I’ve actually had to work at becoming less cranky and irritable.

    I wanted to let you know you are not alone….

  • Candy
    6 years ago

    I get this from coworkers. I have intermittent medical leave for chronic migraines and I have heard that I shouldn’t have to miss so much work since it’s “just a headache” and that I’m “entitled”. The people who make those types of comments have no understanding of how debilitating a migraine can be.

  • CathyC
    6 years ago

    My older sister is this way with me even though her youngest daughter also has migraine disease also. I believe hers are less frequent than mine thankfully. Her harsh and condescendinding tone are so uncalled for. It used to really get under my skin and so I only communicated with her when necessary. I don’t need that poison spewed out on me. “Hurt people, hurt people”. No excuse, but it happens. We are seen as weak and therefore good victims to prey upon I suppose ? They have noooo I idea just how strong we really are !! Loved the article Kerrie…you write wonderfully xo

  • Chip&Dale
    6 years ago

    I am reminded of a time when a typically very compassionate friend would look at me rather condescendingly (when I would have to leave work with a migraine) as if I were looking for sympathy, trying to get out of work, or making things up. I don’t know if she ever realized how it made me feel or is she even knew that she was doing it… but the “Now you go home and make yourself feel better” in that syrupy sweet, looking over the glasses way that I perceived it used to make me so disgustedly irritated.
    Suddenly I recvd a call one day that she had a crushing headache like never before and couldn’t stop vomiting.
    While giving her advice on how to handle it (ice darkeness etc) and at the same time trying to talk her into calling her Dr. or going to the ER since she’d never experienced anything like this before I had to take the opportunity to let her know that THIS is what I deal with rather frequently.
    The next day I recvd a call that she was much better and she was apologizing for being so flippant about my migraines. She finally realized that they were real and she wouldn’t wish them on anyone.
    It is sad that she had to go through that to appreciate what I was telling her but it is also a relief that she now truly understands.

  • Dee
    6 years ago

    People will be rude and self-righteous when they don’t understand or don’t want to understand something. I feel like telling these people “Like it or not, I am a migraineur who has worked very hard to manage my condition and quality of life”. Nobody can fathom what we go through unless, and this is in my experience, they also suffer from a disease which is similar and which requires a lot of on-going effort. I wish people would understand that Migraine is on-going and not just something that you “catch” and not see again for another year. Some of us suffer every day, some of us don’t. Chronic or not, it is still on-going as it is looms on the sidelines every day.

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