Just believe us.
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I wrote this series of mini-letters this morning after thinking a lot about how important it is that we, as humans, believe each other’s experiences.  Even if you approach others’ stories with a critical eye, responding in an outright critical or non-believing way simply shuts down the communication between you.  Are you sure that the person is wrong?  Let him speak anyway. Have you never heard of a particular side effect of migraine that this person is describing? Take your time to hear what a migraine is like for her without judging her a liar or hypochondriac.

Dear families, friends, doctors, fellow patients, caregivers, teachers, bosses, co-workers, neighbors, employees, hospitality staff, flight attendants, taxi drivers, professors, classmates, grocery store clerks, cashiers, neurologists, ER doctors, hospital nurses, and more:

When I tell you something about my health, please believe me.

If I tell you that I have had hugely swollen lymph nodes since beginning a new course of treatment for migraine prevention, believe that that is the connection I’ve made, and look into it.  Trust that I believe what I’m saying, and look into it patiently and with a critical eye, trying to figure out if there is indeed a connection between the drug and my lymph nodes.  Do not simply wave your hand in dismissal and say, “Well, I’ve never heard of that and it’s not on the list of side effects.”

Co-workers, when I tell you that the fluorescent lights in the board room trigger a migraine for me and that there’s a reason why I went out of pocket to buy incandescent lamps so we could meet as a team without being in utter darkness, believe me.  

Hotel management, when I tell you that whatever cleaning chemicals the housekeeping staff used to clean our hotel room have a smell too harsh for my migraine brain, don’t tell me that it’s not as bad as I think it is and that I’ll “get used to it.” When I tell you that one hour of having the air “cleaned” by some sort of air filter is not going to help, believe that I am telling the truth and help me find a room to stay in that won’t literally make me sick.

ER nurses, when I tell you that my migraine pain isn’t that severe, it’s just that I am well-educated about migraine and am at the hospital for fear of status migrainous since I’ve had the same migraine for over 72 hours, don’t try to shove morphine down my throat (or into my arm via the IV). Please believe me that I don’t need pain meds.  Also: why are serious painkillers thrust upon me when I don’t need them, but in times that I could really use them, I am treated like a drug-seeker?

Flight attendants, please let me switch to an empty seat when I try to confidentially tell you under my breath that the cologne my row-mate is wearing is intolerably bad for me and that, due to health reasons, I can’t sit next to him.  I see that there are empty seats in the back and I’ll happily move there. Please let me do so—I’m not trying to get one by you, I’m just trying to keep this migraine, which is already on its way, from getting too severe.

What would you like to say to the doubting presence(s) in your life?  Who should be on your team but isn’t? What experiences did these [mostly fictitious] mini-letters remind you of from your own life?

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