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Migraine: A Thank You Note Could Make all the Difference

A while back, someone did something nice for me when I had a Migraine, and I told them “Thank you.”  It seemed so insufficient however, and as a result of my feelings of inadequacy I started this post on my own personal blog.  I found it again tonight, and decided instead to share it with you here.

There is a book1 about a man who took a year and wrote thank you notes each and every day.  In the book he says it changed his whole outlook on life because it forced him to look for and see the beautiful people and acts of kindness all around him.  It changed the lives of the people he sent those notes to as well.  They look at people differently now, knowing that something they do mindlessly could be the thing that makes someone else’s day worth getting through. 

So, I crafted a note to those people who are helpful to me.  I’ll keep one in my checkbook, just in case I need it someday. I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to actually give one to someone, but I like to think that I will, as I am both spontaneous and grateful, as well as open and sincere.

So, here is my letter.  I have created a document for you to print one out yourself too, should you decide to share this letter with someone.  If you do, I hope you’ll let us know here what happened and how it felt to pay happiness and gratitude forward…


To Whom it May Concern;

You saw me/talked to me/interacted with me today, and you didn’t know it at the time, but you affected my life.

I may have caused you extra work/patience/time today, and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your kindness and tolerance.  If you lost your patience with me, I forgive you.  If I was cranky or out of sorts, I pray you will find it in your heart to forgive me.  Either way, my goal is to make our interaction together something you will remember by giving you this note.  I hope it changes your life too.

You see, I have a chronic illness.  I have a disease/disorder that is incurable.  For me, there will be no end to my struggles.  My body, which I once trusted and took for granted, has betrayed me, and I am reminded every moment of every day that my life is no longer my own.  Pain reminds me that I am under its control.  This makes it difficult at best for me to act like and do the things healthy people take for granted. But, you made that easier for me today.

My chronic illness has taken away many of the things that I used to hold precious in my life.  Family/friends/acquaintances have lost patience with me and now often avoid me, talking about me as if I were a stranger.  My children’s lives go on without me as I try to participate with them, but tire and eventually watch them live without me.  Even my pets have suffered as a result of what is happening to me.

Many of the chronically ill lose their jobs and homes as well as their dreams.  Society considers us a burden and looks down on us, and we both see it and feel it like a terrible weight in our chests.

My illness has changed almost everything about me other than who I really am on the inside, and sometimes that gets lost.

When you look in the mirror, you see your reflection and think nothing different than you did the day before.  You go on, rushing about your day doing normal things and thinking normal thoughts.

When I look in the mirror, the face and body I see staring back at me no longer look familiar.  I stare back, looking for signs of the person I used to be – I still am – knowing I’m in there… somewhere.  In that moment my body feels wooden, as if it belongs to someone else.

Chances are, you might not have even known I was sick.  Don’t feel badly.  Not all illnesses are visible to the outside world.  Many are hidden.  Invisible.  I think God arranges this so others will learn of our lives and realize that we each have our own struggles and challenges even when they’re hidden, and that everyone deserves respect, patience and love without judgment.

When you show kindness to someone like me, it is noticed.  It is appreciated.  It is deeply needed.  One moment from you might change another person’s entire morning.  One of your smiles may be the best part of their day.

Today you helped me in some way and I wanted you to know how much that meant to me.  I want to encourage you to continue to be compassionate to others.  Even the grumble grouchy ones, for we/they need your kindness the most.

I hope you will help me and urge others to pay their compassion forward.  Our world needs more kindness.  and someday, it may be you or they who learns their life has changed forever.

With sincerest gratitude,

Ellen S – someone whose day is better because of you.


Here is a printable version of this note for you to use yourself.  Ellen’s Migraine Thank you.pdf


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.



  • arden
    6 years ago

    Ellen, this is very sad indeed. Although I am not a “chronic”, I can sympathize with you to a limited degree knowing how awful even episodic migraines are. My daughter used to say, “you can’t say that” when I spoke words that disturbed or distressed her. I want to say that to you because this letter is so hopeless and helpless.You can not say “there will be no end to your struggles.” How do you know? Has absolutely every avenue of help been tried? How willing are you to get your life back? Or do you draw the line at some medications that might be addictive? Under close medical supervision there might be drugs that can relieve some of your chronic pain without wrecking your life. Which is wrecked anyway from what you say.
    Furthermore, you can not say “I am under its control” in regards to pain. You are Never without the freedom to chose how you will react to the most horrific conditions. A man who was in a concentration camp has written about this.(Weis?)Although pain may be your worst enemy it can not overpower you unless you acquiesce. You have counseled all of us to not give up, to keep hope alive. And yet here you write the most despairing letter.

    You are a spirit, not a body. If your body is wooden, that does not mean you are. Seek spiritual knowledge to understand your time here on earth and what comes next and what went before. This kind of perspective will help you to stay alive in a suffering body. If nothing works to ease the pain physically, there is very much that can comfort you spiritually. Seek in prayer and study so you can understand your situation. It is Not hopeless. This life is a small fragment of what we are about. Your life of pain has a meaning and a purpose. You already know God exists. Find out where you can receive comfort and renew your life from Him.
    I love that you teach us to be thankful for tender mercies that come daily. That is a beginning and not optional. But there is more, much more that you can learn. You can bridge the gulf of misery and woe that is dragging you down. Don’t give up.Pray.Not for absence of pain but for strength to deal with it.God bless you.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    arden – Thank you very much for a thoughtful, caring reply. Unfortunately, I think you actually read much more into the letter than was intended. So, if I may take a moment to clarify:

    Migraine is a genetic neurologic disease over which we have insufficient control in many cases. Patients rarely *grow out of* their Migraines. We live with the possibility of an attack each day. Many of us suffer daily attacks. Some of us are rarely if ever free of them. These are just the facts.

    You are right of course – I talk frequently about our ability to choose how we see our lives and how we live them despite our journey. About remembering that there is always hope for the future. About finding joy in the face of adversity. These are things we do in spite of the pain and disability we experience. The pain and the disability haven’t disappeared, we have just learned to transcend it. I see this as a separate issue.

    Right now, until there is a cure, once you are a Migraineur, you will probably always live under that cloud to one degree or another. This was my letter, from my personal experience, borne after about 20 years of being chronic, rarely having a day of peace. Despite my best efforts, so far… I continue to progress. I’m still a happy person who sees the glass half full. However, I have several other chronic conditions which are progressive. Yes, I have hope I can become better, and I have hope that someday we’ll have better treatments and maybe even a *cure* or two. However, the fact is, I got the *icky gene* lotto-palooza. To ignore that would be to deny the fact that this is something I have to live with.

    This letter was to help others understand the burden we are living with, and to be uplifting to that person because they made the suffering of someone better that day. It was not focused on the patient, but on the helper who we want to understand fully the full scope of the situation they helped. They need to understand that they give us hope when they choose to be helpful, or even simply not to criticize when our problems became their problem.

    Your advice here is excellent. However, in the spirit of the letter, I’m not sure it actually applies? Being chronic, we do sometimes despair. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone told you that you made their day better despite feeling awful? Hopefully that is a mere speck in the spectrum of our full lives, but it is a fact we cannot ignore. It is in fact one of the main problems patients have – that others cannot understand the extremes that this disease can take us.

    We are all going to have “off days”. That applies to Migraineurs and non-Migraineurs alike! 🙂

  • Julie
    6 years ago

    I loved this. Ellen you are truly a great writer and a compassionate one at that! This rings so true in so many ways. Thank you so much for sharing this and making a PDF form-I am printing a few copies to carry with me. Wonderful idea. Kudos. Julie

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing it Julie! <3

  • Rebecca
    6 years ago

    Hello Ellen…..This is SO TRUE!!! I am printing this off and sharing. I will let you know how it goes.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    Yes, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  • slhart
    6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing =]

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