Please Don’t Find My Silver Lining
Forty foods. That’s the total number of ingredients that do not trigger migraine attacks for me. It’s a rotation diet—I eat each food only every four days, so I have about 10 foods I can eat each day. You can imagine how difficult this is, especially because I’m a food person and love to bake. The trade-off is worth it most of the time, but it takes constant effort to restrict my diet so much. Some days I get totally, completely fed up. I just want to be able to get coffee with friends or have a bowl of cereal. I just want to eat normal food without having a migraine attack.
People find my diet endlessly fascinating. They ask a lot of questions, mostly about what I can and can’t eat and if I miss certain foods. I appreciate their interest and concern, but have trouble stomaching the “at leasts.”
“At least you no longer have to drink a feeding tube formula.”
“It's not so bad if you can eat [insert name of food here].”
“But you feel so much better on this diet.”
As a former finder of other people's silver linings, I know these comments are attempts to help. Brené Brown, author and shame and vulnerability researcher, says, “Someone just shared something with us that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying to silver line it. … One of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I’d rather you say, ‘I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.’ Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better.” This resonated so deeply with me that I stopped trying to find someone else's silver linings.
When someone points out silver linings for me, it dismisses the depth of my frustration and minimizes the loss of everything I’ve had to give up. Yes, I’m glad to eat solid food; I’d sure like to be able to have a food two days in a row. Yes, I’m grateful I can eat watermelon; some days I really want cherries. Yes, I feel tons better; it still sucks to be able to eat only 40 foods. Besides, no one else knows what I'm thinking or feeling. A silver lining to them may be gasoline on a fire for me.
I’m a positive person by nature and spent a decade disabled by chronic migraine. I’m a pro at finding silver linings. Sometimes I think that skill kept me alive. I look on the bright side of my diet and life almost all the time. There are still times I want to punch the wall until my fist breaks through the plaster. On those days, I just need to vent. Give it time. I’ll declare the silver linings after a few minutes of complaining. I know people are trying to help. I truly appreciate the sentiment. But listening and expressing sympathy is all the comfort I need.
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?