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The Support of Friends and Family

While stopped at a red light, I looked over and saw a friend waving from her car in the next lane over. When I rolled down my window, she cheered and said, “Yay! You feel well enough to go out!” I was touched that her instinct upon seeing me was to celebrate how good I must be feeling, not to complain about the traffic or ask where I was going.

People, myself included, talk a lot about how migraine ruins friendships and strains family relationships. We rarely share the stories of people who have shown compassion and understanding in ways that far exceed our expectations. These people haven’t deserted us, but root for us even when we’re laid up in bed and not returning phone calls. Especially then.

Sometimes the gestures are large. Like the friends and family who gave up a week to come to Boston to help my husband and me settle in, stock our freezer with food, clean, run errands, and, when I was at my worst, make sure I ate and smiled. Or my sister skipping work, arranging care for her busy kids, and driving a seven-hour roundtrip in a day to spend a couple hours with me when I was in a run with level 10 pain.

More often, they are small. The friend who asks, “How do you feel today?” and wants an honest answer. Another who calls regularly, even though I rarely answer, and always leaves a message saying I don’t need to call her back. The one who texts to ask my pain level and either commiserates or celebrates when I tell him. My mom taking care of some nagging household chores when she was visiting at Christmas. My mother-in-law and her sister offering to pick up groceries and goods from the farmers’ market.

Friends and family frequently say they want to help, but don’t know how to. Simply by being willing to listen, offer sympathy (but never pity), and allowing us the space we need to deal with illness in our own way, they carry us through the tough times. Loving us as we are, including migraine and all the demands it places on our time, energy, attention, and ability to be a good friend or family member, is the most important thing they can do.

Who are the people that support you and how do they do so? They may feel helpless in the face of your illness, so be sure to let them know how much they do for you. I’ll be giving my people big hugs the next time I see them.

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.


  • Dee
    7 years ago

    My hubby understands and I appreciate him dearly for it. I guess because he lives with me, he see’s the ups and downs that this disease brings with it. And he has seen the lengths that I have gone through to fight it. All of which I only share with him (botox for migraine; specialist visits; trialing a new drug; migraine diary…).
    On my good days, I try to do something for him to show my appreciation. Like cook his favorite meal or get tickets for a movie. Other than my hubby, I don’t discuss my migraines with anyone – except on this great web-site of course!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hi Janet,

    This is a tough spot to be in – I’m familiar with it. We know our family loves us, but they really don’t seem to know what to say or do. Most of them don’t truly understand what migraine is, and their eyes seem to glaze over when we try to tell them – not all family and friends of course.

    I do agree we sometimes carry on with life with a certain level of pain which people tend to forget. I think because others can’t typically “see” a migraine produces less empathy from others. We can all see that broken arm, or bruised whatever, but you can’t “see” migraine.

  • Janet
    7 years ago

    I’m happy for the support you receive…sadly, my family doesn’t know what to say or do..the ones that are close enough to help, don’t. The ones that live an airplane ride away, which is my case…they don’t want to hear about it anymore. They choose for me to say I’m okay when I’m not because they’re tired of listening. While I’m happy for the support you saddens me that I have none. My husband feels helpless and often times forgets that I try to function even at a level five…so if I’m up everyone thinks I’m fine. It’s a catch 22.
    Truly I’m happy for you.


  • Michelle
    7 years ago

    So happy to hear Kerrie that you have a great support system. Just knowing that someone is there helps with some peace of mind.

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