Trying to be more understanding of others’ triggers and sensitivities

In summer 2012, I wrote what I thought was a super-honest article for migraine.com about how I sometimes struggle(d) to find empathy for other migraineurs.  You can read the whole thing (and all the corresponding comments in all their forms!) by clicking here. As someone who’s so emotional and sensitive I might as well be walking around without skin sometimes (okay, bad metaphor, but you know what I mean), I was really hurt by the people who claimed I was mean and “not a true migraineur,” but I was also heartened to read the more supportive comments from other readers.  I ended up penning a separate post the next month called “Fear of Sharing How I Feel.
Since posting these two articles, I have felt a lot better about my tendency to be so sensitive and easily hurt by community members’ comments, and I have even written a new-ish article about my role (and its challenges) of being a caregiver. I stopped thinking about the comments on that very first article (both the harsh and the comforting feedback—though I admit that when I linked to the original post in the first paragraph here, I reread some comments and felt the sting again).

Here’s something I must confess: despite my role as “The Migraine Girl,” despite my fervent advocacy work, despite my deep love for many people who have chronic illness, I still am not the most understanding person.

Take, for instance, Jim’s allergies and other sensitivities (many of them migraine-related).  As he has pointed out before, I definitely expect for him to take into account my triggers and sensitivities—and he does a good job at least 90% of the time.


I think my grade is lower than his. I’d give myself a B- at this point, where as he gets an A- to an A (Jim, if you’re reading this now, you can schedule an appointment with me to review your grade—ha!).

Why is my grade lower?  Well, I occasionally forget about/accidentally ignore some of Jim’s allergies and migraine triggers.  For triggers that we share, I am pretty attentive—of course I have my own self-preservation in mind, but it’s also that I think about my personal migraine triggers all the time so they are not ones I easily forget in relation to him. But for triggers and allergies that affect him more than I (cat dander, cat litter, dogs, certain smells that don’t actually bug me but get to him, etc.), I am not as good of a caregiver to him as he is to me.

I do think I’ve gotten better over time, but it’s a challenge for me to be more proactive in my thinking about my partner and his needs.

If you’re inclined to yell at me for this, there’s no need—I’ve already been tough on myself about this.  I mainly wanted to write this post to get myself thinking about what I can do to be a better girlfriend on this front.  I think I am onto something, too: as with many, many things in life, especially as relationships go, the key is to being a better and more attentive listener.  This is a constant challenge for me, but one I’m ready to rise to again and again.

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