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Drop Your Weapons at the Door: A Call for Compassion at Migraine.com

I recently posted an article about how walking is therapeutic for me in dealing with my migraine disease. One of our community members responded: “A WALK? I cannot relate. My Migraine is so overwhelming, I am on the floor screaming in pain.”  In response to her comment, another community member said: “How can you SCREAM when you have a migraine??”

That exchange and others like it – seem to demonstrate an unfortunate and unnecessary defensiveness and need for one upping one another and/or questioning the nature of each other’s situations. It also got me thinking about the function of Migraine.com and the dynamics of how society continues to disbelieve the challenges related to migraine in general.

Shelter from the storm

I like to think of Migraine.com as a place of respite and shelter from the storm. That storm being society’s symbolic and relentless judgment and lack of understanding of all things migraine. Maneuvering through the world with migraine disease can mean a life of encountering people rolling their eyes in disbelief, being written off as being a lazy faker or someone who wants attention, and on and on. The journey involved in enlightening the world from seeing migraine as “just a headache” to understanding that it is a comprehensive neurological disease will be long in coming and is a ways off.

In the meantime, we need a safe place where we can all come to share the struggles we are facing out in that cold and judgy world- where we will feel supported and embraced.

Battle weary

The reality, however, is that many community members who come visit this site are almost like soldiers coming home from war. Still holding tightly to the armor they have been wearing all day out in that real world, they’ve been poked and prodded with questions and felt attacked over the validity of the disease. They are wary and defensive for good reason.

Perhaps when they read an article on the site, they experience a bit of PTSD from all of the hardships they’ve been facing when dealing with unsupportive friends and family members. And ironically, in response, they use the same weapons that are used against them, on other community members. They question the validity of the condition and employ the ‘mine’s worse than yours’ tactic which leaves us all feeling unheard. Effective weapons that hurt.

Really, we should be dropping those weapons when we walk in the symbolic door of Migraine.com. Because this is the place where we can feel relief and acceptance. We don’t have to fight here or prove that we’re in pain or argue that one person’s pain is worse than another.

It makes all the sense in the world why this is happening and that this dynamic is taking place. We are a battle-weary group. And no wonder we are using the same pains we’ve experienced to hurt one another. But how about we at least try to recognize that weapons aren’t needed here. Let’s try instead to open our arms to one another and give the compassion that we WISH we were receiving in the real world to each other.

Leading the way to compassion

Perhaps when we do so, we will demonstrate to others how it’s done and a ripple effect will take place. Maybe we will receive it in return. And getting support will serve to strengthen us as we head back out into a world that needs to catch up with the rest of us. Hopefully, if we will start leading the way, the world will follow.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    1 day ago

    Holly, I am just getting around to reading this article and I love it. I think your insight about this subject is on point. I wish people didn’t feel the need to vent their feelings on other people. It doesn’t help us in the migraine community.
    Peggy

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thanks so much, Peggy! As a fellow moderator- that means especially much coming from you. I know you field a lot of comments and feedback from the community and there are so many big and understandable feelings out there when it comes to this deeply demanding and challenging condition. When we get backed into a corner in frustration and defensiveness, our best selves aren’t always the first to respond. Glad to be in this with you and hope we can keep in touch.

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    17 hours ago

    Yes, I hope to keep in touch. This issue can be so hard for people.
    Peggy

  • MichalSarah
    4 weeks ago

    I just had this kind of experience, which I sometimes call “disability machismo” and part of the “sicker than thou” phenomenon. It was not on here. My best friend of 34 years, who has fibromyalgia, suddenly made a verbal attack on my children to me. They are both suffering from anxiety and depression (not migraine… that we know of). One is on disability, the other had just started a new job. My friend wanted them to apply to work where she does…it’s a job I once worked and is quite demanding shift work with nasty managers who don’t respect the union’s contract. When my kids didn’t jump at the chance, and I noted that the one on disability wouldn’t last more than a few days, she went on the attack, saying he just wanted to stay home and play video games. She launched into a speech about everything she was doing at their ages (before she had fibromyalgia, but she did have other struggles), inferring that they could accomplish just as much if they just weren’t so lazy and put their minds to it. Basically she dismissed their diagnoses outright. Needless to say we are no longer friends.

    We never truly know what someone else is struggling with, or what they have the means to cope with (or not). We don’t know how many spoons someone else begins their day with, or how many “spoons” certain activities or experiences cost them, compared to ourselves. Every one of us has things we cope with well that are the bane of someone else’s existence, and vice versa.

    It is often tempting for people to think that they must be suffering more than others, especially in “invisible” illnesses where we feel our own pain and suffering directly but can only guess about other people’s and infer it indirectly. When you let yourself think that way, you can feel very smug about how much you are accomplishing “despite all the difficulties”, and be very dismissive of others who “ought to be getting more done” because they are, in your opinion, “less sick than me”.

    For myself, I enjoy walking…in particular escaping into nature trails….during a migraine. I have chronic migraines that are usually less painful than the average migraineur’s and am not bothered by movement the way they are. I am however very bothered by lights (to the point of requiring special tinted lenses all the time), sounds (traffic, tv, banging doors) and smells (car exhaust, litter box, food) and feeling overheated/smothered and social stress, so it stands to reason that a gentle stroll alone under the trees in the fresh air would suit me. Equally I can understand why it would not appeal to someone who is in severe pain, dizzy, and on the verge of vomiting.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    I’m so glad you shared your “to each his/her own” philosophy and wish others would follow your lead in this belief system. You seem to have an inherent understanding that we all are suffering in some way or another and we all require our own coping strategies- none are better or worse than another (neither the suffering nor the strategies).

    When you have encountered painful and pointed judgment from others, directed toward you or your children, you responded with compassion. When others may have responded defensively, you instead wondered about the pain that might’ve inspired the spiteful attack.

    Putting ourselves in the shoes of others is not something that happens very often these days. We are so busy thinking of how to manage our own heavy loads, that we often can’t even find the time to lift our eyes to acknowledge the load of another.

    You demonstrate that if we took that time to do so, we’d be the better for it.

    I’m with you, on the forest walks. That kind of silence and fresh air beats any medication.

    So glad you’re a part of our community and hope you’ll stay in touch!

  • Holly H.
    1 month ago

    I, too, walk in the migraine.com door to sit awhile with “my people” while gaining insight and information. As unfortunate as it is that we are all suffering, we are not suffering alone when on migraine.com, although physically isolated by the very nature of our suffering. We are all hurting… and experience being dismayed, disheartened, and discouraged by living hijacked by migraine and clusters… no matter the variations we all experience and express.
    Being able to come into a room with folks that know and understand and relate, and have information and experiences to share, is a comfort and encouragement in itself. There are times when there’s a place of OK-ness in “Let Be.”

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    This is so beautifully put. Thank you for taking the time to articulate the experience of coming into the room at migraine.com. Lovely. Glad to be in this space with you, Holly.

  • katetyndall
    1 month ago

    Migraine is not a competition. If it is, we all lost. Compassion should be our first reaction to suffering. Thank you for writing this Holly.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hey @katetyndall

    Grateful to hear from you, as always. I’m glad this article resonated with you and agree that if we could just reach for compassion rather than defensiveness, the world would be a better place.

    Please stay in touch!

  • DinaMay
    1 month ago

    Thank you for your call for compassion! I’m in an assisted living facility where many residents do the competitive suffering thing. It’s almost funny, as if there’s a gold medal waiting for the person who suffers the most! Pretty sure migraine is not an Olympic sport

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi DinaMay- always appreciate hearing from you. You are so right to raise the fact that this race to the bottom isn’t unique to migraine! And it doesn’t help anyone, regardless of the condition (or combination therein)!

    So glad you chimed in and please stay in touch!

  • Jen.vice94
    1 month ago

    Thanks for posting this! Compassion is something we all need for each other! Love this

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    I’m so glad this piece resonated with you, Jen. Thank you for chiming in and please keep doing so. Very glad you’re among us.

  • Luv2TeachMath
    1 month ago

    Holly, I totally understand how debilitating it can feel when you are trying to introduce or explain a topic and people go off on a tangent. I taught college math and business for years before becoming totally disabled. It took years and was extremely hard for me to finally admit that I did not need to be in a classroom anymore. The sad part was that I cannot teach online either, because my migraines are so unpredictable.

    I would like to add support and my understanding to what you had posted:
    1) For the person that stated that they are on the floor screaming in pain… I feel you!!! There are days when I hurt so bad I WANT to scream and pull my hair out, but I can’t… the screaming is internal.
    2) To avoid the 1.5-2 weeks of pain due to ovulation, my migraine doctor and my OB/GYN work together to control my periods. I have not had one in a few years; when I finish one set of BC I begin the next one immediately.
    3) I get Botox every 12 weeks. I have to complete a form (the SAME FORM!) every time I go. Question #3 asks: “What makes the migraine better?” My response has ALWAYS BEEN: “Hammer”. I overheard my dad tell someone that without the Botox I would probably kill myself, to which I QUICKLY responded: “NO! I would never do that! But there are times that I swear the hammer could not hurt worse than the pain!”

    So yes, we should all be able to sympathize with other people that are struggling with migraines, but until we have walked a mile in their shoes… None of us have the right to judge anyone else. Hopefully, through Migraine.com, we can share experiences and help others.

  • glassmind
    1 month ago

    Thank you for writing this. I love you.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Love you, back, as always, Glassmind. Always warmed to hear from you and so very glad you’re with us. Keep in touch, please.

  • Macbeck
    1 month ago

    I am blessed to have a family who understands migraines – unfortunately they are also similarly stricken – and friends who have seen migraine’s effects on me. Additionally I have found an on-line support group where we are safe to share both the bad and the good. We understand that each of us suffers differently, and continued passive/aggressive or demeaning behavior is not tolerated.
    Instead I have experienced horrible visits to the ER, being told by one provider that she guessed she was “stuck” with me because “no one else will take you.” She also refused to even look at my migraine protocol which is non-opioid, instead assuming that I was a “drug seeker,” thus giving me ineffective treatment.
    Thank you for your continued timely articles!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Macbeck- Good for you for gathering around you the resources you need to give you the support required to manage this very demanding disease.
    And good for you for putting into context and releasing the comments of ignorant people (including doctors) so that you hear what you need and release what you don’t. Those toxic statements are ours to take in or turn away from- I like that you have chosen to turn your back on that which is hurtful, uninformed, and doesn’t work for you. Bravo. We should all follow suit.

    Your statement also reminded me of a recent article on the topic of relief vs. drug-seeking at the ER: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/not-drug-seeking-feeling-judged-when-seeking-medical-care/

    Please keep in touch- so glad you’re with us.

  • twobassets
    1 month ago

    Weary is the term I use now. I’m no longer tired, exhausted, etc. I’m just weary. Having had migraines for over 50 years I know the ups and downs and no two people are the same. I go into isolation mode when it’s really bad. But let’s face it, everyday I’m nauseous from meds even if my pain is low. This article is a good reminder that pain is part of a very complex condition…and yes, it wears you down. I use this forum as a respite too and often find exactly what I need to hear!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi twobassets- So glad this piece resonated with you, though sorry that means you’re living with and navigating frequent severe pain and the life that comes with it. I know exactly what you mean by going into isolation when the pain rises. We just must.

    Do you literally have two basset hounds? Are they part of your pain management strategy? I know my dog is a central part of mine.

    So glad you’re here with us and that you chimed in. Please continue to stay in touch.

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Indeed- dogs can help so much! Please stay in touch about your search and who you end up finding to accompany you along the next steps in your journey.

    Thinking of you.

  • twobassets
    1 month ago

    Lol. I did have two Bassets (12 & 14) but our baby girl passed over the rainbow bridge two years ago. Since then we have moved to a quieter area and are now searching for new companions for me. They help so much! Dogs are sometimes the best medicine.

  • Crystal.Harper
    1 month ago

    Hearing how so many people are living in a state of defense trying to justify their pain makes it easy to understand how that can unintentionally be projected upon others. I think this is an important reminder that although everyone’s level of pain or symptoms may be different, in the end we’re all in this together. Thanks for putting this out there!

  • Holly Harding Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    Hi Crystal- Glad this article resonated with you- and what a great way to state it, that regardless of what got us here, we’re all in this together. So grateful that you are a member of our community. Hope you’ll stay in touch.

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