As someone who lives with chronic pain, I have had to ask for help…a lot.
From daily tasks to huge favors and covers, I rely on others often in order to get through the hoops and hassles of each day. I am lucky to have a lot of good folks in my corner who look out for me and who are willing to assist and help me. Because of that, I try to be open and available to others, too, within my capacity to do so.
Art of relationships
I believe in lateral and reciprocal care and love, and I think it makes for healthy relationships when we all share the burdens of life because everyone needs help sometimes. Sometimes though, reliance on others can create rifts and misunderstandings. Miscommunications can lead to hurt feelings and failing to show appreciation and thankfulness can at times leave people feeling un- or underappreciated. At least, this is something I have noticed in my personal relationships.
Migraine pain and hurt feelings
Recently, someone close to me said something that really hurt: I was experiencing a lot of pain from a migraine that would not go away, and I was talking about how I felt. It wasn’t excruciating, it was mild in comparison to some of the pain I’ve felt, but it was there.
I felt comfortable and safe with this friend and casually shared about my pain. After a few moments of me describing how I felt, though, I noticed that this person seemed to look…annoyed. Uh oh.
That sinking feeling
Once I caught wind of this, I felt a sinking feeling. Did they not care? Did I say something wrong?
I got out of my own head and just asked: “Is something the matter?”
“Not everything revolves around you.”
Pain and understanding
Oh gosh, I felt so bad upon hearing these words. I was taken aback and didn’t have the words to respond right away. I didn’t and don’t believe everything revolves around me, and I was confused as to what I had done to make this person feel this way. I tend to talk about migraine…a lot. That is because it consumes a lot of my life, but I have never thought of myself as self-centered.
Apologetic about migraine
“I’m sorry” was all I had. I felt conflicted, because I was in pain and looking for comfort, and somehow I’d hurt this friend, or annoyed them. I wasn’t sure which it was at this point, but I knew it all felt bad. My immediate thoughts were defensive, but I couldn’t just make assumptions about the situation or about what they were thinking, especially because I was just so confused. This seemed out of character.
Once I apologized to them, however, things took a turn. “No, I’m sorry…it’s just that“….my friend began to tell me that they had some things going on and that they weren’t in the emotional space to be able to give me comfort or guidance, because a lot was weighing on them. They weren’t annoyed or upset, but they felt as though I hadn’t given them the consideration of what was going on with them—and the truth is, I hadn’t.
Unintentionally selfish to selfless
When I began talking about my pain and my feelings with this person, I was focused in on myself, and I didn’t think they might need comfort in the same moment. I also didn’t ask if they had the emotional space to listen to me: this is an important lesson I’ve learned. I can’t just assume that anyone can just take on providing care for me by listening to me and offering comfort without asking them. As someone who is in pain often, I know I require a lot of support, so it is important for me to make sure I am attentive to the feelings of those who support me.
I think a simple, “Do you mind if I vent to you?” I think might have made my situation with my friend a little smoother.
Going forward with a better approach
Even when we want to be attentive and helpful to others, sometimes we can forget to do so when we are experiencing something particularly overwhelming, and migraine often is overwhelming.
I understood where my friend was coming from, and I also felt that they needed my support more than I needed theirs at that moment, so the tables completely turned and I was glad to be there for them as a listener and as a friend. I definitely still felt hurt and even a little angry about those stinging words, because it asserted that I was selfish and inconsiderate in my mind, and I didn’t feel that way.
My friend, however, needed the space to not have to take on someone else’s pain while dealing with their own, and that was very important, even if their words and expression of that hurt.
A cloud of migraine
Being chronically ill can feel like a never-ending cloud a lot of the time that is hard to get out from under, I know it consumes a lot of my thoughts and my language, and it can be hard to break out of that to see clearly what is happening around me. I run into this a lot with my caretaker as well, relying on them so often means I must make space and time to give what I can back to them, to balance our relationship for the both of us. I try to make sure I am giving the love I get, but I will make sure to ask before I unload on someone next time, as well as ask if others need a listening heart first.
Have you ever felt consumed by migraine, and felt as though others did not feel heard? How did you navigate that situation?