Non-binary person puts arm around shoulder of friend looking through viewfinder.

Respond With Empathy, and See It From Their Perspective

Migraine is an elusive, invisible disease, that can make communicating its impact and effects to others who do not experience it really difficult. Even when people know about and understand some aspects of migraine, it can still be difficult to convey just what it is like to experience them - and that varies from person to person.

Reminding others of migraine's limitations

I sometimes have to remind even the person closest to me, my partner and caretaker, of the limitations I have as someone who lives with chronic migraines.

Saying no because of migraine pain

There are times when my caretaker will ask me if I want to see the latest movie, or if I want to join him and some of our friends in a video game, and I will have to say that I can’t because of the pain I am experiencing. It is not as though he has forgotten that I experience migraines and that I typically can’t enjoy these hyper-visual activities on a whim, because he is there beside me every day. I think, rather, that he wants to be able to enjoy these kinds of activities together because they are important to him. I also believe my caretaker wants me to be happy and find enjoyment despite the pain. Sometimes that means that I am asked to do things we both know I can’t.

Explaining migraine to others

It can be easy for me to quickly get upset and frustrated when having to repeat myself or reiterate that I can’t or don’t want to do something because of migraine. I am sure many migraine sufferers can relate to the feeling of being misunderstood and having to explain oneself over and over again.

Remembering other people around us are human, too

While it is true that there is a lot of misunderstanding about migraine, I think it is always important to remember that other people around us are human too, and sometimes our friends and loved ones just genuinely forget or have perfectly wholesome reasons for why they might ask us to do something that we believe is an obvious ‘no way.’ Having patience (and I know many of us have plenty to go around) can go a long way in developing communication with people who don’t experience migraines that sticks.

Communicating differently

I recently heard a suggestion for communication between people on the radio that I thought perfectly illustrated my ideal style of listening and sharing ideas: respond with empathy and see it from their perspective. Love!

Misunderstood, mistreated, and ignored

Many of us know well that living with migraine has its share of awful interactions where we are disbelieved, mistreated, and ignored. With more empathy towards us, we might have better research, more fruitful doctor’s visits, and better care all around.

Leading by example

I think a good way to get there is to lead by example, by responding to forgetfulness or having to repeat ourselves and explain migraine again with empathy for those who fail to understand.

Separating malice from misunderstandingI know it can be exhausting and sometimes we just don’t have the energy to, and that’s fine! I also know that many of us are just simply fed up with navigating migraine and its requirements, and that is fine too! In no way do I mean to say that I think we should just sit back and take nastiness from others: I think there is a big difference between being patient with those who genuinely care for us and recognizing when people are just being awful. I absolutely stand for advocating for oneself and setting the record straight, but I think recognizing when people are trying but slip or are still learning requires a patient and empathetic response for the benefit of all parties.Learning about migraine from the sourceFor my partner and caretaker, a really helpful learning resource for them has been being there, and seeing the way migraine affects me. Having a direct look into the world of migraine has allowed him to ask questions and get answers, as well as take action in caring for me. Developing awareness and understandingEducation about migraine directly from the source can make a big impact: migraine awareness and education is incredibly important because in order for us to get closer to a cure and in order for the millions of people who suffer to have some hope of relief someday and not experience the stigma of it being just a ‘headache,' we have to make sure more and more people develop an understanding. Working with my partner through migraineFor my partner and I, that happens through continued interaction and communication, as well as both of us ‘dealing’ with the migraine. And even still, he will invite me on a movie date every once in a while and I’ll have to say no--but that’s perfectly okay! SometimesAs a side note: Sometimes, I do go to watch movies and have a good time doing so (I even majored in film studies!), but there’s a good chance my migraines will make the experience less than enjoyable. That ‘sometimes’ - the times when we do activities we usually don’t - can make it confusing for those who don’t experience migraine to grasp the impact of the pain, as well.Do you struggle with conveying to those around you what limitations you have due to migraine? What tips do you have for communicating with non-sufferers?

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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.

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