Disclosing Migraine and an Unexpected Response

The general public is so dismissive of migraine that those of us who have it often never mention it. Why open ourselves up to the hurt of dismissal and invalidation? While I’m generally pretty open about migraine—because I think being honest about migraine is an integral part of reducing its stigma—sometimes I keep my mouth shut. Like when I was researching sofa reupholstery. Although migraine seriously restricts the materials I can use (due to triggers from odors and offgassing), I saw no point it explaining this to the salesperson.

But Rick, the salesperson, was persistent. He asked so many questions that I eventually explained I am sensitive to odors. He asked even more questions, so I eventually told him chronic migraine is the reason why. At worst, I figured he’d laugh me off. That’s when the strange thing happened. Here’s a truncated version of our conversation:

Rick: Beth [his employee] and my sister both have migraine. My sister can’t work because of it.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that. I had to stop working in 2003 because my attacks were so bad. I now write about and am a patient advocate for migraine. If there’s anything I can help with, you can give your sister my email address.

Rick: How many people in the country have migraine? Maybe we could specialize in restoring furniture that won’t offgas.

Me: !!!

Rick has since researched the lowest offgassing wrap for cushions (wool), learned how to source organic latex for cushions, and is working with me to find “safe” fabric to add to their collection. All along the way, he asks why—not in a belligerent way, but so he can understand why all these elements are important to customers who are sensitive to odors or chemicals. He keeps telling me he wants to put me work selling this new line of non-offgassing furniture he’s envisioning starting. While I doubt that will happen, I am getting my furniture reupholstered at a much lower cost than I expected.Instead of being dismissed, I met a person who is deeply compassionate and has gone way above and beyond to help one customer with a very particular problem. Sometimes people surprise you in the most wonderful ways.

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