Individuals with Migraine Need Some Empathy
Empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably and incorrectly. Feeling sympathy towards another individual is feeling compassion or even sadness in some form for another individual’s situation. On the other hand having empathy for another individual is having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.
My spouse’s personal battle with empathy
My husband often says that he often finds it hard to be truly empathetic towards my condition. He feels this way because his battle with migraine would be labeled as episodic; therefore he has them very few and far between. Although when he does get one, he most definitely feels the full force of a migraine, including many of the very common symptoms aside from just the head pain. In his words, when he has a migraine he “feels like I could just die right then simply to make it feel better or stop the hurting.” In his case however, most of the abortive medications will stop his migraine in less than an hour unless it is an extremely bad one. He states that in his moments of pain, he not only feels empathy but he also feels tremendously weak by comparison to me because I live with pain like he is feeling at that moment every day. So, as strongly as he feels about wanting to help me with my condition, he feels like it is really very difficult to truly empathize because his own understanding and experience with my condition is very limited. Now I do not agree with his assessment of the situation. If you read my article titled The Migraine Cave, you would see he does his best to accommodate my battle with migraine in ways that most spouses would never consider. When I do hit my invisible wall and tell him that I am there and cannot do or go anymore, he understands and does not argue with me or push for me to maintain plans we may have had or something along those lines. So for me, he is empathic and simply does not understand or realize that he actually is most of the time.
If only doctors & others could empathize
Now this subject is exactly the entire focus behind the article I wrote entitled Ever Wanted the Gift a Migraine! I truly feel like most of the doctors and specialists that I have seen have most likely never had a migraine in their life. The way most of them act in regards to the true pain and frustration expressed by myself and even my husband pretty much states that they have very little understanding of what I am living with on a daily bases and they most definitely do not have the capacity to share how I feel. If the doctors who decided to go into the field of headache disorders and migraine had greater empathy for their patients, I feel as though we would be so much farther along in the treatments and medications that are available to individuals living with migraine. I do believe that empathy is such an important aspect of interacting with an individual with chronic migraine. I wish people understood that the migraine they treat with an over the counter product is not the same as what I am trying to manage.
I have worked with one woman who also had chronic migraine and to be around somebody who could see it on your face without you having to say a word and truly understood made a world of a difference for me. It also showed me how things like the weather truly do affect individuals with migraine because we would both be trying not to die from a migraine at the same time.
How do you feel about my thoughts on empathy? Do you think as a community we could use more of it?
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?