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.

The difference

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?

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

View Comments (7)
  • mrst53
    2 years ago

    Finding doctors with empathy are hard to find. Luckily my GP and Neuro doc are great. My hubby is usually good, but my best friend does not understand it at all. My son and daughter-in-law have never had migraines, so I that while I am glad they don’t, my son especially does not have any empathy.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    1 year ago

    It’s so hard when someone has never even once had a migraine to get them to understand. I’m definitely sorry that the kids and your friends do not share that empathy. I hope you do remember that we are always here for you. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and comment. Sending you lots of strength and love
    Amanda Workman (moderator & author)

  • texotexere
    2 years ago

    I had a coworker who didn’t suffer from them, but had a daughter who got them. He could usually tell when I was hurting. He knew the lights bothered me, so he removed the bulbs in the ones above my desk and climbed up and taped a piece of cardboard on the window to the storage room since the fixture was in my line of sight. Our area is close to the bathroom, so whenever someone would spray something strong, he’d let me run an errand to a different area. Unfortunately, he retired and his replacement is the exact opposite (loud and a heavy smoker who takes really long breaks). I miss working with him.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    1 year ago

    It’s always very hard to work with people who are not understanding about triggers and symptoms. It’s most definitely hard to not have those individuals any longer once you have had them at one point. Sometimes it seems smokers don’t understand the effects of their lingering smoke breaks on us either… stay strong. Sending you lots of strength
    Amanda Workman (moderator & author)

  • John1381
    2 years ago

    Good post, it really helps when others show empathy. Particularly when we are feeling so low, vulnerable and confused – all products of migraine for me.

    I just wanted to share that there are some truly empathetic doctors and staff. In my case my current GP and Neurologist have been outstanding, although both don’t have migraine they have never doubted the severity or the wider impact it has had on my life. So different to when I was a child and my unpleasant GP at the time shouted at me ‘what’s wrong with you’. I was 8, with chronic migraine and didn’t know. I am sure this resonates for many of you.

    My current GP felt he had a migraine once when in training and said that he felt so awful he vowed that he would always do what he could to help anyone suffering from migraine. My neurologist who unfortunately has just finished at the National Hospital for Neurology in London that I attend, has tried so hard to break this shattering condition, I will be forever thankful. He has got me an Occipital Nerve Stimulator, a vagus nerve stimulator, DHE infusions, psychological support, every treatment that he can think of, unfortunately nothing has worked yet but I have always felt supported and understood. It is so helpful.

    My heart breaks when I hear some of the stories on here, there are some truly kind and generous medical staff out there. I hope that all can find their way to them.

    Regards to all,

    John.

  • Amanda Workman moderator author
    1 year ago

    Feeling understood makes a huge difference when it comes to your doctor patient relationship. Although I do not feel that bond yet with any of my current medical staff, I like you have tried an endless host of treatments. It does sound like you are still going strong, which is amazing and what we love to hear. It can be easy to get dismayed and give up on finding a solution. I love that you still have the drive that we will find something one day. Keep that and keep encouraging others! Sending you so much love.
    Amanda Workman (moderator & author)

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your kind words of support, John. We’re so glad you’re here. -Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

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