No Nagging, Please and Thank You
Sometimes it seems as though others around me are always 'getting onto me' about my migrianes. Well-intentioned folks sometimes make comments such as 'well, you should try x, y, and z if you really want to feel better', or 'it's probably because you weren't doing this or that'.
Ugh, give me a break.
Well-meaning concerns can feel like blame
These attitudes can make people who suffer from migraines feel like they are being interrogated for being ill. Some might call it nagging, and I am sure my loved ones and friends would call it healthy concern. One thing is for sure, it doesn't feel great when the language used to express worry or concern about chronic pain feels like blame or shaming. As someone who has experienced the horrible feeling of being talked to as if migraine is my fault or as if I am not doing enough from well-meaning friends and loved ones, I know how important it can be to choose language and develop communication skills that feel helpful.
I thought I would provide some tips for those who don't suffer from migraines about how to talk to a migraine sufferer about their pain, and how to make suggestions to help.
Trust the patient
This one may seem a bit obvious. Trusting the patient and their experiences can go a long way in effective and kind communication about their illness(es). Sometimes our language can show doubt or frustration about what isn't working, but we should be careful not to let that language characterize the patient's efforts as doubtful. Many patients are putting everything they have into getting care: physically, emotionally, and financially.
Put yourself in their shoes
Think about how it feels to be the patient, and engage with them the way you would want to be engaged with if you were dealing with the pain. It is the age-old lesson we learn in adolescence, but it's a good idea to strive to treat others how we want to be treated, especially in matters of pain. Be compassionate and sympathetic as if you were the one in pain.
Research before you speak
There is a lot of misunderstanding about head pain and migraine specifically within the general public, and a little specific research can go a long way in helping migraine patients feel understood, as well as in communicating their needs and desires. Doing a bit of research can help you to choose language and make suggestions that are backed by a wealth of experiences and data. Sites like migraine.com contain lots of information, stories, questions, and research about migraine from patients and experts alike and are a great resource for non-sufferers, too.
Sometimes it is better to sit back and listen to what the patient has to say, rather than offer what solutions and suggestions we have to give from an outside perspective. Remember, the patient lives with the pain of migraine and knows how they feel, listening to them can help you gain a better perspective into what they need.
Anyone who has pain can spot the difference between genuine concern and judgment from a mile away. Be sure that when you are giving suggestions to patients, that you are doing so out of concern, love and compassion. This is helpful and needed, but judgment and blaming patients for their pain does the opposite.
Above all, being kind and compassionate preempt the way we should communicate with anyone in my opinion, and this style of communication can make the difference in a patient's day or week. Making sure we are truly being there for one another as humans, and engaging in a way that seeks to help, not hurt or nag for the sake of being right, can make a world of difference!
Do you have suggestions, as a patient, for those around you on how to talk to you about migraine? What are they? Are you a loved one of a migraine sufferer who has suggestions about how others can communicate with patients in their lives? Let's discuss in the comments!
Have you shared your migraine story with us yet?