No Nagging, Please and Thank You

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.

Listen

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.

Be genuine

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! 

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 (18)
  • HeatherTrautman
    7 months ago

    This is exactly why I don’t speak to my sister any longer about my chronic migraine. She thinks I’m “poisoning” my body with Topamax (which I’ve been taking for 13 years because it WORKS), and that Botox is terrible, and I just need to quit taking triptans and other drugs for my migraines and chronic pain because that’s what she did for her health problems and it worked for her. I’ve argued, I’ve listened, and I’ve patiently tried explaining to her…..all to no avail. I just lie and tell her I’m better. There are only a select few people I can really talk to about my pain, and luckily I’m married to one. It’s just really hard feeling like I have to hide this part of my life simply because I don’t treat it the way she thinks I ought to be.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    6 months ago

    HeatherTrautman,

    Oh goodness, I am so terribly sorry to hear that you are not listened to by members of your family, that is so tough to navigate on top of the pain and stress that migraine already brings on its own. You certainly are not alone in your experience, but it is never a good feeling to go through skepticism and dismissal from those who don’t have to go through it. Sending loads of encouragement your way, thank you so much for being a part of the community.

  • Willie2010
    7 months ago

    So glad to read this. I am at the point of not wanting anyone to know that I am STILL having headaches. One starts feeling down on themselves and you get to a point that people think it is all in your head … no pun attended

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    6 months ago

    Willie2010,

    Oh I hear ya! It is so exhausting to continually explain migraine over and over and still be misunderstood by those around us. You are not alone in this experience, and I am so sorry that you have to experience this terrible disease. Sending well wishes your way. Have a nice rest of your weekend.

  • pigen51
    8 months ago

    I have been married for 25 years to my wife, and just this week she started on me about retrying Botox, which I have tried before with no success. Then she suggested another new drug that I should try, which is related to the class of drugs that I have also tried, in two different drugs, and had no success, either, but which have bad side effects for me. I told her of one other new drug which is out, that is also one that I have tried other drugs in the same class, that is too dangerous for me, due to side effects of high blood pressure and strokes. She still wants me to talk to my doctor about trying it.
    She made me talk to my doctor about stopping the only thing that would abort migraines for me, narcotics, as she thought I was too dependent on them. So now, I have nothing to abort migraines, at all. And she is not happy with how I am doing with no means of aborting them. So I am caught in between a rock and a hard spot. It is not a pleasant place to be. The medi center I used to go to, has now taken away any narcotics and can only give tordol shots or reglan, and I cannot take tordol, due to a gastric bypass, and it causing bad stomach troubles, including bleeding and pain. So I am now not a happy migraine person. Sorry to vent so much, but I am a chronic, near daily sufferer, and am on Social Security Disability due to my migraines, plus a bad back problem, and so they are actually that bad, and now there is no help for them, it is discouraging. Wishing everyone all the best, and painfree days.

  • choklityum
    7 months ago

    I feel your pain – both literally and figuratively. My husband (almost 26 yrs) believes he has all the answers; I don’t eat right, I don’t exercise, my sleeping habits suck, blah blah blah. None of those things go well when your head is pounding. While I’ve dealt with migraines since I was 18, it’s only been in the last year that they’ve really ramped up (I’m now 53). I ended up on short-term disability through work and then lost my job shortly after I returned. So I’m now unemployed and my husband is being a bigger **shole than ever – “I told you that you’d lose your job”. Problems finding a preventative, triptans work as abortives but knock me out for the day, and all the additional stress is making things so much worse. I’m so grateful for my friends; I’d be totally bat-sh!t crazy without them.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    pigen51,

    Thank you so much for your well wishes to the community, I hope the very same for you. I am so saddened to hear of the difficulty you have had discussing your management and treatment with your spouse and am terribly sorry you feel misunderstood and pressured. I know how terrible a feeling this is, and I hope you find some relief from the pressure and the pain from both the migraines and your back soon. Know we are here to uplift and support you.

  • dragonfire
    8 months ago

    Thank you so much, KyKy. It’s so relatable in my situation and I appreciate what you’ve done here.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    Dragonfire,

    Glad the article resonated with you and was helpful! Thank you for being a part of our community, and take good care.

  • SkiingIsBelieving
    8 months ago

    Thanks for this, I luckily have very little of this toxic feedback in my life, but this is a great resource to cut and paste and send to people who need prompting to get how much damage their innocent comments do. I find that most people shift a bit when they are educated about migraine. Something about this simple shift from focusing on the symptom (“just a headache”) to the cause (“it’s a neurological disorder”) is profound for many who have never heard that before. I have been dropping this more in casual conversation. I’ll say for example, if someone asks about headaches, “yeah, they’ve been a bit more frequent lately, which I guess is not uncommon to have symptoms change with a neurological disorder.” Every conversation can be a chance to educate people. Tiring, yes, but little by little, changing the terrain for all of us who suffer.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    SkiingisBelieving,

    You are so right, little by little we can change the conversation, outlook, and stigma. It definitely is tiring, but I agree that ultimately it can be worth it, though every situation can be vastly different and therefore our approaches too differ, thank you for sharing your wonderful perspective! Take care.

  • emmermills85
    8 months ago

    My mother has a “no sympathy” policy when it comes to pain. She says that if I have not taken medication, or drank enough water, or iced for long enough, then she has no sympathy for my pain. I know that she is just trying to encourage me to do all I can to alleviate my pain, but it certainly makes me feel guilty for a headache when I don’t want to take medication. That is a big point of contention between my mother and I. She believes I should be on a maintenance medication. I have tried many drugs over the years and none have worked; it only resulted in nasty side effects. I know she just wants me to get better, but I’m doing all I can for the time being. And feeling like it’s not enough.

  • musical-whovian
    8 months ago

    Sounds like my mother shes had 2 major back surgeries that have left her with her own chronic pain that she tightly controls her meds for so she doesnt end up addicted (her own words not mine). Yet she complains about her back pain quite often. I am very restricted on my rescue meds (only get 9 a month despite episode happening about half of every month) so I try to ration them & if I mention even the smallest amount of pain or a slight symptom I get something like “you didnt take anything for it so it cant be that bad” or “why havent you taken your medicine for it yet then” or (my favorite *sarcasm*) “thats the X time this week! You cant be in pain this much with all those [maintenience] drugs youre on!” Like, come on!!! You of all people should get it mother! You have chronic pain too! Its like just because the migraines suddenly started to get worse one day & the doctors dont have a definite cause, everyone thinks Im faking (probably to get out of work because Im some “lazy millenial”).
    Sorry to have vented so much, thanks for reading!

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    emmermills85,

    oh goodness, that sounds just so tough. I know well meaning people in our lives just want us to feel better but it really can feel defeating. I am so sorry you have to experience this, sending lots of encouragement your way. Know we are here to uplift you and support you. Take care.

  • aellis
    8 months ago

    I appreciate the spirit from which these types of comments are made, but I hate them nonetheless. I don’t like to talk about migraine pain with anyone, who isn’t intimately familiar with what migraine can do. It’s almost not worth the energy when you feel like you are being compelled to explain why you haven’t tried “x y z” treatment.
    As someone who does counseling and education in another field, I have found that the best way to approach these types of situations is just to listen without the intent to solve or even respond. Sometimes all people want is to get the frustration off their chest. Being an impartial, non-judgmental listener also helps foster trust.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    aellis,

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and for giving that advice! It does seem much simpler, and probably helps to avoid being even more frustrated to just listen without responding at times. It can be tempting to try to correct others who are misinformed, but sometimes it just causes more stress, and you are so right about fostering trust through listening. Great insights! Take care.

  • marycr8on
    8 months ago

    You are preaching to the choir, Kyky! I wish there was a simple way to tell this to those “well-meaning” people who are always offering their unsolicited advice.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    8 months ago

    marycr8on,

    I hear you! It can be super exhausting to communicate that others are not being helpful at times. I am glad the article resonated with you, as it is always wonderful to feel understood, but I so wish none of us had to deal with this!

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