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Other’s Guilt of Using My Knowledge

It may sound strange when you consider it, but I cannot explain to you how many times I have had a text or phone call from somebody and it start with something along the lines of “I know it is nothing like what you deal with but…”

Pain is relative

To begin with, pain is relative to each individual. This means you cannot tell me that your pain is worse than my pain and I in turn cannot tell you that your pain is less than my own. Our pains can be relative due to how long we have been chronic, due to any other contributing health issues we may have, our age and body compensation, and ultimately how much we have to push despite the pain. For example, I work a fifty hour work week and am also an individual with daily chronic migraine. Does this mean my pain is less than the individual with daily chronic migraine who does not work? No. I do what I have to do for my family to survive and I have lived with this condition for an extremely long time. I do hit my glass wall but for the most part I push through because I know I have no choice but to do so.

My knowledge

I have gathered my migraine based knowledge at this point over life time of migraines. I was an episodic child and teenager who became chronic in college. Through years of trial and error, I have found a good many tips and tricks that work to help ease the suffering associated with a migraine. At the same time, I have tried a number of those ‘old wives’ tales that were basically a waste of time in general. Since I began working with Catherine Charrett-Dykes back when there was no plan for a non-profit and we were simply a support group of people all dealing with the same demon, I started sharing what I had learned with complete strangers, in an effort to help anybody. I have seen products that failed to do anything for me work wonders for somebody else. It is most definitely a process of finding out what works best for you.

My own family

Despite knowing my role as an advocate in the chronic migraine community, my own family falls into that group of people I mentioned earlier who will apologize for asking me a migraine question. My own husband feels guilty when he gets a migraine, since he is episodic, and cannot function during a migraine. My step-father has done the same thing when it came to a bad blood pressure medication causing him severe daily headaches. Ultimately in my eyes, this is no different than you having a splinter in your foot and I help you pull it out. You would not apologize for asking me to help you get the splinter out of your foot, so do not apologize for asking for migraine advice.

It is with appreciation

If you feel obligated, possibly approach us with understanding or appreciation. Something along the lines of “since you are more familiar with dealing with migraines” is much less off putting than an apology. To me an apology always means you did something wrong and caused whatever it is you are apologizing to me about. Since countless doctors cannot tell me why I went suddenly from being healthy to living with chronic migraine, who are you to apologize for it or for the fact that I live with it? But by all means, I am here with all my endless years of knowledge and when you need it, just ask me. Do you need to know what to do to get through the migraine? Do you need to know what all to ask your doctor at your first appointment? Do you need to know if somebody is full of it with their ‘miracle cure?’ By all means, just ask me. If I do not know the answer, I bet you with my resources that I can get the answer for you.

Does anybody every feel guilty bringing up a migraine or headache around you or seem unsure about asking you for tips/help?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ronan
    1 year ago

    It’s been my experience that being in constant pain is not ok in this society. “Complaining”, or talking about it is not ok. No one needs to apologize to me for not being ok, not feeling ok. I’ve been taught that it’s a strategy to think of someone worse off than me to manage whatever I am going through. Not helpful at times, but none the less a strategy I have been taught.

    I already use a chair, so I qualified for provincial disability. I have worked but Migraine got in the way. So, it’s my choice not to work in the traditional sense, so I can be happier. The stress of working brings on Migraine attacks and those can lead to depression.

    We are all different, so please never apologize. My pain tolerance is different from everyone else. If I can lend an ear, or offer advice to help out, I will, gladly.

  • Cerys
    2 years ago

    Personally, I see the lead-in described as a sign of respect, an acknowledgment of pain severity and intensity and duration. To me, it’s a polite way to broach a subject, one that doesn’t presume equal footing but allows exploration of how pain/symptoms are the same or different… I find that preferable to comments/questions that presume one headache is just like another. Few people presume a paper cut is on the level of being slashed with a switchblade. So let’s not ignore differences in migraine or chronic pain.

    It matters whether pain is so debilitating a person’s quality of life suffers in measurable ways – unable to work or drive or manage personal hygiene, or the “usual” things-of-life are severely upended – or not. Homogenizing pain by claiming relativity can be a real stumbling block, especially in a health-services model with finite resources and a society prone to generalizations. Intensity and impact should inform treatment and levels of support extended. I think of it like assessing smoke – it’s one thing to burn dinner, realize it, and open windows to let the smoke out; it’s quite another if the smoke is burnt dinner but the cook’s unconscious; and yet another if the smoke pouring out a kitchen window has nothing to do with cooking but is an interior wall engulfed in flames from an electrical fire… In all those cases, “smoke is smoke,” but the intensity, the repercussions, and the required responses, are not equal. It’s the same with pain. At least that’s how I see it 🙂

  • John1381
    2 years ago

    I like your phrase ‘allows exploration of how pain/symptoms are the same or different’. I always try to not let people feel their pain is less relevant when they talk to me, at least i hope i don’t. Your comment has given me something to think about; not that I am very good at that!



  • John1381
    2 years ago

    Sensible post as always, I totally agree with you. My Mother is really struggling with post polio syndrome and, of course, a lifetime with polio and awful arthritis in her shoulders which she needs to propel herself about; she is in agony and fearful, if she falls she can’t get up yet she still starts most conversations with ‘I know it’s not as bad as what you have to deal with’. I always tell her it’s just different not better or worse and she is totally allowed to download her worries on me. Mums can be so selfless.

    I really appreciate it if people ask me about and for advice about migraine. Whatever frequency you have it is distressing and debilitating but a little empathy goes a long way and it’s great to share and help.

    Keep up the good work everybody.

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