Trying New Things is Harder Than it Looks
As I’m sure you are well aware, dear reader, there are many frustrating things about living with migraine beyond the symptoms themselves. One of those frustrations is the onslaught of well-meant advice. This is not unique to people with migraine, but also experienced by most people with an invisible, chronic, or incurable, medical condition, and the trouble usually begins with the dreaded phrase “Have you tried ____________?”
Now, there are plenty of situations where this phrase is not offensive in the least and can actually be very helpful. For instance, a migraine specialist may want to gather more information during an intake appointment to determine a suitable treatment plan. “Have you tried __________?” is appropriate in this situation. The phrase can also be useful among people with the same diagnosis who already have a good grasp of each other’s treatment plans and are not shooting in the dark. But when a near-stranger finds out that I live with migraine and immediately asks, “Have you tried ____________?” my shoulders tense, my ears burn, and my heart quickens while I take a deep breath and prepare a calm and measured answer that will steer the conversation in a different direction.
This might seem like an absurd overreaction to a pretty harmless question, but it can be a loaded question for those of us living with chronic health issues. Here are some of the reasons why the question is so irritating for me:
- The question seems to imply that I am not already doing everything in my power to take care of myself. As a very thorough, well-informed patient, it feels insulting that someone things they could know more about my condition than me.
- Even though I know there are more things out there to try, it already feels like I have tried everything under the sun. A lot of those trials were attempted based on random advice from near-strangers and they cost me a lot of money and time. There is so much misinformation and even supposed “cures” out there, and I have seen the inside of enough rabbit holes for multiple lifetimes. I know now if I listen to every Tom Dick and Harry there would be an infinite number of things to try, and a nearly equal number of dead ends.
- I’m not made of money! My treatment plan is already expensive. My budget is already tight with things that are actively helping. Massages and gym memberships aren’t free, and I can’t just up and decide to visit a new practitioner or buy some new magic crystals just because they worked for someone’s great aunt.
- Seeing a new practitioner or trying a new drug can often result in more pain or intolerable side effects. Very recently, an acupuncture treatment with a new practitioner sent me to bed for two days straight with an ice pack and a pillow full of tears. Acupuncture has been helpful for me in the past, but this time it was harmful. Sometimes it’s more than a matter of trying something new, but also finding the right practitioner! This can be exhausting!
- It is simply unlikely that a near-stranger could have advice about new treatment options for migraine that I have not already heard about from my specialist or fellow advocates.
Trying new things is important, of course, but we must try new things methodically, on our own terms, within our own personal schedules, abilities, and budgets. We must also trust our own instincts and put some faith in science-based evidence.
If you share in these frustrations, I hope the next time a friend of a friend asks “Have you tried _________?” you can respond calmly and with confidence that you (and your specialist) are working hard to explore all appropriate avenues in due time. I also hope you will remember you are not alone in the messy trial and error process of devising the most effective treatment plan possible. It takes time, and sometimes we must block out the peripheral noise in order to stay focused.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?