Trying New Things is Harder Than it Looks

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.

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)
  • Jani8
    2 years ago

    My favorite one is, “Did you take some aspirin?” Aarggghhh!

  • Nonster
    2 years ago

    Great article and reminder of ways to reply to well meaning folks. Obviously, they haven’t walked in our shoes. It was also a timely reminder for me to try new treatments at MY pace especially with other chronic health conditions on board.

  • 2 years ago

    I appreciate and agree with what you have shared. It is important to be open to new information. I’m grateful for the research and help that is now available to those who have migraines. Your article was a good reminder of how to relate to suggestions and how to apply new information. Thank you.

  • Cocodog
    2 years ago

    I agree 100%. I know they are trying to help. But sometimes my frustration with myself, and the chronicity of my headaches, makes me defensive. I now know more about migraines than most doctors, nurses, techs of various types, etc. I’m sure some of us feel this way. And the thought of going to new doctors and rehashing the same old history is exhausting. I was so obnoxious giving out unsolicited advice when I first became ill. I suddenly lost my nurse practitioner self to disability. But the nurse self kept giving advice. And diagnosing people. I had to tell the nurse practitioner self to cool it. I was awful. I’ve been on both sides of the coin now, and I have patience with those who think they are helping. But I really lose patience with flippant doctors. That’s what truly gets my goat.

  • Anna Eidt author
    2 years ago

    Yes, it’s certainly a silver lining to learn the patience needed to deal with chronic illness. It sounds like you’re great at it.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    I try to always remember to think the best of people. The question is from someone who wants to help or is curious. They are not trying to imply that I am not trying to get better. Even if on the off chance they are so what. It is my reaction that affects me not their question. If I am in the hyper phase then it may be a bit trickier to answer calmly. For myself I can not allow other people to make me defensive or feel less than. And just because somebody suggests something doesn’t mean I have to try it. I might research it but that gives me something to do when I need a distraction. I also know that my sensitive brain can no longer tolerate many things that others can. There is no reason to let other people push my buttons (hard lesson). Peace to all.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi Luna, thanks for sharing your musings. It is indeed a hard lesson and an important one, it’s part of being gentle with ourselves.

    As always, thanks for being part of the community. -Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

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