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Validating Pain With Migraine

I think we’ve all been at a point when we verbally express our pain, even if we don’t do it often, and have been met with an unkind remark. Some aren’t meant to be unkind, but unfortunately “you and me both sister” is not an accurate response to someone’s pain.

Invisible illness

I get it. It’s easy to try to acknowledge something you may have some understanding or meaning to blow someone off that way, right?  Yes, that’s how it comes off to us.

But “getting it” with chronic pain and getting chronic illness usually takes validation from other people sometimes, in some shape or form. Or we can tend to retreat. And validation can be extremely hard when the pain isn’t always as visible to the naked eye, hence the term often used for these conditions, “invisible illnesses”.

I get that the phrase “Invisible illness” might sound hokey, or tacky. But sometimes, this is the only way that some people living with pain and the symptoms related to pain can be a helpful way that people often talk about them. Symptoms so often can go unseen, which is why many people feel that they can empathize better using the phrase “invisible illness”.

Things to avoid saying when validating someone’s pain:

  • Me too!
  • Same.
  • “I feel you – I..”
    • Don’t make it about you. Try to avoid any statement with “I” in them and keep the conversation in our direction if we’re are being open and speaking about something. It takes a lot for us to be able to share how much physical pain we hide. It takes a lot more to share it out loud risking rejection or unkind, passive words.

Things we would like to hear when validating someone’s pain:

  • Can I go to the store and get you anything?
  • Acknowledging their pain (even if you did yesterday).
  • How about I come over and make us a sandwich?
  • Can I help with chores?
  • Can I do anything for you?
  • Should we sit on the patio for a while?
  • Want me to bring the kids on errands with me today and tomorrow so that you can have a bit of quiet time?

Understanding our difference

We understand that no one will understand our individual symptoms and don’t necessarily expect them to. But we do want to be better understood when we are not always able to communicate our pain or symptoms in a way for others to understand. Everyone deals with pain differently – psychosocial, leisure, etc.

What would you add to this discussion and how can we better communicate our pain in different ways so that others can help validate this? What IS an accurate response to pain?

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.


  • Buffi
    5 months ago

    I try hard to validate other people’s experience with migraine (or other chronic pain) without making it about me, since everyone’s experience is a little different. Usually, I’ll say something like, “Oh gosh, I hate that for you. Is there something that might make it a little easier right now?”

  • christinamzc
    6 months ago

    You asked “What would you add to this discussion and how can we better communicate our pain in different ways so that others can help validate this?” I think for myself and other migraine sufferers, the best thing we can do is be more honest about the pain and symptoms we have.

    I have chronic intractable migraines, which is a fancy way of saying they don’t respond to abortive meds and tend to never go away. My “current” migraine started in March of 2015. I have not had a pain free day, hour, or moment in over 4 years. And to make matters a bit worse, I’m the only migraine sufferer in my family (even extended). I do have family and friends whose comments make me feel as though they think I’m faking, or my personal favorite “taking advantage” of my parents. But I think sometimes, I make it hard for them to see the truth-to validate my pain.

    Just this morning, I said, “I feel really bad but I’m posturing.” I don’t know what made me say that out loud, but suddenly I realized it was true. I felt worse than normal, but my reaction was to diminish it by acting overly loud and boisterous. Later I thought more about that and again realized I do it quite often. I bet other sufferers do, too.

    We don’t want to be burdens. We don’t want to change everyone else’s day or moment to accommodate our pain and symptoms. So I think we posture…maybe hide the severity a bit or like the saying suggests we “fake it till we make it.” But I realized today, posturing doesn’t make it easier for others to validate my pain. It probably makes it more difficult because they are getting mixed signals from me. I’m saying one thing but acting as though its really much less severe. I think, I (and maybe you) need to be more honest to feel what we feel without trying to posture for others.

  • les5886295
    6 months ago

    If it helps someone I am happy to tell. The symptoms I had starting migraines with were a dazzling flashing zig zag in right eye getting worse until I could not focus, that got so bad I had to get home quick. The dazzle went away then I had numbness around the mouth, then headache viscious pain vomiting diarrhéa and the runs , eventualy falling asleep , on waking stunned, dopey feeling,, later symptoms incoherent speech, both arms go numb , over the years I have had lots of procedures cat scan, MRI. Holly lane neuro brain scan, lumbar puncture,,physical Nothing found

  • Crystal.Harper
    6 months ago

    So sorry that migraine has caused you to go through all of this. Thank you for being here and for sharing your experiences. You’re certainly not alone!

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hi Les5886295,
    I’m sorry your journey with Migraine has been so symptom-filled.

    “If it helps someone I am happy to tell.” I love this. No matter how much pain we can be in, we still muster the strength and energy to give time explaining it to others who want to listen.

    Kelly, Team Member

  • les5886295
    6 months ago

    Hi, I have been a long term classic Migrain sufferer since age 11yrs . I am 76 now. I can remember vividly from the age of 6 to age 11, I kept getting symptoms of items seeming further away than what was normal or indeed closer than normal, at same time voices were muffled, ,,,my son who is now 53 yrs old told me about a time when he was younger, when objects seeming far away or closer. just as I had experienced. He Researched it a little deeper than I did . finding out it was called Alice in wonderland syndrome which was like a for runner of Migrain because most people who have Cinderella go on to suffer migraine, this name and condition was closely associated with. C.S.Lewis and his book « the lion the witch and the wardrobe, which came from his own experience as a Migrain sufferer. I have also noticed that sufferers have always looked for common 40 years of keeping records I have not found any connections.the foods I was told to stop were Pork, chocolate,marmite,one thing I would say if I ate one of these items only and had a break from it I was alright, but If i had pork for 3 days I would then have a Migrain ,that is the only link.. At age 50 I was put on ssri sertraline which I have been on since with dramatic effects. Migraines reduced from at least one a week to one a year.i am very grateful for the improvement I got. But although troubled less with Migrain I still do not feel 100% as though their is something lacking in sertraline . I read an article from USA about another drug to act as inhibitor to help the sertraline. Its called Gabba. With the benefits running alongside each other…But I think this has not been fully investigated .. here’s hoping.

  • Crystal.Harper
    6 months ago

    I’m happy to hear that your symptoms have lessened a bit over the years, but hate that you’re still dealing with migraine. It certainly is frustrating that everyone has such different triggers and being able to identify them would absolutely be helpful. I’m sure you’ve done plenty of research into the topic already, but I wanted to share this link that dives into some more details on migraine triggers in case you’re interested:

    Wishing you some relief in the days ahead.

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    6 months ago

    How in the heck did I know about C.S. Lewis & him having migraines and the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe being associated with it?! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Kelly, Team Member

  • LMarguerite
    6 months ago

    My husband is very sympathetic about my migraines and even offers massages if I think they will help. One thing he does that bugs me a bit is, he tries to come up with a dozen reasons why he thinks I have the headache; did too much, overtired, stressed about…..”, ate ……, etc. I usually have my own idea why it came or sometimes I have no idea why, but he seems to think he needs to come up with the cause. I do appreciate his understanding and love.

  • Crystal.Harper
    6 months ago

    So sweet of your husband to be so supportive! I’m sure that him trying to rationalize why you’re hurting is coming from a place of love, but I also understand how frustrating that could be- especially when medical professionals don’t even know the exact cause of migraine. Still, it sounds like you have an amazing man by your side! 🙂

  • Tachee
    6 months ago

    My husband says I get migraines because of my boobs. lol When I asked my dentist about trouble relaxing my jaw he suggested going to a chiropractor and said it may help your migraines too. So when I told my husband about it he says See I told you! It’s the boobs!

  • Peggy Artman moderator
    6 months ago

    It’s great that your husband is so supportive!

    As for me, I’ve been looking for triggers for my migraine attacks for years and I can’t figure it out most of the time. I have come to a sense of peace that I just have an overactive nervous system.

    Wishing you all the best. ~ Peggy ( Team)

  • Heather Benton
    6 months ago

    Wow! My most frustrating “system” PEOPLE OPINIONS !
    I come from a family FULL of Migraine Suffers, not all are Chronic, most start very young age, Botha boys and girls equally, with many having Fibromyalgia diagnosed (some think MS some don’t believe In Fibromyalgia) All I know is PAIN a life with PAIN! My good days would send normal people to the ER! You’d like to say things like that but I’m not like that! I’ve become very much more reserved, avoiding crowds, no one asks us out now anyway, but I am to sick to have to battle with people to prove that I am actually SICK and indeed I’m in PAIN and no I AM NOT a druggie or totally loony. I’m just tired of people (many who are my FAMILY,) judging
    It’s so good to be pro-active and educated everyone; bc once your like me; kids grown, can’t work, family out of picture bc I’m a faker, have been getting worse as you aged and now your confidence is shot! My speech is really affected with my Migraines all the times; I was a chatter not anymore! My family usually figures me out my laughing which is cool; but when your in a new group of parents for another Baseball Year and you loose you thought gone or your words are jumbled: I just get embarrassed then make it worse…..
    It makes me sad that WE who suffer such intense life stopping pain then must muster up a SALES PITCH that is convincing yet can’t sound WEAK when your so weak your hands are visually shaking!
    It’s unfair! It’s unfair we have to change it too…

  • #purpleproject moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you so much for your reponse, Heather. Sounds like you have been through MANY similar situations.

    I’m so very glad we have a platform like to share and empathize with each other, since we actually “get it” even if all of our symptoms are not always similar.

    Kelly, Migraine Team Member

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