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What’s Your Secret: How To Express You’re In Pain Without Sounding Like You’re A Complainer?

One of our community members posed this important question to our What’s Your Secret Video Series page and we thought it worth posing to the rest of the community. How to express you’re in pain without sounding like you’re a complainer is a complex question that unleashes many of the complicated issues surrounding the perception of migraine. How do we handle encountering ignorance and/or judgment when simply responding to someone asking “How are you?” How do we increase our own sense of acceptance? Is it easier to avoid the question altogether? How can we increase empathy and understanding in others?

 

Share your tips

Please join the conversation and share your secrets for talking about your life with migraine without feeling like you’re complaining. We are here to learn from one another so don’t keep your strategies to yourself!

If you have questions you’d like to pose to the Migraine.com community for the What’s Your Secret Video Series, please add them to the comment section below, or go to the Q&A page and submit your question there. We have a wondrous resourceful community with a wealth of information and support just waiting to help each other.

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

  • Theresa
    4 weeks ago

    I personally get fed up with professionals who don’t understand my pain or who try to diminish my pain but saying, it’s not that bad.
    Or when you are puking over and over and they say, wellbit coud be the flu rather than a migraine. Or maybe you need to have an orgasm, that might help.
    Listen healthcare professional, how bout I hit you in the head about 10 times with a Ball peen hammer and I tell you to wash my car. You wouldn’t appreciate my attitude now would you.
    Oh and watch all those triggers that cause your headache like being condescending to your patients.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Hi Theresa- I’m so glad you’re a part of our community and that you took the time to share your frustration regarding feeling misunderstood and diminished. I’m sure many of us can relate to feeling fed up in the same way. I know I can.

    I’m glad that you brought up the point about orgasm as a cure. I’ve heard from laypeople for years that migraine is a result of people having some kind of sexual hang up. I’m beyond sick of hearing that completely ridiculous unresearched belief. As if we need another layer of guilt put upon us atop everything else that we are somehow sexually dysfunctional and that migraine is simply a reaction to an underlying pent up bedroom issue is infuriating to me.

    I also recently watched a video by a couple of buffoons who spoke about how pain is “all in the mind” and one simply has to “get around it” through meditation and emotional/mind control. I thought, how nice it must be to be able to play in that sandbox of simple thought. To indulge in this train of thought, these two men have clearly not experienced true physical pain in their lifetimes. Must be nice. But to push their uninformed and therefore harmful propaganda and agenda on the rest of us made me want to stomp on their manicured fingers. Or at least ruffle their nice hairdos.

  • glassmind
    4 weeks ago

    pain is “all in the mind”

    Sooo, frustrating. I heard that much in regard to other conditions I have.

    It’s only happened once with migraine. A stranger said “It’s all a mindest, right?”

    I said nothing.

    Mid-migraine my energy was better spent in self-care than engaging in a philosophical debate about the nature of pain with a passing human.

    Sure, outlook/mindset can exaccerbate or mitigate pain sometimes. But pain is a real experience!

    If I’d gained the ability to transcend the pain of migraine, I’d go ahead and transcend all pain.

    Unless, someone is a mystic and can actually teach me this jedi mind trick, I’ll thank them to keep this euphamistic approach to themselves.

    Do the people who say this never feel pain?

  • kalz
    1 month ago

    I really struggle with this because I feel like if I don’t explain that I am hurting, I am then going to be asked to go and do something normal, like go somewhere or do something that I am not up to doing?

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 month ago

    And if you’re asked to do something you cannot do, then you have to cancel out and say no and THEN explain you’re hurting… Whether or not it’s done before or after, there seems no way to get around it. Thanks so much for chiming in. We are with you and glad you’re a part of this community. Please stay in touch.

  • Allison
    11 months ago

    As a therapist I teach clients the 3 second, 3 minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hour concept for answering people about difficult things. I use it myself when answering the “how do you feel” question. Think about who is in your closest circle that you can spend 3 hours talking to, sharing everything at the most vulnerable level. Then list the next ring out, 30 minute people you can talk to in depth but maybe not everything, then there are the casual acquaintances you only need to give a 3 minute less detailed answer to, and the 3 second folks “I’m making it, how are things with you?” Think about how you can answer each category of people in your life, and have an answer ready for each. Takes the stress out of it and helps you stay true to yourself without going into more details than needed. Your 3 Hour peeps won’t ever misconstrue it as complaining.

  • Artgeek
    4 weeks ago

    This is wonderfull! It really clears up things. Thank you for sharing!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi @allison– This is such a wonderful tip. I’m so grateful that you shared this with our community as it’s so pragmatic, useful, and applicable for so many of us. In fact, I wonder if you might consider posting it to our Stories page where more of our community will see it then they will here in the comment section of a single article. That way, it will also show up in our search engine if you put it under a title like “What to Say When Someone Asks ‘How are You?'” or something like that.
    You really have provided such a great resource, I would love to see it shared more widely.

    Here’s the link to create a story: https://migraine.com/stories/

    If you have any questions as to how to go through the process of posting a story, please just ask and thanks for considering.

    Thanks again for sharing these great ideas! So glad you’re a part of our community.

  • DriverShirl
    11 months ago

    I must have missed this video post from March, sooo that would explain why the comments are from 6 months ago, no matter, i would just like to thank you, Holly B for this great explanation of what we Migrainers go through, hope it helps others too. Thanks Again Holly

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi @drivershirl

    So glad to hear that this video resonated with you and was in alignment with your experience. It can really help to be reminded that we are not alone (and that goes for me, as well!).

    Thanks so much for sharing. So glad you are a part of our community.

  • looking4OPH
    1 year ago

    Good topic. When expressing pain to healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, specialists), it is key to try and be on a similar page. When a doctor hears that you have daily 11 level migraines or are currently at a 12 on an understood 1-10 scale, it comes across as exaggeration and complaining. There certainly are those migraines that consume you with pain, but communicating consistent descriptions can avoid introducing the bias that your own pain doesn’t even fit into the scale.

    There are many pain scale descriptions hanging on doctor’s office walls and strewn throughout the internet. Looking at many of these, I have found this one to be pretty effective at providing specific symptoms, experiences, and pitfalls. It gets patient and doctor on the same page, so that they can move on to solutions.

    https://i.pinimg.com/736x/a2/2e/6e/a22e6efa52b38aa94655d9344f76f0b2–chronic-migraines-rheumatoid-arthritis-fatigue.jpg

  • FayP
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for the link. Love the pain scale. Will print it out and put it in my purse so it’s always there when needed.
    Fay

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @looking4oph– thanks for trying to find it and again, for the share! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @looking4oph– this is a TERRIFIC resource! Thank you so much for sharing this with our community. There are so many different pain scales that are used it can be difficult to get on the same page in discussing how we’re feeling. I went to a headache clinic (the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute) for a three week in-hospital stay and they use a pain scale only from 1-5 because they found it was too difficult to have patients define their discomfort on a scale going all the way to 10. Even with 5, it is difficult with no real definitions as the scale you offered provides. I’m going to save this for future reference. Thanks again! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • looking4OPH
    1 year ago

    Don’t remember where I originally found it (and it isn’t available at the ProHealth website anymore). It resonated with me, so I stashed it away and share it when this sensitive topic comes up.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @looking4oph – may I ask where you found this resource?

  • FayP
    1 year ago

    I have no secret for this. I find this to be a big problem. I am 65 years old and have had migraines since I was 19 and have not found anyone to be empathic except for others with migraine. My husband of 37 years is kind and patient, but even he has times when he is quite irritated with this problem. It is to the point that I just want to be ignored. I don’t have the energy to help people to understand or care. I now have a wonderful neurologist and for the past 5 years have had hope for the first time for relief. Topamax has curtailed the migraines a lot, but at a cost of intellect. But I have gladly given that up at this stage of the game. I have tried to explain to others that I hate to complain, but it still sounds to me like complaining. I am also fighting my second cancer and have a few other things wrong. Those things sound like complaining too. I can still laugh and have a good day when my body lets me. My response now to how are you is “I’m alive.”

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @fayp– Another sage piece of advice you just offered. When our eyes are watering from the relentless pain, it does NOT hurt to put ourselves in the shoes of others and remember they might be struggling in an invisible way too. Your last sentence is one I say to myself all the time. So glad to have connected with you. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @fayp– Thank you so much for your joining the conversation. I actually think you absolutely DO have something to add to this important question. Your guidance, which includes a healthy amount of perspective- wherein you answer with such the perfect response of “I’m alive” is so worthy to pass along to the rest of us. It sounds like many years with migraine, as well as multiple battles with cancer (about which I’m so sorry to hear) has provided you with wisdom and a good dose of not getting too worked up about what others think. I understand all too well the very real challenges related to taking Topamax and how it can rob us of our ability to be articulate. Glad you have a great neurologist- that can make all the difference. Also glad you are a part of our community- while not many in your ‘real life’ understand your migraines, there are thousands here who do. Please stay in touch- warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • FayP
    1 year ago

    Thanks for the encouragement. But it sure doesn’t feel like wisdom, feels like survival. When I get too involved in my woes, I try to bring myself back to reality and imagine what the person next to me might be struggling with that doesn’t show on the surface. There but for the grace of God, go I.

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