Friday, January 21, 2011

Oh The Things They Say

People are well meaning most of the time but the truth is most don't know how to best deal with someone who suffers from chronic pain. Honestly, who can blame them. I don't know that I would know what to say either. The impact it has on one's life is hard to even imagine for someone who hasn't experienced it themselves, many of us probably felt that way before pain became such a big part of our daily lives.

Inevitably people say things to us that are annoying, frustrating, dumb and even piss us off. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say, "have you tried..."fill in whatever common migraine treatment that is discussed on some 4 minute segment of a morning talk show. As if it never occured to me to see a doctor or do some online research, or try any of the known treatment options available. Come on, after 5 years of this it is safe to say that anything a well person knows about migraines is something I already know. Sometimes the "have you tried..." is a little more off the wall like "have you tried eliminating red dye #5 from your diet? I once knew someone who was allergic to red dye #5 and when she stopped taking it she felt better." or "have you tried moving? You might just be reacting to something in your home."

I do know all these people are well meaning and just want to help. But I am not seeking suggestions from healthy people who are not doctors. I love to hear about and from other people like me or from medical professionals who deal with people like me. Suggestions from them are always welcome. But there is such a big difference between the tons of people in this world who suffer from migraines and people like me who have migraines more days then not. It is not the same thing, it just isn't. I think what bothers me so much about these statements is that I feel blamed when people say them to me. I feel like they are saying, well if you only put a little bit of effort into treating this, or figuring out what's going on then you could feel much better. If only I had watched that short segment on the 11 o'clock news or on the doctors that's geared towards the common migraine sufferer then I would know how to handle this. Gosh, why didn't it occur to me?

Couple that annoyance with the dwindling patience that has developed after years of chronic pain and the weariness of dealing with it and you can see how this line of unsolicited suggestions really get under my skin. I try really hard not to react with frustration when this kind of thing is said. My migraine brain isn't witty on command so I never had a great response, which is probably for the best. After all the perpetrators are well meaning. Normally, I'll just thank them for their suggestion or explain that I have tried whatever and it didn't work, or, in the case of the strange suggestions, I will stear the conversation to the topic of their suggestion, glossing over the relevance to me entirely.


  1. Oh, people. It's sweet the way they want to help. It's like a toddler helping mommy bake, they really just make a mess, but it makes them feel good to be involved, so we endure it.

  2. I know the feeling. I also hate the "you look so good though" comments. It is annoying. Yes, I have an invisible illness and and disabled from it. Sometimes I just want to scream, so I know what you mean. I hope you are having a good day!

  3. I haven't decided which is worse. The people who tilt their heads ever-so-much and say "Oh, you look so tired" or the people who say "You don't LOOK sick!"


  4. I just wanted to laugh when someone suggested I tie an athletic sock around my head with the knot on my forehead. But you know what I tried even that!!! Plus my worst investment ever - HEAD ON - apply directly to the forehead. The neurologist laughed when I said "this is a measure of my despairation." I wasn't laughing back.

  5. Most of my friends have given up on the advice stuff. I had to make it clear that I prefer talking about anything else but ME when I feel well enough to spend time with others. I still get the "my friend, cousin, uncle...fill in the blank..did such and such and now they feel great" :) They mean well, but I just tune out nowadays.

  6. Oh come on now...just stop eating foods that are yellow! Didn't you know yellow dye causes migraines? Geez!

  7. Steph, you are so funny. I love your comparison :)

    Heather, yeah, like you have to look sick if you are. Most illness are unseen...

    Sue, that's a tough call - both suck to hear.

    Winny, I love it. I would bet we have all tried some pretty silly things outs desperation. I didn't use a sock but I've also tried wrapping my head.

    Kathleen, tuning out sounds like a good way to deal with it. I don't know why I feel the impulse to answer all the time.

    Jessica, Right?!? Man!

  8. Ok...out of pure I actually ordered a cervical traction device online today!!! I have seriously been considering wrapping a belt around my head and rigging up something until it comes in the mail!!!

    I KNOW it'll be a waste...but I am still compelled to try!

    I am barely holding it together long enough to type this!

  9. Love this post! I feel the same way. It does make it seem like they're blaming the person for not trying harder to get better.

  10. Hi! Just found your blog thru Chronic Babe. And just found Chronic Babe thru Somebody Heal Me!!!! I'm a chronic migraine and asthma sufferer for several years now and feel like I just found a sisterhood!!! I'm following your blog now and I'd love for you to come see me at
    Hugs! Laurie from Scene of the Grime

  11. Welcome Laurie! Somebody Heal Me is a great blog and Chronic Babe is fabulous too. I'm so glad you decided to join me here! I've already checked out your blog and am now following.

  12. My mantra is "if they did not care, they would not search." As a fellow migraneur and cluster headache sufferer, many are the offerings that are brought to me. Take them as they are, an offering from one soul to another as an act of healing. Just like the slurp of my golden's tongue on my ear--Nurse Ursa. It is all they know how to offer, accept it as a gift or at least as a connection between souls. We all know pain (some of us more deeply and intimately than others) and we all avoid it like the plague. LOL Peace and good health to all.