I’ve had headaches my entire life but they were not considered chronic until just two years ago (when they were daily and turned into migraines). That is when I started to experience the stigma related to headaches and migraines. Whether well-meaning or not, I’ve found some people’s comments about headaches/migraines to be hurtful, invalidating, ignorant, and just plain annoying. Here are some tips for family and friends (and even others with Chronic Pain) on how to communicate your concern appropriately with someone who has a migraine or headache disorder.
|Why didn’t these headaches bother you before?||Chances are that the headaches probably bothered the person before, but it’s likely that they just didn’t talk about them until they started to interfere significantly with their life.||“I’ve noticed that your headaches have seem to have gotten worse over time. If this is something you’d like to talk about I’m here to listen and I’d like to learn more.”|
|You have another headache?||This comment may come out of your own frustration and feelings of helplessness. Please be aware that the person that lives with chronic headaches and migraines is probably just as frustrated. People with headache disorders and migraines usually have a chronic condition that requires daily tools to use for maintenance and management of symptoms.||Use an “I” statement to share your feelings and reactions to the situation. For example, if this is the fifth time your friend cancels on you for coffee, you could say “I don’t understand what you’re going through. However I want to let you know you’re important to me and I do want to spend time with you. I also want you to take care of yourself and I understand that you’re doing the best that you can. Just let me know when you want to reschedule.”|
|Maybe you should try to do this or that, because I know that helped so-and-so with their headaches and migraines.||This can easily slip out. I know because I’ve actually done it to others with headache and migraine disorders and I actually have them myself! While certain treatments and approaches may work for one person, they may backfire and cause more damage for another. More than likely, the person dealing with the chronic head pain is working with their team of specialists to try and find some relief. Each person is on their our own journey and they will find the tools that work for them.||“I don’t know all of the things that you’ve tried for your pain management, but I’ve heard some things about some other treatment options. If you’re interested in discussing them just let me know.” End of conversation.|
|Maybe you just need to learn better ways to cope with stress.||I can guarantee that this statement will create a stress response and probably a headache too. Whether the person suffering from headaches and migraines needs some new stress management tools, telling them they can’t cope with stress is not going to help the situation.||Try asking if they’ve seen a pattern of certain stressful situations increasing their head pain. “What do you do currently to manage your stress?” “Would you be interested in trying XYZ (yoga, pilates, humor therapy) with me? I could always use some good stress relief!”|
Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope. Have you ever said anything like this to a person with a headache or migraine disorder? How was the comment received? Have you learned any other good ideas about how to communicate your concerns?