12 Things Not To Say To Someone With Chronic Migraines
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Health and Wellness

12 Things Not To Say To Someone With Chronic Migraines

Yes. I've tried yoga...

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12 Things Not To Say To Someone With Chronic Migraines
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A while back I wrote an article titled "Why I'm Grateful for Unsolicited Advice About My Migraines." But today, I want to address the other side of the coin. I amgrateful to have people who care enough about me to offer their advice regarding my condition. However, sometimes the advice I'm given makes me want to scream. Some of these may be more specific to migraine/fibromyalgia since those are the two main "pain" conditions I deal with. (I have a chronic migraine, occipital migraine, fibromyalgia, and PSVT), but if you know someone with any chronic illness, you may find that you've said some of these (and now that you know better, please stop). So without further ado, here are 12 things NOT to say to someone with chronic illness.

1. "Have you tried _____?"

Acupuncture, essential oils, apple cider vinegar - we've heard it all. While I genuinely wish my illnesses could be cured by drinking some magic potion or dabbing lavender on my temples, they can't. Now, there are exceptions to this one. If you suffer from one of the same illnesses as me and you've tried some new treatment that really works for you, let me know! Just understand that each case of even the same illness is different, and what works for you, may not work for me. If you don't suffer from chronic illness but just read a promising medical journal article regarding a treatment/therapy for my illness, tell me, but approach with caution. Oh, and there is an extra special place in hell for you if you tell me to do yoga...


2. "You're probably just dehydrated."

I could literally drink water until my bladder explodes and it would change nothing. I drink more water each day than a professional athlete I order to try and prevent flare-ups, and it only works about 20% of the time. Please stop telling me to drink water.


3. "Oh you're just anxious, take a Xanax."

This one was said to me by a doctor! I had to fight tooth and nail just to see a cardiologist and when I did, it was discovered that my resting heart rate was 185bpm (which is about 100bmp too fast). So no, a Xanax isn't gonna cut it. And yes, many chronic illness patients suffer from anxiety/depression - as a result of their very physical illness. You try spending every day of your life in pain and not getting depressed.


4. "You don't look sick!"

What am I supposed to look like? I've had this illness for most of my life. That means I've gotten pretty adept at masking my symptoms and pretending that nothing is wrong. I have performed an entire musicalwith a raging migraine and went directly to the hospital afterwards (hey, the show must go on, right?). So no, I don't come to class every day looking like I've been through a natural disaster, nevertheless, I am indeed sick. So please don't dismiss my daily struggle.


5. "Oh my god, how many pills do you take?!"

A freaking lot. Okay? It's honestly awkward enough when I have to take medicine in public. I feel like all eyes are glued to me as I try to discreetly get the pills I need out of the emergency bottle I carry around that has like - 72 different pills in it (and yes, I use them all). I get people all the time saying "Oh sweetie, all of those pills can't be good for you. They have side effects you know!" Please stop. Do you know how many doctors I see? Do you know how many times I have to recite my list of medications and their dosages? Do you know how many times I've read all the side effects? Liver failure, kidney failure, heart failure, death. And yet, my body will not function without them. I'm not a junkie, I'm sick.


6. "But you were fine this morning!"

Unfortunately, chronic pain is extremely unpredictable. I can wake up in absolutely no pain, feeling great, and by noon am completely incapacitated. Please don't make me feel any guiltier than I already do for canceling my plans with you. Also, I may not have been fine this morning, I may have been faking.


7. "I know how you feel, I get headaches too!"

Ha hA HA SHUT UP! First off, you don't know how I feel. I am 20 years old and I feel like my entire body is falling apart. Secondly, migraine is not a headache! Migraines are a certified neurological disorder. Yes, the (general) main symptom is head pain (pain that would send you to your knees, by the way), but there are a whole host of other symptoms - nausea, vomiting, photophobia, vertigo, fainting, the list goes on - that accompany the pain. Your headache feels like "Wow, my head hurts." then you grab some Tyelnol and you're on your way. My "headache" feels like *wakes up at 3 a.m. feeling like my head was just run over by a train (no, I'm not exaggerating), stumbles out of bed and down the hall to my medicine case, pops a Zofran for nausea and an Imitrex or Fiorecet for pain, stumbles back to bed and tries not to cry because that WILL make my migraine worse.* As a general rule of thumb, if your head pain goes away with OTC medicine, please do NOT compare it to mine.


8. "You just spend too much time in bed. You would feel better if you got up and exercised!"

Hi. I'm twenty years old. I don't want to spend my entire life laying in bed! I want to be out, making memories! So if I'm laying in bed because my whole body is weak from the constant pain and you tell me to get up and go for a run, well, just look at Stephen Colbert up there to see what my reaction will be...


9. "Aren't you making kind of a big deal about this?"

Gee you're right. I'm so sorry my plethora of debilitating conditions is raining on your parade. Generally, when people ask me how I am, even if I'm sick as all get out, I'll smile and tell you I'm fine. So if I open up to you about how I'm really feeling, and you respond with this, you're truly a jerk.


10. "Don't worry, it'll get better!"

Listen, I have managed to (somewhat) come to terms with the fact that my multiple illnesses will in fact not get better. It sucks, but it's the reality of my life. However, when you say this, it brings all of that hurt and sadness to the surface. I know you mean well, but please just don't say this one.


11. "I wish I could stay home all day!"

Listen, if you'd like to switch places with me and sit at home, immobile, in a dark room, begging God to take you now - be my guest. I would happily take your 18 credit hours, your tests, and your term papers. Healthy people take so much for granted. I had to take almost two years off of school not knowing whether or not I'd be able to return. So if I'm home sick, I'm damn sick.


12. "At least it's not cancer!"

Why does everyone feel the need to say this? Cancer is a terrible disease, don't get me wrong. But all I think when you say this is that, cancer has a chance of a cure, of remission. Chronic, invisible illnesses don't. I don't. I will live like this forever. No, I don't have to go through chemo, but that doesn't make my illnesses insignificant. It's incredibly condescending to say this, so just don't.

The goal of this article is not to become outraged at well-meaning friends and loved ones. It is to educate everyone on the life of a person who suffers from chronic illness. I sincerely hope this helps at least one person to relate to someone with chronic illness. And to my fellow sufferers, I hope you have a low-pain day headed your way!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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