7 Things You Shouldn't Say To Migraine Sufferers

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Have you ever been in a situation where you’re trying to show sympathy and empathize with someone's situation but just can’t seem to find the right words? That you're worried you might say something offensive or insensitive unknowingly? 

Everyone has that friend or relative who means well, but despite their good intentions, always seem to blurt out some "teeth-gritting" comments.  A simple association could be that the person lacks knowledge in what was conveyed. Without experiencing something firsthand, it can be difficult to truly understand the complications and frustrations another has gone through. The situation could be exacerbated further based on familiarity, where often he or she could be in an uncomfortable position and may not want to lay out all the details of their personal health problems.

With that, this is a short message to you, a friend, 

colleague, or acquaintance, of someone who suffers from migraines. 

We decided to get opinions about what comments frustrate migraineurs the most, and who better to ask than the people who experience these comments first hand? Taking to the Migraine Buddy users of our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram community, this is what they told us: 

1. "I get headaches too"/ "Yesterday I got a headache too"

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This comment by far is what gets most migraineurs riled up. Almost everyone has gotten a headache at least once in their lifetime, but the typical tension-type headaches are incomparable to what chronic migraineurs experience. Migraines often come with extremely severe head pain which can extend to the face and neck and last over a span of a few days. Not to forget experiencing aura and all the other migraine symptoms which include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light/smells/sounds and countless more. 

Lest we bore you with all the facts, read here to find out the difference between migraines and headaches! Keeping yourself educated is the first step to getting out of awkward and potentially offensive situations 👍 

2. "Go exercise and get some fresh air"

While it is advisable for everyone to get sufficient exercise and exposure to the sun, in the middle of an attack, any form of physical exercise could bring about greater pain. 'Exercise' is also common under the list of triggers for migraine attacks.

We get many comments from users saying that when they experience an attack, all they'd want to do is lie in bed with the curtains drawn, with an ice pack on their head. Especially if someone experiences sensitivity to light, smell or sound, going out could be more of a torture than staying in. This does not mean you should never ask a migraineur out for a walk or any form of light exercise. It would just, however, be more advisable to do that on one of the migraine sufferer's good days 🙏

 

3. "I wish I could stay at home every day like you"

Trust me, any migraineur would gladly swap places with you if they could. Migraines not only takes a physical toll on a sufferer's body but also greatly affects their social life. Not being able to attend a simple dinner or family outing because they are experiencing an attack is not a fun time at all. They miss spending time with loved ones, working, and just experiencing many joys in life in general.

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"Many people can’t imagine the extent of an attack. There are weekends where I couldn’t join any activities of my friends. I learned to surround myself just with people who understand my disease and respect it without any conditions. And I think this is what counts in a friendship. Therefore it’s really important to be very open minded and communicate if you don’t feel well and then you get the feedback you deserve" - J

"I suffer from chronic migraines and i have missed out on so many fun things. I’ve had a non-stop migraine for two weeks now that I can’t get rid of. I have been using Zomig, but hasn’t be lasting 24 hours for me. I’m currently on Topamax 50mg and hoping to start Botox in the next few weeks just waiting for insurance to approve it. I’m just getting so frustrated with the pain and how long the migraines have been lasting." - S

 

4. "Have you tried ______?"

Living with chronic migraines is exhausting. It could mean having almost back to back migraines, endless doctor visits, and trying every relief method and medication available to date. It usually takes many tries and constantly being disappointed by countless failed attempts of relief before they find something which actually works out well for them. Not forgetting the myriad of side effects!

Therefore, while migraineurs appreciate your efforts and still want to feel loved, the chances that you've stumbled on something which they have yet to hear about is extremely rare. You could be just reminding them of the possible failure they went through.

However, if you truly are thinking of your loved one's welfare, there's no harm in suggesting a new treatment/relief method. It's just best to approach this one with sincerity and caution.

"It is already hard enough to survive during a migraine. All the solutions make me want to flip desks. I am on day 6 of a migraine episode. I've tried the stuff. It is exhausting constantly hunting for a trigger to it, sometimes they just happen!" - Tori 

"I dislike it when everybody tries to prescribe me medicine; make diagnoses as to what your sickness really is - suggesting to try a medication a procedure but worst they don’t really understand what migraine is - B"

5. "It can't be that bad"

Here is how a few Migraine Buddy users described their migraines. We'd let you decide if it's really "that bad" or not.

"Elephants wearing spikes performing the Riverdance inside my skull"

"Taking a sledgehammer and crashing it to the side of my head"

"Likes some force wants to have fun by driving a sword through my body. It lets me breathe for 3 seconds between each strike. Then when it gets bored, it throws me into a trippy world where size and distance are everhanging and far while turning my head into a blender."

"Without meds it's like your head is splitting in two, a knife stabbing you in the eye while the roomis spinning, light and sound is so painful you want to cry. At times you feel like drilling a hole in your head really might make it feel better. 

"I'd want to visit the Queen of Hearts so she'd chop off my head"

"It feels like Thor is having a party with his hammer in my head"

If you're still unclear, this image down below should give you a better understanding.

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Chronic migraine has resulted in suicides each year. Before you're so quick to judge or belittle someone's pain, try to put yourself in their shoes. Trying to offer your help to make them feel better would undoubtedly be a better alternative. Acknowledge their struggles and remind them you care.

6. "Again?"

People who've actually experienced it would as a user mentioned: "not even wish migraines on their worst enemies." No migraineur would ever wish to experience a migraine for the sake of skipping class/work or to skip a gathering. The next time someone who suffers from migraines cancels on your plans or tells you they are in excruciating pain, take their word for it.

7. "You look fine"

"Be kind to everyone you come across, for they may be fighting an internal battle only they know of"

Migraines are not only physically crippling, but as a highly stigmatized illness that is invisible, it comes with countless frustrations. Unless you are extremely observant and know what to look out for, migraineurs may just look like someone who's had a very long day. Truthfully speaking, people who suffer from migraines all deserve an award for looking so "normal" despite the excruciating pain that they might be going through.

"I hate when people do this!! Just because I’m up and walking around, doesn’t mean that I’m ok. There are times where I have to deal with the pain, otherwise things just don’t get done."

Instead of negating the authenticity of someone's illness, it would be better to ask how they feel instead of judging based on their outer appearance. Even a simple "Are you feeling well?" or "How are you doing?" would suffice.

Before saying anything, pause for a second and think. Would the person hearing this feel offended?

To the Fighters Who Battle Migraines Daily:

Remember that some people say these words too because they genuinely care. Most of the time people don't understand how their words hurt so it is our duty to educate them. Sometimes, all it takes is looking at things from a different perspective. Turning all your negative thoughts into positive ones like how Lynette has done will assuredly bring about a happier and more care-free life. Remember that some people say these words too because they genuinely care. Most of the time people don’t understand how their words hurt so it is our duty to educate them. Sometimes, all it takes is looking at things from a different perspective. Turning al your negative thoughts into postive ones like how Lymette has done will assuredly bring about a happier and ore care-free life.  My mom’s first question 

"My mom's first question is always have you tried all your tricks? And it doesn't upset me, because she knows I have a long list of things I do when they start. This is my cue to double check my list. Have I eaten, had enough water, used my oils, had medicine, caffeine, and the other little things that sometime help ease my pain. People aren't always asking out of stupidity or to be annoying. Their questions a majority of the time come from a place of caring and love, wanting to help, wanting to ease our pain. They don't understand because they haven't had this pain. I get all sorts of tips and ideas posted to my fb and pm'd to me. Because people care. Why should that make me mad? When I'm stuck in my bed for days feeling so alone and I see those, it reminds me that people haven't forgotten.. they may be crazy ideas, but the person posting it was thinking of me." - Lynnette Rogers

From all of us at the Migraine Buddy team, we wish everyone a migraine-free day ahead of you 💜

Healint Singapore