So, I had Botox almost 2 weeks ago, and my headache pattern hasn’t changed yet. But, I’m keeping a headache diary because it can take a while for the meds to take effect. I’m waiting . . . .
In the meantime, I came across this article. A few years ago, I wrote a blog post very much like it – and now I regret it. I totally understand where the author is coming from. After a couple of years of chronic migraine, it gets pretty emotionally wearing to hear the same advice over and over, especially when it is almost never helpful and from people who don’t “get” it. I have been so frustrated by the lack of progress on headache treatment that I’ve just given up and stuck with treating the migraines as they came. I’ve heard the recommendations from people who were sure that this or that treatment would definitely help me – and smiled while I told them that I’d already been through that treatment or thought about the last 4000 treatments that didn’t help.
What I’m learning, though, is that people who say things that are ultimately unhelpful are generally more uncomfortable than I am talking about my chronic illness. They may not know what to say, so they try to bridge the gap between us by sharing some kind of information or advice. Let’s face it, what do you say to someone in a social situation when you hear that they’re sick or in pain every day? “Oh, how nice.” or “Lovely.” You’re stuck in that situation as much as the person who has the illness. It’s awkward all the way around.
So, what can you do when you find that someone has a chronic illness (of any sort, not just migraine)? Resist the temptation to try to give advice, recommend treatments or physicians, or tell stories about friends or family members with the illness to a casual acquaintance. If you are just meeting the person or don’t know them well, the best thing you can do is offer sympathy. Just say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Asking questions is also a good thing. If you are a closer friend or family member, sending new information that you come across about their illness is more acceptable, but don’t take offense if they don’t jump right on it. They may have tried it, may have investigated it or discussed with their doctor and decided against it for some reason, or may just not be in a place to try new treatments.
As the person with the chronic illness, though, I need to be aware that people are trying to be helpful. And that’s not always easy. Pain makes me (and, I imagine, most other people) downright crabby. It’s hard for me to be social when I feel rotten. And I feel guilty about missing kids’ activities when I have a headache. When you put all that emotion into the cauldron of one person, what comes out isn’t always pretty. There are times when my motto just becomes “Smile and wave, boys; smile and wave!” (Bonus points if you can name the movie where the quote is from!)
The most important thing for all of us, those with chronic illness and those who are our friends and family, is to love. Loving each other is the best remedy against unhelpful words. When people I love say them, I forgive them because that’s what love does. When I’m talking to someone I love, hopefully, I speak words of love and hope. Of course, we’re all going to say stupid things to each other at times, but “love covers over a multitude of sins” (James 4:8) – thankfully!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13)
Jesus was the greatest picture of love the world has seen. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) So here’s praying we can love each other with our words.