It’s a rare find: the friend who can handle all the idiosyncrasies that come with chronic migraine. The requests to find a quiet restaurant, to choose the chair that faces away from a bright window or light, to avoid certain foods, and to put up with endless last minute cancellations can challenge and confuse even the most patient and kind person. For the friend of a migraineur, becoming knowledgeable about the many triggers can feel like a job in itself, with sensitivity to light, sound, smells and foods lurking around every corner. However, the friend that can show understanding without judging these needs is key. So many people with migraine have felt severe judgement for this invisible condition that often gets downplayed as “just a headache.” “You don’t look sick” is an unintentional hurtful statement we’ve all heard before.
This condition has tested many of my long-time friendships and caused me to lose several shorter-term friends. The impact of migraines on those surrounding the sufferer is immeasurable: The worry, constant changing of plans, and sense of helplessness is both paralyzing and crazy-making.
The ability to receive chronic cancellations and not take them personally takes a confident person who truly believes and accepts the condition of daily migraine. The pain often causes the sufferer to retreat into into a dark quiet space until the storm has passed- and can make communication impossible for windows of time. By its very nature, migraine is isolating.
People new to me or the subject of chronic migraine are both eager to solve the challenge and confident they can. It’s a natural tendency to want to help someone feel better and to assume someone can get better. I have been asked many questions and offered seemingly endless ideas until it becomes clear to my new acquaintance that this is a mystery that can’t be solved and rather is a condition that needs to be accepted. Some are not comfortable with this arrangement. I can end up feeling judged for not trying hard enough to “get better” when truly after over 30 years of doing just that, I’ve learned that while I continue to look for solutions, my energies are better spent on my family and getting along in life rather than engaging in a battle that can’t ultimately be won.
So while it is clear that chronic migraine can wreak havoc on any relationship, it is equally clear that those who emerge as steadfast friends willing to brave the relentless and repeated storms are phenomenal examples of warmth and kindness, patience, nonjudgmental flexibility, and acceptance.
Here’s to the core group of friends and family who have weathered this storm right along with all of us. Your humor, patience, and love has meant the world in helping us face this challenge day after day.
Pic and quote from Judi.