How friends and family can be more supportive of someone in pain

When you have a family or friends that live with pain, you want to be supportive and do your best to try and understand what they are going through because the truth is they need your support! If you don’t live with pain it can be difficult to see where they are coming from so you can give them the support they need. When you don’t live with pain, you can’t fully understand the frustrations of living the chronic pain and no one is asking you too but what we do ask to do your best to try to understand. Sometimes that can be difficult because you may be thinking you are giving excellent support but really are not! If you know someone who has chronic pain here are some ways you can show them you care even if you can’t fully understand their pain.

Stop calling it headaches!- One of the first things migraineurs notice when you are talking about our migraines is when you say “oh it’s just a headache”. Yes, migraines are a type of headache but they are much more severe than your average headache and when you say it’s just a headache it sounds as if you are downplaying our pain and can come off as very insensitive. Yes, I do experience headaches but in my experience, I have more migraines than I do headaches so call it for what it is! When you have a migraine you won’t necessarily have just head pain but you will also experience things like getting emotional, weird cravings and sensitivity to light and you will not experience those things with just a headache. Migraines can have a wide range of symptoms and are different for everyone so do your best to learn the signs and stop calling migraines headaches because they are so much more than that!

Leave me alone when I am having an attack- After a migraine strikes it’s game over because there isn’t much you can do so the ultimate goal is to prevent it. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and sometimes you will be doing everything right and migraines will still strike! If I have my lights off by eight p.m. then I probably am either having a migraine or didn’t sleep well the night before and the best way you can help is to not keep walking in out of my room just cause you can. Migraines make you extremely sensitive to light so if you must walk in my room when I am having an attack do your best to not turn on all the lights you can find! You will only make my pain worse that way so if you can turn on as little lights as possible or leave me alone until the migraine passes.

Don’t try and cure me– If you know someone who lives with pain one of the worst things you can do is start the sentence with “have you tried”?. Whatever you are about to tell me I can guarantee you I have either tried it, heard of it, or am currently doing it so this advice is not helpful. People in pain just want your love and support they don’t want all your magical cures because unless you are our doctor chances are you are not going to tell us something we haven’t heard of.

Be understanding when they cancel-  About a month ago Karly and I made plans to hang out but unfortunately the day we had plans I had a high pain day and could barely function so I had to cancel! Karly has been incredibly in being a supportive friend when I have high pain despite the many sacrifices we have had to make in order to keep my pain low. Pain is unpredictable and one of the best ways you can show your support to someone who lives with pain to not judge them when they cancel their plans with you. We don’t cancel because we don’t want to hang out with you(we wouldn’t make plans if that was the case) but because pain is unpredictable and even though we had tolerable pain one day it doesn’t mean it will be tolerable the next.  We hate canceling plans just as much as you do if not more but are lives have to revolve around pain and even though we can do something that doesn’t mean we should.

Don’t just volunteer us for social events- When you have chronic pain getting out in the community and being as social as possible is incredibly important but when pain is high it is hard! You don’t really want to talk to anybody but volunteering somebody who has chronic pain to a bunch of social events when you don’t know how they are really feeling is not helpful. We are in pain not bored and don’t appreciate you volunteering us to all these events without asking first. I understand you mean well and just want us to have fun but pushing our boundaries by volunteering us for a bunch of social events we aren’t ready for could cause a pain flare and we will not appreciate it but will not be irritated.

When you live with chronic pain you are constantly frustrating with your pain and that is why the support of family and friends is so important! When you live with chronic pain you are always trying to find something that can distract you from your pain but that does not always mean you can leave your house. Sometimes doing too much can cause a pain flare and no one with chronic pain wants that! I have an incredible support system but not everyone has that and if that is you then my advice would be get plugged into online support groups! They are incredible for helping you find someone who has a similar condition as you so you can learn from them new ways of how you can treat your pain. People that don’t live in pain will do their best to try to help but the people that have pain will give you ideas that people that don’t live in pain would not have thought of. Do you have supportive family and friends? How do you think friends and family can be more supportive?

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