I’m complicated. I enjoy companionship and solitude. I appreciate the freedom of choice and the comforting structure of rules and routines. I’m honored to be approached by friends and family in need of a favor, but I hate asking for help in return.
I’m not sure if my motivation for shying away from help when it comes to migraine is more about not wanting to be a bother or about the nature of migraine relief. Being alone in a quiet, dark room relaxes my breathing and eases the waves of pain and nausea.
It’s hard to think about asking for support from others when my body craves peace and quiet during an episode. Where I really need the support of friends and family is in migraine prevention, but it’s difficult to educate people about an invisible illness.
The fear of rejection is at the forefront of my thoughts any time I even think about asking someone to help me avoid exposure to one of my triggers. Thanks to many misconceptions surrounding migraine illness, it’s hard to know when someone is going to be sympathetic to my situation or roll their eyes at me.
Asking a co-worker to tone down the perfume or refrain from using scented candles is often countered with a defensive attitude. I assure you my triggers are not the result of my choice.
If I ask a cigarette smoker to move away from a window or door to keep the migraine-inducing secondhand smoke from entering the room, my intent isn’t to infringe on your rights. I’m standing up for my own right to good health and trying not to miss out on enjoying life with you.
Even something as simple as going to dinner with friends can present a dilemma for me. Changes in eating patterns are my first known trigger. Lunch must be before 1 p.m. and dinner must be before 7 p.m., or I risk consequences.
For many years through many friendships, I tried to explain that eating late is risky for me. Eventually, I’d give up and eat a light meal at home before meeting at a restaurant for lunch or dinner with friends.
It took many years, but I finally found a few people who get it. I agree to eat at any restaurant their more selective tastebuds require, and they agree to eat at a time that keeps me away from my migraine medicine drawer.
The simplest gesture can restore faith and lighten the load of a burden too often carried alone. Asking for help is hard to do, but the risk is worth the reward. Mutual respect and support will lead you to the best of friends.
At my core, I’m a problem solver. Figuring out a way to deal with migraine management on my own is often the easier route to go. I find strength in owning my responsibilities and for many years I believed migraine illness was my cross to bear. Alone.
I’m not sure when or why my perception tilted. Maybe it was the product of maturity. Decades of life’s experiences can bring clarity to the cost of isolation and the value of connection.
It could be because I’m less fearful of rejection than I used to be or perhaps it’s the result of experiencing a simple act of friendship. An act of understanding at the exact time I needed to be understood.
It takes courage to ask for help and compassion to extend a helping hand without judgment. Much like me, life is complicated. We could all use a little help from time to time.
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