There are so many dimensions to a migraine episode. There is the physical pain itself, of course. But there are other factors, like the feeling of isolation and misunderstanding, which can greatly contribute to our misery. That misery is only compounded if you feel like those closest to you, like your partner, doesn’t understand how to help you. This can build up a lot of unnecessary resentment, so let’s try to cover some ways you can best communicate what you need with your partner.
1. Timing is everything. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of an episode to ask for help. If you’re in agony, there is no way you’re going to be the best communicator you can be. Instead, on a good day, sit your partner down and discuss with him or her what kind of support you need on your toughest days.
2. Actually, tell them what you need. This might be overly obvious, but as pain warriors, we might tend to keep things to ourselves and suffer in isolation. Yet simultaneously, we wonder why our partner isn’t capable of helping us. The reason is: they’re not mind readers! We have to tell them exactly what we need with SPECIFICS. For example, “I need Imitrex, which I keep in the bottom drawer of the bathroom,” or “I need to wrap an ice pack around my head filled with crushed ice.” Or sometimes the best thing they can do is just lying next to you so you’re not alone. Whatever it is that you need, tell your partner so they can proactively help and not pester you with questions when you start going down the migraine rabbit hole.
3. Delegate your obligations. One of the most stressful things about migraines is not being able to do our everyday obligations, from our job and schoolwork to our everyday chores like cooking and taking care of the kids. Have a system in place with your partner to have him/her take over any obligation that can be easily delegated. For example, if you normally shop for your family, ask if your partner can do his for you instead. Or have a list of go-to takeout places so you know the family won’t go hungry.
4. When better, show gratitude. Once the episode has passed, it’s important to take some time to show your appreciation for your partner’s support. Of course, part of being in a relationship is that we take care of one another when we’re not feeling well. But a show of appreciation really goes a long way. Remember, in addition to taking care of you while you were sick, they likely did more around the house, which likely made their lives more stressful. Once you’re up for it, do something nice for your partner like doing a chore of theirs, cooking their favorite treat or giving them a spontaneous hug. Taking time and effort to show how much you appreciate their support will really help internalize how much it means to you.
What are the nicest things your partner has done for you in the middle of a migraine episode? And what tips do you have for effectively communicating with your partner? I’d love to hear your advice!