If you’re reading this, chance are you have had this feeling before. That feeling that no one really understands how awful it can be to suffer from headache after headache. You may find yourself asking, why do the people in my life not get it? Why does no one seem to understand the toll that chronic tension headaches are taking on my life? You have probably also found yourself wondering what to do in those frustrating situations when someone just doesn’t get the reality of your pain.
Here are some simple ways to talk to people about your pain and start to overcome the frustration of people not understanding your headaches.
#1: Break through the invisibility
Living with the pain of chronic tension headaches is something you struggle with regularly. For those around you, your pain may be invisible. This doesn’t mean that YOU have to be invisible. Most people fail to understand the severity and complexity of chronic tension headaches. They might compare your experience with their own headaches. In many cases, the people in your life fail to see your headache pain.
To break the cycle of an invisible health issue, you have to help people see you. When opportunities arise, politely educate them on what tension headaches are and the impact on your life. Hopefully, this will help to shine a light on your headaches and help you be seen.
#2: Be your own advocate
Because most people don’t get what chronic tension headaches are, educating those around you about your experience can be enlightening. While you are well versed in your chronic headaches, a lot of people have no idea that there is more than one kind of a headache and how bad some of them can be. Advocate for yourself and find ways to share information about the nature of your headaches.
This doesn’t mean giving a long explanation. Instead, think about the most important things you would like people to know about your headaches and share those. As people start to see that your headaches are the reason you are sometimes not completely yourself, they might start to better understand. Be your own advocate.
#3: Ask for help
As simple as it is, this can be a real challenge for many people. All too often we don’t want our chronic headaches to stand in the way of our relationships, so we suffer in silence. Maybe we live with the hope that people will offer their help, but you hesitate in asking.
However, sometimes the simplest way to help people understand the pain is by asking them for help. In order to improve communication with those around you be as specific as possible as you can when asking for their help. Little things like, “could you pick up the kids from practice,” “could you grab dinner on your way home” or even “could you come to keep me company,” can be the difference between frustration and understanding. The reason the people in your life may seem like they just don’t get it is because they don’t know how to help. So, often the best way to break down the wall is to ask for help.
#4: Stop wearing a mask
Nobody wants to be a downer. We don’t want to be someone that people feel sorry for. This leads to the cycle of putting on a brave face and gutting through pain and fatigue. The problem is when chronic tension headache sufferers do their best to put on that brave face it has a price. Maybe this makes you slightly more irritable, angry or stressed than normal. When you try to accomplish your job or tasks at home you are probably not able to perform the way you wish you could if you were living headache free.
Your friends, family, and co-workers might take this personal and misunderstood your mood. They might mistake pain for anger or a problem in your relationship. When you stop putting on that mask and let people see the real you, you might find that they have a whole new appreciation of your experience.
#5: Try not to personalize
Every person living with chronic tension headaches has probably heard their share of irritating comments. Things like “stop stressing so much” or “just take a vacation” can feel downright offensive. The reality is that people often make these comments because they don’t know what else to say. They may be coming from a place of concern, but come across as judgment.
Although it isn’t always easy, try to remember when people who truly care about you say things that offend you, chances are they meant it as a statement of hope. Try not to take these comments as a personal affront and take a moment to revisit #2 and remind them that chronic tension headaches are more than a matter of taking a vacation.
These are 5 simple things you can do to help the people in your life understand what you are going through. Everyone from your spouse to your boss might seem like they just don’t get it. This can be frustrating! Take a little time and think about how you can implement these changes in your own life. Hopefully, this will lead to better relationships and people around you who get it.