How to Explain Your Migraines to Family Members Who Don’t Exactly Get It
For example, you might ask what they think migraine is and what they think happens during a migraine attack, says Dr. Pace. “A patient could then explain to the family member how they experience their migraine attacks, what symptoms are most bothersome to them, and how their attacks may affect their daily routine or tasks,” she says.
3. Focus on the symptoms that affect you the most.
There are lots of ways that loved ones can support you during a migraine, but the best approach will be unique to your individual situation. Before you go into a conversation, take some time to think about what would be helpful based on the symptoms that bother you the most, Dr. Pace says.
Every person’s constellation of migraine symptoms is specific to them, so once your loved ones’ questions are addressed, continue the conversation by talking through what symptoms you know are the most debilitating and asking your family about how they might be able to help with those pain points.
For example, if your migraine attacks cause nausea, having someone grocery shop, prepare food, or even just make sure you’re staying hydrated can be a godsend. If you know you usually experience light and sound sensitivity, family members can be at the ready to adjust the TV or lamps. You might ask them to step in for various errands, help with childcare, or pick your kids up from daycare or other activities, Dr. Pace says: “Some people may have visual changes during a migraine attack, so they may not be able to drive or commute.”
4. Offer to bring them to one of your doctor appointments.
A health care provider can back you up to help your family understand exactly what you’re going through—whether that means validating how intense symptoms can be during a migraine episode, or reinforcing how important preventive measures are in staving off attacks.
Doctors can also guide you through integrating your family action plan, medical treatments, and preventative techniques, Dr. Moskatel says. For example, in addition to learning about how to prepare your rescue medication, family members can support lifestyle habits that can help keep your migraine attacks at bay, like keeping a consistent sleep schedule, not skipping meals, and getting regular exercise, he explains.
5. Get clever about talking to kids.
It can be harder for children to understand the nuances of migraine—and they’re not always great about giving parents a break. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve them though! Dr. Klenofsky suggests using playtime and storytelling through dolls to help explain migraine to young children. “It’s important to [reassure] children that you are not unhealthy, and they do not have to be scared,” she explains. You can emphasize that you don’t want to miss out on playtime or school pickup, but that migraine can sometimes limit your activity—and that someone else who loves them will always be there if you can’t be.
Dr. Moskatel has migraine himself, and he often tells his son if he needs to rest. He also tries to come up with solutions that work for both of them. “When possible, I give him the option to keep me company with quiet activities that don’t need a lot of light or sound so we can still spend time together,” he says.