Coping, Friends & Family

Unhelpful Advice

On one of the headache forums I read, a member I’ll call Jane posted that a family member told her that Jane causes her migraines from the guilt she has about conflict in her life and fear. Receiving daft unsolicited advice is one of the side effects of illness that most doctors don’t warn you about.

Those who give advice, whether it is legit or absurd, are probably truly trying to help. It is hard to see someone suffer so much and not be able to fix the problem. Unfortunately, the advice often comes off as judgment, implying (or saying straight out) that we bring on our pain ourselves. How many with migraine haven’t wondered if this is in fact the case? We don’t need someone else to doubt us; we do that plenty on our own.

I rarely stand up for myself in situations like Jane’s. It just doesn’t seem worth the energy. But if my current outrage is any indication, I’m harboring much resentment about such advice. I need to speak up.

How will I tell misguided advisers thanks, but no thanks? There’s the polite: “Hmm, that’s an interesting idea.” Or the oh-so-nice and passive-aggressive approach: “Thanks for your concern, but I have a complex neurological disease that can’t be cured with platitudes.” I’m partial to: “Buzz off” (perhaps replacing “buzz” with a stronger word).

My response will depend on the person giving the advice and if I think it is offered out of kindness. How fed up I am that particular day will surely be a factor too.

3 thoughts on “Unhelpful Advice”

  1. Thanks for the blog and advice. I am the Husband of a Chronic migrane sufferer. Trust me you are not the only on this is hard on as we the caregivers have to deal with you. I have taken over the major resposibilities, financial, housework, caregiver, this has put a huge strain on me as I’m sure it has your husband. Frustration, because we are the healthy ones, and have no excuse except exhaustion for why we can’t do________ is what causes comments like “AGAIN” when you bring up that you have a migraine. We suffer because we love you and feel it is our duty as men to soldier on and do what’s right for our family. NEVER forget that without this person beside you your life would be INFINATELY HARDER. Do not take them for granted. Always temper your responses (because you have migraines and are easily angered). Also realize that your depression affects those around you, foremost your partner. On the days when you do not have a migraine take over for your partner and let them relax a little. Just realize it’s not all about you and your pain. Those who care about you/for you, have their own problems.

    Thanks for the comment. It’s always good to hear a caregiver’s perspective. They too often fall by the wayside.


  2. Sometimes my husband can be very sympathetic, but lately, with the increase in frequency and severity of my headaches, when I tell him I have one, he will roll his eyes and say “again”. It really doesn’t help for people who don’t get headaches to judge those of us who do, it just makes us feel worse. I have also had friends who have said that it is cause by too much daily stress.

    I have found headache forums very helpful for just this reason. People who are in the same position give great support! Here’s a list of some if you’re interested:


  3. WOW … unsolicited advice is always annoying (except that it is sometimes OK when prefaced with, “Is it OK if I give you some unsolicited advice?”), and I would imagine that annoyance factor is exponentially increased when one is in chronic pain. I personally love the idea of using a variation of the phrase, “Buzz off” when people try to insert some kind of blame onto you. I think you are right that they are trying to help, but you are so right that you do not need someone second-guessing you.

    Great blog! You have a wonderful writing style.

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