Guilt: How Do Family & Friends Really Feel About Sick Loved Ones?

We feel guilty because our partners, parents, kids or friends take care of us when we’re sick. Not only that, they have to pick up the slack of the of chores, errands and responsibilities that we couldn’t take care of.

We feel guilty because we call in sick to work, cancel plans with friends, sleep too much, tell everyone around us to be quiet, have dust bunnies under our beds and in the corners and even in the middle of the dining room table.

We feel guilty because we don’t go to our kids’ soccer games, return phone calls, stop to chat with neighbors, enjoy the sunshine/snow/rain, take the dog for a walk, cook dinner.

I wrote that last September and was overwhelmed by the responses from people who also feel guilty for letting friends, families and coworkers down. Lots of us obsess about this, but have you ever asked them if they truly feel let down? I haven’t.

The teacher of my meditation class told stories of previous class members who were wracked with guilt and worried that their families and friends were disappointed in them. Actually asking the families and friends revealed an entirely different truth: They did not feel let down, but were sad to see their loved ones suffering. They all felt helpless and wished they could do more for the person with illness.

So the guilt is on both sides. If only we could figure out how to meet each other in the middle. Have you asked your loved ones what your illness is like for them? Let us know in a comment on this post or on the online support group and forum.

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Classic Post: Assessing How Much Your Headaches or Migraines Affect Your Quality of Life

See a doctor for headaches and you’ll likely be asked to take the MIDAS or HIT tests to assess how your migraines or headaches affect your quality of life. You may find your results even more helpful than your doctor does.

Assessing Your Quality of Life
The Daily Headache
May 6, 2006

Whether you have them every day or every three months, headaches definitely affect your quality of life. MIDAS and HIT are two questionnaires to assess the extent of the impact.

Before I recognized how seriously I was affected, a doctor gave me the MIDAS test. The highest score on the test, which indicates severe disability, is 21+. My score was above 100. Needless to say, the results floored me.

This was what it took to see just how bad my headaches were. In the ensuing months, and years, I would recite MIDAS every time I questioned the realness of my illness. Every time I blamed myself, I repeated my mantra. This made a huge difference in how I perceived and dealt with my headaches.

If you question how real your headaches are, these tests are invaluable. They can also help you assess your pain from one time period to the next.

In addition, you can show the results to people who are close to you, but don’t really accept what you’re going through. As they remember the last one to three months, the pieces may slowly fall into place.

Trip to Ikea Without a Meltdown or Migraine!

Fluorescent lights, new furniture smells, swarms of shoppers wandering without regard to others, groups enraptured by the store’s wonders and standing in the walkway, the inability to get through the store without walking the predefined path. The joys of Ikea. Despite these obstacles, I like the place.

It’s just that I have a meltdown nearly every time I shop at Ikea. The plethora of migraine triggers and my inability to regulate time or make decisions while I’m there add to the aforementioned obstacles.

I strategize before each Ikea excursion. I need:

  • To eat enough ahead of time to sustain me
  • Caffeine, but not too much
  • A large, full water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • To go when the store opens
  • Hart, to keep me on track (although this often backfires as he is mesmerized by the possibilities)

I usually don’t follow my guidelines. This was no exception. I’d eaten, but was hungry by the time I parked. I ordered three shots in my latte instead of the usual two. My large water bottle was dirty, so I had to settle for the 14 ouncer. The sunglasses spent more time on top of my head than on my face. I arrived an hour after the store opened. Hart was at work.

I kind of stuck with the plan and it seems to have worked. No shaking, fuming or tears. No migraine. I did however, buy more curtains than I have windows to cover. The kicker is that I ran an hour of errands afterward, drove the 30 minutes home and rested for another 30; then I wrote for two hours before picking Hart up.

The day after wasn’t even too bad. My head was bad in the morning, but no other symptoms were present. I met Hart for lunch and ran some errands. I felt icky and headachy in the afternoon, so I rested for a bit between doing things around the house.

It was a big accomplishment. I feel like I can tackle the trip to return the extra curtains. If I adhere to my strategy even better, I might achieve a greater level of accomplishment.

Health.com: New Headache & Chronic Pain Resource

Health.com, a new website in the vein of WebMD, offers comprehensive resources on headache and chronic pain. Resources include original articles as well as recommendations for other sites. The Daily Headache is featured as one of the best sites for headache support and I was interviewed for a story on sex and chronic pain.

The Pleasures of Reading a Book

I held a printed copy of a book and read the entire thing. Although I triggered a migraine every time I read, reading felt so good. Was it worth it, especially considering most books I want to read are available as audiobooks?

I used to believe audiobooks were a good replacement. Then I tried to listen to them regularly and  discovered how inadequate they are. Reading a book captures me in a way listening can’t. I don’t get distracted by every little thing. I don’t have to get up and pause for interruptions, nor do I have to rewind to find what I missed. I don’t get bored.

Most importantly, I get absorbed reading a book. I imagine the characters, identify with them and let my imagination go. I just don’t do that with audiobooks. Listening doesn’t engage me in the same way. Turns out getting absorbed is a primary reason I love to read.

After the great pleasure of reading that book, I’ve returned to listening. Turns out holding and reading a book isn’t worth the pain. This makes me so sad. How will I ever write a novel if I can’t read books (or look at the computer!)?

Boston Red Sox Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon on Migraine

Revered Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon is a rare athlete willing to admit how debilitating a migraine episode is. Most athletes say they push through it, fueling the public’s perception that a migraine is “just a headache” — and that migraineurs are whiners. Papelbon said:

“They don’t go away,” he said. “You can usually feel the effects of them the day after, the aftereffects. But it’s hereditary, they don’t go away.

It’s just something that I’m going to have to deal with. It’s not just a headache, it takes over your whole body. People that don’t get them, they don’t really understand them.”

Papelbon later says that he is able to push through a migraine — only after he has taken the migraine abortive Imitrex. It seems like a small thing, but “tough guys” admitting the agony of migraine helps spread the word that it is a serious disorder.