By María –
I live in sunny Florida, where you can find warmth year long. It is a very convenient location to visit from Venezuela, from where I originate. That is the reason every year we host beloved relatives and friends for several weeks.
For example, my parents-in-law, my mom and dad, my sister and brother-in-law and close friends spend a few weeks or months with my husband, my daughter and I here in SoFlo. We love having people over but it can be a big challenge when you live with chronic migraines.
My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years and he knows how to deal with my migraines on a daily basis. Sometimes they are manageable but other times I have to take bed rest for a few days. He knows what to do and how to react. My young daughter is also well trained. She knows mommy gets bad migraines and has to rest for awhile without being interrupted. This is the general rule but sometimes she just wants to help and it melts my heart when she wants to be close to me until I feel better.
However, things can get tricky when you have guests for several weeks staying in your house. They may know my condition well or not but they do not live it with me each time it happens. For example, when I get bad migraines for days, they usually come with nausea, weakness and fatigue. It can take some time before I am on my feet again.
One example is that my mother in law loves to cook and spends many hours a day in the kitchen. When I am under the ruthless attack of a migraine I barely eat and cannot stand the strong smell that comes from the kitchen. Also, when friends come over from Europe and visit the US for the first time, they want to go out to explore the area. Sometimes I am unable to join them due to horrible migraines. Here is when I try to isolate and withdraw myself from every potential trigger but that may mean that I will be locked in my room until I feel better.
Situations like these may make our guests uncomfortable because my much needed bed rest can make them feel unwelcome. Sometimes people misinterpret this attitude for rudeness. Sometimes my isolation makes them feel uncomfortable because they believe their presence is bothering me. It is not like that at all. In a way, the routine of the house is altered because there are guests in the house but by no means I want to make them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.
In order to avoid these situations, I created a list (hoping you will also find it helpful) for when you have people over for long periods of time. The purpose of these tips is to carry the visit as smoothly as possible, allow everybody to feel comfortable and welcome, and to keep having happy guests all the time despite the chronic illness.
Here are 10 tips I have found helpful to keep everybody pleased (especially me):
1. Be honest about your condition: share everything you can because the more your are open and communicative about your illness, the easier it is for them to understand your condition and what you are going through.
2. Put yourself in their shoes: how would you feel if it happened to you? How would you feel if you were staying at a relative house and they were “off duty” for a few days?
3. Feel free to share how you are feeling when you’re having the migraine: let the people you love know what you are going through at the moment. Again, share and express what you are feeling physically and how it makes you feel emotionally.
4. Let them express themselves if you feel they are uncomfortable with you being so sick: let them tell you how they feel. Understand their point of view and let them know they are welcome no matter what.
5. Do not fake wellness if you are in a bad place: again honesty beforehand. To yourself and to your guests. Do not try to look and feel ok if you are not. You will probably ruin everybody’s plans and that is worse than staying home and letting people have fun.
6. Let them do whatever they want with or without you: reassure your guests that they are free to come and go without you if you are not in great shape. It can be hard at the beginning but they will get used to it.
7. Talk to your partner: he or she may already know how to handle your chronic illness but maybe when “strangers” are in the house things can get stressful for him/her as well. Keep the communication lines open at all times!
8. Do not feel guilty about being sick: this one is tough. You already feel like crap for being sick and believe you are letting everybody down but the truth is YOU COME FIRST. If you are not well you cannot be well around others so give yourself a break because you are already going through a lot.
9. When you feel better, get back on track as fast as you can: share with your loved ones and enjoy life.
10. If your guests love you, they will understand, even if it takes a little while. If they don’t understand, do not feel bad. Feel good about yourself because you tried your best to handle the situation!
It is very hard to live in chronic pain so when the universe gives you a break take it without hesitation and enjoy it. Life is made of the simplest things. Most of them we already have. We just have to pay attention.