The cures don't last, but it's nice to have care and concern!
Bonnie was a hostage to migraine attacks. They lasted for hours and she was unable to do anything but lie down in bed until it passed. Sometimes her migraine was accompanied by nausea and other times by cramps or acid reflux. Treatments from herbalists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, homeopathic doctors, spiritual healers, medical doctors and meditation did nothing to stop the onset or reduce the severity of the pain and exhaustion that accompanied the episodes. But she enjoyed the care and concern the service providers showed, and came away feeling lighter and better.

A friend's care takes the pain away
At a party one evening Bonnie found herself in a group with her best friend and others she didn’t know. She felt awkward. She tried to join in the conversation but it didn’t feel right. Later that evening she told her friend that she felt a migraine coming on and left the party early. Sure enough Bonnie had a humdinger of a migraine. Her head throbbed, she vomited and had trouble sleeping. The next day she felt tired and weak, unable to do all the things she had planned. She called her friend to tell her about her difficult night. Her friend came over to make sure she was okay, take the dog out for a walk and handle some mail that needed attention. Bonnie rested and was immensely grateful that her friend was available and responsive at her time of need.

Why does the migraine come just when there is a celebration to attend?
Bonnie became increasingly uncomfortable as her nephew’s graduation approached. She wasn’t caught up in the excitement. She was juggling law school and a job which seemed much more serious than a celebration. No one seemed to understand how tough it was for her to keep it all going. No one ever offered help to ease her burden.

A migraine hit Bonnie three hours before she was to leave for the graduation. She called her brother and excused herself. She was really sick and couldn’t travel let alone sit through a long ceremony out in the sun. Bonnie’s brother and parents were very concerned about her. She sounded pretty ill and weak.

Every one rallies round, making it more bearable!
Bonnie was ill for a day or two. Her mother came by with some of her remedies. Her father and brother shared the job of getting her car serviced and repairs completed. Her mother and nephew tempted her with her favorite take out food. Bonnie appreciated the care, concern and practical help she got. She enjoyed the company of her family and soon got back on her feet.

Bonnie’s illness was real, debilitating and painful. She didn’t ask for it, nor did she do anything to bring it on. She took care of what she ate and drank, she exercised and took her fitness and health seriously. She meditated, trying to bring peace and serenity into her life. So why was she afflicted with migraines, cramps and nausea that stopped her from enjoying happy events?

Family come running when Bonnie is ill, but ignore her pleas at other times
As a child when Bonnie asked for help with homework, or a playmate there was always something more important that her family had to deal with. Her needs and wishes were never a priority. Until she was sick. That became the magic formula that captured their attention and brought their caring her way. Everyone rallied around instantly, and apologized for not seeing her discomfort earlier.

Migraines are legitimate, asking for help is shameful
When her normal way of asking for attention failed, Bonnie became ashamed of her needs. They must be ugly and illegitimate if her family ignored them. If she was showered with care and concern when she was sick, then being ill must be the approved way to get her share of love and attention. Bonnie’s psyche filed this information away and used it whenever she wanted and needed signs of love from her family. Bonnie developed a new vocabulary that spoke much more potently - migraines, nausea, and physical debilitation. There was no shame in getting help, sympathy and care when she was sick.

Expressing her needs stopped Bonnie's suffering
However successful Bonnie’s strategy was, the stress of sustaining this pattern got to her. Tired of the short term remedies Bonnie began a process of self-discovery in psychotherapy. She learned that she had been talking herself into migraines to avoid the shame of feeling needy. She caught herself saying out loud “ I’m going to have a migraine this evening” when her neediness accidently slipped out. There and then she made a decision not to have a migraine, but to call and ask for company instead. It worked. Bonnie is now learning to deal with her shame and develop the language of emotion rather than put her life on hold while she suffered to get a dollop of care. She reclaimed her birthright to have needs, express them and allow herself to be cared for without having to put her health in jeopardy.

Copyright Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2009. All rights reserved.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist. She is a relationship and mind-body expert. She helps you express your needs in ways that make you feel seen and heard in your relationships. She helps you understand the language of emotion and how you express it in your body. Her passion is to help you have secure, stable and satisfying relationships. Take the relationship quiz at