Thursday, April 29, 2010

Unsolicited Advice

As most of you probably know, people who are disabled and/or chronically ill often get unsolicited advice. (And sometimes very odd unsolicited advice.)

(For example, I once had a stranger on the train tell me that my migraine would go away if I just pinched my nose the right way. (Never mind the fact that, at that point, my migraine was 2.5 years old and he didn't know anything about my health history). When that didn't work, he wanted to pinch my nose for me. And was offended when I didn't let him...)

But continuing past that tangent... Today I couldn't be in class because I was in the second day of a bad migraine. So I emailed my professors to let them know. And one professor responded "Have you tried homeopathic remedies." and signed it with her initials.

Excuse me?

She knows nothing about my health or health history. She does know my migraines are so bad I ended up in the ER recently and she most likely knows I have a doctor that I am working with. She also knows I have (medically-vouched-for) academic accommodations So why does she think she has ideas about my migraines I have never thought of?

That's one of my big problems with these suggestions: if you've heard of it , I probably have too. (Especially because usually people making these suggestions don't have these health problems or any health-related degrees.) And it's insulting that you think you know my body better than I or my doctor do. Also, these suggestions often are attached to an idea that my health would get better if I just tried a little harder. Finally, I'm glad that other people can ignore all the other complex factors that go into making my health decisions (money, side effects, time management, money), but I can't.

On rare occasions, people suggest things in a way I am thankful for. Often by asking if I wouldn't mind hearing a suggestion. And by having actual evidence of some sort to back it up (personal experience or actual research). (A better knowledge of my health history is also appreciated before making any suggestions.) Or maybe they politely say that they know I have probably already heard of it, but in case I hadn't....

There's also an awkward power dynamic going on when it's a professor. As much as I would like to just ignore her email, or maybe even explain to her why this email is not appreciated, I didn't. Because she's my professor. And she will be grading my final exam in two weeks. And giving me a final grade. And that gives her very real power over me and my future. So I replied. But I refuse to thank her for her suggestion (even if it came from a mostly good place).

It might be well meaning this time, but I'm tired of all the societal ableism that is often attached to these suggestions.


  1. This is so frustrating Migrainista, but I have got to the point where I just accept that people haven't got a clue and try to see such comments as a clumsy attempt to show care. I think it probably was well meaning and so congratulations on your gracious response!

  2. It's so true. Sing it, sister!

    I'm not insulted by suggestions; usually just amused/annoyed. For all the reasons you state, but mostly because if YOU'VE heard of it (advice giver), don't you think I'VE heard of it? I've been on this path for more than 5 years now...chances are (really) good I already know what you're going to say.

    I try to just look at it this way: they love/care about me and want to help me. It makes them feel like they could be helping. /shrug/

  3. Ugh I get this all the time too! I think they are at least well meaning.

    But after a 36 hour crippling migraine yesterday that had me throwing my guts up and screaming in pain...I wasn't much in the mood to hear any of it. Blech.

  4. ughh yes! of course we've heard of that "new" [read: age-old, heard about it 100x, tried it 3x (just in case) already, thank you very much] remedy.

    i know people know well, but sometimes i just want to be really facetious and reply with "yes. duh."

  5. Urgh. This is always SO frustrating. Depending on the rudeness/ well-meaningness of the person involved, my reactions range from silent smiling and nodding to straight up cutting them off and walking away, thankyouverymuch.

    I just wrote a post about unsolicited advice too. What's the most ridiculous thing anyone's ever suggested you try? The nose-pinching thing has got to be in the running.

  6. You hit the nail on the head here! I can totally relate to this. Thanks for sharing!