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When do you just call it a day?

Some days I wake up with the ghost of a migraine teasing at my temples and my neck.  I can’t tell if it’s going to settle in or if I am in the clear, and, knowing how out of it I can get when I take my triptans, I am hesitant to take any drugs to treat it until I know for sure it’s here to stay. I stay blah all day:  sometimes, with chronic illness(es), you have days where your energy level is low even if you don’t have a full-blown migraine attack or, in my case, an arthritis flare.  I call these “the in-between days” or “migraine limbo land,” when I’m not at 100% but not suffering from a significant migraine attack either.

My usual routine on days like this is to fool around the house and on the internet, opening but not responding to work emails as I try to figure out if I need to take the day off.

At least once a month or so, this kind of day spirals out of control in terms of my productivity (or lack thereof).  I’ll while away the hours trying to decide if I am going to have a day off or not. In the meantime, I am not exactly resting or taking it easy. I am refreshing my Facebook page, looking through my news feed as if anything important is going to pop up since the last time I checked it.  I’ll do the same thing with my email, except I am not up to actually responding to any emails, so what’s the benefit of reading the notes now instead of waiting ’til I feel better?

When I’m in this state of mind, I feel bad just taking the day off straight out.  I waste time on the internet because picking up a novel to read seems too decadent an activity for a weekday morning.  I will putter around the house doing nothing productive because lying on the couch watching a movie seems like a waste of time.

The thing is, I am already wholly unproductive when I feel this way.  In the mid- to late afternoon, I look at the clock and realize I’ve gotten nothing done.  I still feel stuck in migraine limbo land, not experiencing a full-blown migraine but still feeling worn down and tired and on the cusp of a “real” episode.  I haven’t given my body the rest it needs, the rest that probably would have left me feeling more refreshed (and possibly migraine-free) if I’d just given in to the idea of having a day off when I first woke up and realized this day was likely to be a wash.

This question is particularly aimed to those of you who work from home and/or run your own businesses and/or have a lot of freedom with your work schedules.  Do you ever have days like this? Do you ever wake up feeling not up to par but continue to do un-relaxing, unproductive things until the day is gone and you realized you’ve neither worked nor relaxed?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Professor Elle
    4 years ago

    Oh, hello! Are you me?

    Such a familiar description, except that when classes are in session I have to find a way to make it to campus to teach my classes. But little else gets done on some of those days, unless I DO take a triptan, and then I usually require twice my minimum daily allowance of coffee to counteract the combined effects of migraine and sumatriptan. And I’ll still skip certain committee meetings.

  • Wimidwife
    4 years ago

    I have those days often. I work from my home, and see clients in my home. I don’t feel bad enough to reschedule everyone, but I sure don’t feel I give my best. I often fall asleep on the couch between appointments. On days I don’t have appointments I usually try to be somewhat productive because I feel so guilty when I’m not. Triptans do help those low intensity migraines, but since I have them so frequently I’m really afraid of triggering rebound headaches (which are truly hellish) by using meds too frequently.

  • I Survive
    4 years ago

    This happens to me all the time! It’s hard to tell when I wake up in the morning whether this is a day I’ll have to take one hour at a time or one that I should just call in sick and curl up into a ball. I am just so used to functioning in constant pain. Unfortunately, I don’t usually make that decision until I’m already at work. Once I left only 15 minutes after I got to the office. Like everyone else, I don’t want to jeopardize my job by being viewed as undependable. Someday I hope to have the ability to call in sick, get the rest I need and not feel guilty.

  • lisamariemary
    4 years ago

    In one of those days now. Ugh. And now it’s starting to actually get worse, hurt, feel ucky. But I’ve neither rested nor worked. Well, I worked a teeny tiny bit. And I did watch one TV show online, but that’s not a good “resting” for me, good resting is either Kindle, actual book, or sleeping.

    Futzing, yep, that’s exactly what I’ve done today.

    I could tell first thing when I got up this morning that I was in limbo, so I’ve been hemhawing about with all day. Crud.

  • lisamariemary
    4 years ago

    Oh yeah, and I work from home (barely) and I’m in the process of applying for disability. I try to work at home, but I don’t really get many hours in.

  • Pamela Baxendale
    4 years ago

    Janet

    I can so relate to this! I actually don’t stay home, but go into the shop, thinking I will at least “be there” and if the migraine does develop, I can go home. Ha! I have never “been there” for anything more than to answer the phone. I can’t make any decisions for our customers, or Scott, do any email, ordering, or online social updating, because I feel so bleh, and I am also preoccupied with trying not to do anything to bring on the headache. I end up feeling depressed and unproductive, and more of a hinder than a help to the business, More times than not, the headache manifests the next day, and then I usually do have to stay home, in a dark room, etc etc…So, I basically took myself out of my business 2 days, instead of 1 (or maybe none), if I had taken care of myself in the first place. I hope I remember an ounce of prevention, IS worth a pound of cure, next time I can’t decide if I should stay home. Janet I also wonder if not wanting to give in to the possibility of actually having a migraine, plays into this? What do you think?

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    5 years ago

    Hey Janet,

    This used to happen to me a lot when I had more of a free-flow schedule. I can’t count the days that were like this. They are almost more frustrating then a full-out attack. For the last year, though, I have had a steady job with regular hours, and the nature of the job is one that I cannot work from home. I’m luckyg that on the worst of days, there is a quiet place at work that I can take a nap, but I do find it helpful to have a place I absolutely have to be every day. Luckily my job doesn’t involve math most days though, or I would be very messed up by the brain fog! I recently gave a customer the wrong discount!

    Have you thought of, on days like this, replying to the emails but not hitting send? Then you could feel productive but able to check your work later and make sure you stated everything correctly. I often find that a “cushion” on these days to avoid making any terrible mistakes is helpful, if you do choose to work.

    -Lisa

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    Lisa:

    Thanks for the response. I like the idea of responding to emails but not hitting “send” until my brain is working better. In fact, I did that last night and need to review my email later today before sending. (I did that without even realizing you had written that tip–great minds and all that.)

    Thanks,
    Janet

  • Ashley H
    5 years ago

    This is something I struggle with all the time! I have chronic migraines that rob me of so much time and energy. So often I just don’t have the physical/mental energy to be productive (due to an impending attack or recovery from an attack), yet I don’t feel like I can justify just relaxing since I have a never ending to do list. Unfortunately, I too end up just wasting time surfing facebook and blogs, etc (not very relaxing and definitely not productive!). I get so frustrated with myself and feel guilty for wasting so much time. I always think to myself, “I have to do better next time!” I hate wasting time like that, yet it’s so hard to be productive when I feel like that! Thankfully, I’m a stay at home mom, which offers me a lot of flexibility. But I would really like to find a way be at least somewhat productive on days like those.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Janet,
    I absolutely have this problem. Wandering aimlessly around the house hoping to be productive is what I call “futzing.” Eventually I realize I am doing this and finally sit down and chill out!
    -Katie

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    Perfect word, Katie. FUTZING. I’ve been doing that for awhile today. ;-/

  • monkeybrew
    5 years ago

    First, thank you for this post! In many ways it captures the dilemma many of us face, sometimes on a daily basis. I too like the use of the word “ghost of a migraine”. I sometimes call mine an echo or a whisper. When a migraine may “be being born” or perhaps just some kind of painful hiccup.

    To your question, I have, until recently, had a somewhat flexible arrangement with my employer. As long as I kept up on my projects I was given something of a pass to do some work remotely. There have been two primary issues with this arrangement. The first issue is that not all of the projects in my queue can be accomplished remotely. The second issue is that my ratio of days in the office to remote days seems to be dropping significantly.

    On those days when I do work remotely because of migraine. The nature of this “beast” makes it difficult to determine where the migraine will go (will it get worse, will it get better, will it hold steady). On any given morning, sitting at the “beginning” of a migraine, it is most often impossible to know the track of the storm, except in those cases when the migraine comes on full-force right out of the gate.

    On the days where the migraine does not completely debilitate me, but does keep me from the office I often experience serious impacts to my productivity. These impacts can range from minor to significant. The result can be, and often is, a day filled with some progress on a variety of projects, but nothing meaningful.

    Lately, what I have noticed the most and what I find the most irritating is severe cases of “brain fog”. I seem to sail directly into thick, dense banks of fog from which I cannot free myself. During these times productivity decreases, as does the ability to concentrate. At times it gets so bad that I literally fall asleep in mid-thought, mid-sentence as type. My work, as most does, requires attention and concentration. This brain fog presents real challenges.

    After two weeks in an inpatient head pain hospital program, followed by a week at home I am due back to work next week. I cannot help but fear the continued brain fog.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    5 years ago

    Hi Monkeybrew,

    Hoping the work week goes better than expected. I know we’ve all been there in worrying how we will do. Feel free to reach out here for community support as you try to get back to work.

    Lisa

  • zippy36
    5 years ago

    I could have written the first two sentences myself! That is exactly how I feel on my “am I going to get a migraine or what” days. I do not work at home but I understand what you mean about puttering around because you don’t just want to sit. I putter and I too know that I should probably just lie down and relax. It can be very irritating especially when I was hoping to do something substantial around the house that day. Instead I have to baby myself.

  • Maureen
    5 years ago

    I can totally relate to your post. So far during this calendar month, I have used rescue meds on four days, which is pretty average for me. But most of the other days were in “migraine limbo,” with skin crawling scalp and tingling arms and poor sleep and grumpy and … no definitive, “Now it is time to take my Maxalt” moments.
    To lesson the lameness of those days,to break the inertia, to avoid the pointless time-wasting,I try to set very small goals. For instance, I will load the dishwasher; then I can read my novel guilt-free for a while. I find doing laundry to be a perfectly respectable, existence-justifying occupation (If someone carries the laundry for me, because that activity will definitely put me over the edge when I am iffy). I switch loads and then watch a show. If I feel up to it, I fold. If not, then I know I have left limbo land.
    The problem comes when there is really only brain work to do… That is probably going to be a wasted day. I really try to come to terms with this early. The blahs can only be answered satisfactorily with a preferred relaxation activity. For me, that would be reading. If I am up to it, that is what I do. I am great at justifying relaxation. I think if I were you,running a bookstore, I could justify reading a novel a day. Think of it as research and ditch the internet and email. If you still feel too decadent, read some non-fiction:)

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    My boyfriend read me your comment a couple of days ago, highlighting the brilliance of this line: ” I think if I were you,running a bookstore, I could justify reading a novel a day. Think of it as research and ditch the internet and email. If you still feel too decadent, read some non-fiction:)”

    You, my friend, have inspired me. 🙂

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    5 years ago

    I do the laundry too on days like these, when I am not working! 🙂
    -Lisa

  • Maureen
    5 years ago

    PS “ghost of a migraine” I like this metaphor. I am definitely haunted by migraine.

  • migrainestl
    5 years ago

    Im a stay at home mom w/ the luxury of a husband who works from home & can pitch in when I’m down for the count & takes care of a lot of morning duties so I can get my rest & start the day slowly.

    I feel like this at least 3x/wk. I’m chronic, but some days are better than others. After a good spell I’m especially bad at “reading” the signs. Recently I went to the gym first thing in the morn, thinking I was just “tired” & needed to get moving vs the start of a migraine. I left the gym after 20min w/ acute meds in hand.

    Other days I wake up sluggish & altho a migraine never comes on I don’t go to the gym, I don’t do laundry, don’t clean, and end up lying in the floor while my son plays around me waiting to either feel better or for the true migraine to hit!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    5 years ago

    You are definitely speaking to my experience here, migrainestl: “After a good spell I’m especially bad at “reading” the signs.”

    I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

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