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Memorable Migraine 4: Bookselling While Ill

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend and bookseller R. took me out for a much-belated birthday dinner. We went to a local restaurant before wandering over to the famous Georgia Theatre, where my beau Jim was set to play to a sold-out crowd (shoutout: go Jim!). I had one glass of fancy wine at the restaurant and, an hour or more later, one glass of wine at the Theatre.

I don’t drink often, but if I do it’s often a glass of light white wine, maybe two. And then I’m done. In recent months, this has caused me no trouble, so I was confident stopping at just two glasses. Since I do drink so rarely, I got a little tipsy but then it wore off. By the time I went to bed (a little later than usual), I felt fine.

At 7:30 in the morning, I woke up with a rumbly stomach and a medium-sized headache—nothing felt migrainey, nothing felt too threatening. I just didn’t feel right. I went to use the restroom and get a glass of water but was waylaid almost immediately by debilitating dizziness and nausea. I sat next to the toilet on the floor and proceeded to get very sick to my stomach. “Are you okay!?” I heard Jim call from the bedroom. I didn’t have the strength to answer. It was such an overdramatic moment. I’d gone from feeling under the weather to feeling as if the flu had descended on me: my forehead broke out in a sweat, my stomach was upset beyond belief, and even lying on the cold wooden floor of the bathroom didn’t soothe my high temperature.

Eventually I got up and took an Imitrex by mouth (the only acute medication I had—I crossed my fingers I wouldn’t be sick and up losing the valuable pill). I lay down again for a few hours, hoping I’d feel well enough to work.

Well, I didn’t feel well enough to work. But it was Sunday, my day to work. I got so desperate I texted my booksellers to see if either of them could come in—no dice. I was dizzy and out of it and hoped that not too many people would come in and think I was mentally checked out. I made some dumb, unimportant mistakes in my migraine/medication haze. I looked at the clock constantly, something I hardly ever do while at the bookshop (the best job ever). By the time our author event began at 4, I had returned to myself at least 75% and I don’t think the crowd really noticed anything was wrong.

But it was ROUGH. This wasn’t my first migraine on the job, but it was the first migraine I went through without being able to call anyone else in to work for me. I’m so grateful Jim was able to spend part of the day with me, making sure I got food and coffee and water. Periodically I felt an overwhelming need to sit down, and he was very accommodating.

How do you migraineurs deal with migraines on the job?

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


  • Writermom
    7 years ago

    Thankfully,I am retired now. However, in my over 30 years of employment (actually 40, with 10 years off for maternity leave in between) I worked through many migraines. It certainly was not easy, but my migraines were not as frequent then. I remember some days that I could hardly hold my head up all morning. That was before I was being treated for my illness. Since I cannot take aspirin, I took Tylenol. Then, after eating a good lunch, with a meat product, like a hamburger, my headache went away in the afternoon. I have no idea why. Nowadays, I frequently awake with them. During the last 5 years of my employment, I normally took Tylenol each morning as soon as I arrived at work. Some days were worse than others. Some days, the pain on the left side of my head was so bad that the tears just rolled down that side of my face. Occasionally, I went home after lunch. You see, my employer was very strict about attendance, and I needed my job. That was before the days of FMLA. When I learned I could get FMLA time for migraines, I was ill with another illness and very near to retirement. It was a very difficult time. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

  • mjsymonds
    7 years ago

    How do I deal with migraine on the job? The short answer is, I don’t anymore.

    In the days before Triptans, and when I worked full-time, I would try to tough it out as long as I could, usually until I felt I was about to vomit. It was always awful and my effectiveness on the job was pretty minimal, but at that time I didn’t feel I could leave work until I had very obvious signs that I was about to be physically sick.

    Now, as long as I’m able to take a Triptan to abort the migraine, I’m usually OK to work in a couple of hours. But sometimes the Triptan is not completely effective, or I’m not able to take one because I’m already at that week’s limit, so I just stay home. No pushing it for me anymore. But this is also possible because my job now is part-time and I can generally go in another day to make up any missed hours.

    The truth is, I’ve completely arranged my life to accommodate my migraine disease now. I don’t even pretend that I can do what “normal” people do in a single day anymore. It’s not my preference, but it is how I’ve learned to cope.

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