Migraine Workplace Horror Stories

Migraine attacks are known to negatively impact many aspects of everyday life, one of which is how we function in the workplace. Migraine prevalence has been shown to peak between the ages of 25 and 55 years, coinciding with the time when most individuals with migraines are most likely to be employed.1,2 Migraines not only affect our overall productivity but also how we are treated by our coworkers and our superiors. So, we asked our Facebook community if they had any migraine workplace horror stories to share. Here is what some of our community members had to say:

My boss doesn’t understand migraine

  • I had a boss tell me that if I was not home in bed in a dark room, it was not migraine.
  • After my first big attack at my job, my boss stated, "You don't handle pain well, do you?" I'll never forget that comment. I wanted to say, "Actually, I handle it all time." My migraines are weekly, but I still do my job well.
  • "Oh, big deal. I get headaches all the time. Take some Tylenol and get back to work."
  • I finally told my boss I needed to go home. He told me that I could wait an hour and he wouldn't let me leave. I promptly signed out of my phone, went to the bathroom, and threw up. Which only made my head hurt worse.
  • I began getting a migraine at work and told the receptionist that I was going to have to go home. Her response was, "Don't you have any aspirin?"
  • My boss thinks I'm stressed and maybe I should get another job.
  • I have many stories, but one sticks out. My boss sent her assistant to the ER to see if I was actually there.
  • My employer is not sympathetic to anyone, no matter what the illness.
  • I went in to see the new boss who had just taken over and told him I had a migraine and I had to go home. He looked at me for a few seconds, then half-closed his eyes and said, "I'm Emma, I've got a migraine, and I need to go home" in a mocking, whiney voice.
  • My boss asked, "and when will your condition be over?" I have had chronic daily headaches, chronic migraines, and vertigo for the past two years. I no longer work there.

I lost my job

  • I was once told that if I had a migraine and couldn't find a substitute, I would be written up. The last thing I feel like doing is spending time on the phone, begging people to cover my classes for me when I'm in the middle of a migraine cycle. Ugh.
  • I eventually got fired for mine…that was after 20 years of excellent service to the company.
  • I lost my job because I have a rare migraine condition that apparently made me an expendable employee, even as loyal as I was. I fought through my migraines until they became debilitating. So I lost my job, and because of whatever they said on my "departing papers," I also ended up not getting unemployment, so they said it was my fault I got fired.
  • I was let go shortly after providing an employer with FMLA paperwork.
  • I had an episode last week of a migraine headache, went to the emergency room, and my boss fired me the next day by sending me a text saying to stop being a fool and not to come back anymore to work.
  • I lost my job because of severe uncontrollable migraines.
  • I lost 2 jobs due to migraines. 40 years of these headaches.
  • I got fired from a job for missing too many days due to my migraines and my severe back pain. I was even in the hospital.
  • I've been fired eventually from every job I've ever had because of absences. Absences caused by migraines.
  • My migraines cost me my job 10 years ago. There are not enough sick days in the month/year to accommodate the amount of severe migraines I still have.
  • I get regular migraines the same days every week. I was taken into a meeting, and I was told to stop having headaches on a Monday or else.
  • I've been fired from a few jobs because of my migraines, and they didn't believe me.
  • I was let go from my hospital tech job even though I just was approved for FMLA. I went to work through many horrible migraines, even vomiting in the locker room. I only missed 5 days in an entire year, but the boss was arrogant and didn't believe me even though she was a nurse.
  • I took family medical leave from work because of the migraines turning chronic. Two days before I was scheduled to return, they called and told me they didn't have any money to hire me back. Yeah. Right.

My employer wants proof of my disease

  • I've had so many issues to the point where I left my job because they were trying to force me to go to one of their "selected" GPs to assess how bad I "really" was because I was missing a lot of work. Because they think I really don't want to work and make an income to pay my bills and live a normal life.
  • My workplace sent me on 3 different "independent medical evaluations" at their expense. All it did was verify that, yes, I do have chronic migraines, and I have done everything I can to help myself. Made for plenty of paperwork to support my claim for disability, which sailed right through and was accepted. Not an easy thing to go through, but it was worth it in the end.

I’ve been accused of faking it

  • He told my coworkers I was hungover.
  • My boss at the time said, "do you need some crackers to go with that whine?" Thought I was faking it.
  • My coworker told some people I was lying and just was hungover, since she'd seen me online late. Yeah, I wasn't up with blinding pain and trying not to puke. I was 'just drunk.'

I've been told to push through an attack

  • I had an RN for a boss. She told me they are painful but eventually go away, so tough it out for 8 hours and get to work. She would take the day off when her husband had one. I had to find another job.
  • Yeah, I get them often, but the one bad experience I had, I was mid-shift, and he said just take some Tylenol and get back to work.
  • A lady I used to work with who claimed she suffered from migraines told me it wasn't reason enough not to come to work as she can do it after two painkillers.
  • My boss once told me, "I have a headache too, so get over it & get back to work."
  • I had a principal one year - not this year – thankfully, that said, "Do you have a migraine right now? I said yes, and she said, "you don't look like it, and you can just stay at work."
  • I was laughed at and belittled when I had a migraine.

My workplace has tons of triggers

  • I have to get a docs note to wear my sunglasses. The lighting sucks, and chit chats seem louder when you have migraines.
  • I worked 32 years and dealt with at least a couple of migraines per week. The smells and the intense noise in the building, along with constant stress, would trigger these headaches with no warning. But the really painful part was dealing with the snide remarks from the supervisor and fellow employees.
  • I can no longer work as a photographer as the flash causes me to collapse sometimes or become paralyzed.
  • I was hit with a massive migraine at work. I took my break and turned off the light in the employee break room, and sat in misery before vomiting in the trash can as my boss walked in, turning the lights on showing a small group around the building. I mean, I was mid-hurl, and it was by far the most humiliating migraine moment.

Do you have any workplace horror stories to share? Please post in the comments! Also, take a look at what Diana had to say about the ADA accommodations and migraine triggers as well as her thoughts on migraine-triggering fragrances and the workplace!

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