When it’s not okay to speak up about triggers

Those of you who know me in real life (or who have read my posts here on Migraine.com before) know that I tend to be an assertive, strong advocate for those with chronic illness. Even if it makes me feel a little embarrassed or uncomfortable, I will ask a hotel to provide me with incandescent bulbs instead of CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs), which are a trigger for me. If a TV in an otherwise empty waiting room is blasting and flashing, I will turn it off (despite years of being mortified as a kid when my dad would do this!). I run my own business, and I have asked my employees not to wear perfumes, colognes, or strongly-scented deodorants. I have asked to change seats on a plane if I’m next to someone whose perfume is bothersome to me.

In sum, I am not shy about my health needs. Having an illness that is usually impossible for others to see means I have to trust that others will believe me (or that I have to trust that I will be okay even if they think I am making things up). I am kind and polite when I ask for accommodations, but ask for them I do.

Except for sometimes. Sometimes it is either too late to speak up, or it is not my place.

Take, for instance, a wedding I went to this past year. I am an amateur photographer and have been asked to photograph events before, so I was tickled when I was asked to be one of the “official” photographers at the wedding.

After spending many hours doing my job as photographer, I have a newfound respect for my friends who are full-time photographers, especially those that work at very important and fast-paced events like weddings. It is supremely hard work, and I am far from being professional!

It also seems like a profession that’s rife with migraine triggers. One instance in particular had me feeling a little trapped.

You see, I had the honor of being with the bride and the bridesmaids as they prepared for the wedding. We were in a small room full of vanities and mirrors, and I was trying to get photos of the bride without my reflection being bounced back at me. The flash went off and was echoed by all the mirrors—not the best thing for my migraine brain. Then, at one point, a bridesmaid grabbed a bottle of perfume and, in this tiny room full of people, sprayed the bride at least ten times. I did my best to capture the moment without breathing through my nose, and at the first chance I got I went outside for a breather.

I harbor no frustration with anyone in the wedding party, and I firmly believe that the bride and groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom!) should be able to call the shots at their wedding. Does the bride want to wear a bottle of perfume? By all means, she should! It was not my place to ask that my health issues be accommodated in that situation, and I did my best to deal with any migraine triggers the best I could (in the end, I did a pretty great job, actually).

But this situation led me to wonder what situations you’ve been in where you feel it’s not your right to ask for accommodations due to your illness(es). Have you ever been in a situation where you could have asked to remove a migraine trigger from the environment but decided not to? How do you decide when to ask for accommodations and when not to?

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.

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