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When stigma hurts your kids

Just when I think the world is finally making progress to understand migraine, a few Neanderthal trolls decide to target my baby boy on the job. He’s not really a baby anymore. In fact, he’s an adult. Moms, you understand though. They are always our babies no matter how big they are.

He was targeted because migraine attacks caused him to miss work. Every day, all day long, he was subjected to ridicule for missing work “for a little headache”. In truth, he was home vomiting profusely and in horrible pain for hours. Migraine is the only thing that ever keeps him from showing up when and where he is expected. He tried his best to ignore the taunting and just do his work. Even so, he was hurt and angry. Finally he reached his limit and quit that job.

I understand his frustration all too well. I’ve quit many jobs because I feared getting fired for excessive absences due to migraine attacks. To watch my son go through this is much worse. He is loyal and conscientious with a strong work ethic, so I know there was nothing wrong with his performance. He’s so smart and talented with a lot of potential. I don’t want migraine to get in the way of his success.

He was 2 years old when I experienced my first cluster headache attack and migraine became chronic. He has grown up watching me become more and more disabled. When he was 8, a head injury switched on his genetic predisposition for migraine. We hoped he had escape that fate, but instead he joined his sister and me with painful attacks several times each month.

I realize that I am powerless to control the effect migraine has on his future and I don’t enjoy that feeling. Being unable to shield my kids from the harsh realities of life is a difficult reality to accept. Once again, I struggle to resist the urge to run to his rescue by cornering his former boss to set him straight. When my kids are hurting, I become an angry momma bear. That was fine when they were young. Now that they are adults, it doesn’t work very well. As much as I want to wrap them in bubble wrap and lock them in a protective tower, I know that’s not healthy for them or me.

This new role as advisor and coach requires a hands-off approach. You would think a therapist would be better at that, but when it comes to my family, I tend to butt in, take over, and run the show. It’s much easier to educate strangers. My children are now part of the 38 million Americans with migraine. They now make their own choices and face the critics and naysayers on their own terms. I just pray that I trained them well.

If you have children with migraine, how do you cope when they are stigmatized?

How have your responses changed as they get older?

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.


  • rhonda shumway-luna
    4 years ago

    Would it be better to let/negotiate/inform an employer know ahead of time and consider options? No pay, making it up later? I realize men are more reticent to talk, but maybe there is an employer out there with an open mind. I see no advantage to simply quit without making an attempt to negotiate. As for the bullies, reading on how to interact would be advantageous.

  • Vicki H
    4 years ago

    The first thing I suggest to anyone missing days of work like that is to apply for FEMLA. You can have intermittent leaves (like on migraine days) and still have your job protected. As for the comments? I encourage my daughter to engage in a conversation with people. Better yet (and this worked for me,) stay at work during a migraine. Vomit into their trash bins, show them your pained face and squinty eyes. Hold ice on your head and neck so people start to get an idea what happens. Or leave work for the ER for IV nausea meds and hydration. Let people see how truly bad off you are.

  • rhonda shumway-luna
    4 years ago

    I have a request. My 18 year old slept through an appointment to see about getting his GET. Due to headpain and irregular sleep, he had to drop out. At 18, the migraine rules, help, and resources dry up.
    When he woke up (we can not wake him up) he said there goes my self esteem again.
    So: 1. How do I help his self-esteem? 2. Are there any blogs and/or advice for teenagers? Would appreciate your comments. Rhonda

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