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The Unsympathetic Ones

It wasn’t until after college, during my year of AmeriCorps service, that I started talking about my migraine disease more openly. I still remember how surprised I felt each time someone else would say that she also had migraine (or at least knew someone who did).

My former supervisor at Literacy*AmeriCorps took me seriously when I told her that fluorescent lights triggered my headaches–she rolled up all the blinds on the many windows of our meeting room and turned the overheads off without making a big deal out of it. I got less scared of talking about my illness when I realized that, for the most part, people are good at heart and want to help how they can.

My site supervisor, a co-principal at this amazing charter school where I taught, was flexible with my schedule and helped me get some low-light, incandescent lamps for the small, glaringly bright office I shared with the guidance counselor.

But not everyone around me was so patient and sympathetic. My schedule was set so that the guidance counselor and I split out time in the shared office 50-50. I did my best to knock gently and be patient when her meetings ran late and it was my turn to use the room, but I can’t say that she was very thoughtful when the tables were turned. Don’t get me wrong: she was a kind woman whose company I enjoyed. I just don’t think she quite bought my migraine story, and I didn’t feel up to discussing it with her more seriously.

Many were the times she’d burst in the darkened office, flipping the harsh overhead fluorescents on with a loud announcement, “Hi! Schedule says it’s my time now!” During the occasional very sick days I had now and again, I wondered if she noticed that I had all the lights off and that I’d been trying to nap in the pitch dark, head on the desk. She seemed utterly oblivious to my health, so much so it made it feel impossible to even broach the subject with her. How do you ask someone to be more considerate of your health and well-being when she doesn’t even acknowledge that anything in the slightest is wrong?

These days I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who are very sympathetic about migraine. If anyone doubts my illness, he knows better than to say anything about it to me!

Has there been anyone in your life who’s been particular difficult to deal with in terms of your migraine? What have you done to either work with that person or just know when to let it go?

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

  • Ashley Massey
    7 years ago

    Actually, my boss is causing a huge fuss because of my missed work days…He will always tell me, “This is a business, and it can’t function when people choose not to show up to work (ie.me)” This still pisses me off. I still have a hard time understanding how people can be so inconsiderate to other people and their health. I try my best, and so does my doctor…to make my situation a better one. Thankfully, my boyfriend is very understanding and considerate of all the pain I go through.

  • Nicole Dembski
    7 years ago

    yeah unfortunately its like this If they don’t have a serious condition or your condition then they just don’t care. I’m glad Cory is being so awesome to take care of you if he wasn’t know Rory and I would be all over him about it. I hope that your migraines are doing better I’ve had simple little headaches that have taken me off my feet so I couldn’t imagine what you must feel when you’re hurting.

  • Marquita Fuchs
    7 years ago

    Yes I worked with a Dr who said a tylenol would take help a migraine. There are many people who are do not understand migraines. My husband was sympathetic but after he had a vascular headache , he now is sooo sympathetic. Just remember Karma… it returns 10 fold.
    As a migraine sufferer since I was 12 – 40 years of migraine. I am glad to see a subtle change in the understanding of the pain.

  • Cynthia Royse
    7 years ago

    There have been a great deal of people you have underestimated my migraines. All of my employers didn’t understand the severity of my migraines until they saw me having to be carried out of work a few times. And they still held it against me after they saw that. I have even lost some friends over my migraines because they thought I was just faking a migraine because I secretly didn’t want to hang out with them. But I’ve learned to only surround myself with people that can accept me as whole and I now have a wonderful fiancé that can take care of me completely and never judges me or gets frustrated with my migraines. And lucky for me, Feb 10th I am going to a migraine clinic so, keep your fingers crossed!

  • Meredith Higgins-Charette
    7 years ago

    fingers are definitely crossed that they are able to help. Its sad because people who dont suffer from migraines dont and will never understand just how bad they can be or get.

  • Caryn McGlaughlin
    7 years ago

    My work is rediculous about things too. We have a point system so if we leave early we get a point and if we call off we get a point and so on. It’s rediculous Because we will get a point for calling off if we were in the hospital. Also if I weren’t on maternity leave and I was at work and my water broke or something I would get a point for leaving XD haha its really dumb.

  • Nikki Wills
    8 years ago

    there are many in my life who don’t get it. They think Migraines are “just headaches” and can’t understand why I can’t push through them. I don’t actually know how to deal with these people.

  • Nikki Wills
    7 years ago

    Heather Byrnes The people at my work…and even some “family” members just don’t understand. So many people need sensitivity training anymore! I think many people say they have migraines too but clearly since they think a migraine is just “a bad headache” I think they are mistaken. I have actually been officially diagnosed with this disease and have migraine meds I take as soon as my Aura starts.

  • Heather Byrnes
    7 years ago

    Yeah, when you are throwing up from the pain in your head, it’s “just a headache”. Ugggggggggggh.

  • Sayge Medlin
    8 years ago

    The most difficult person to work with is always myself. Feeling guilty for the days (that sometimes turn into weeks) that my partner has to carry a heavy load with the house and kids, I often overwork myself and almost always over apologize. I go to work when I need to be home, forget my sunglasses or my medication when I leave the house, eat trigger foods, and resist asking for help.

    Just as I try to do with others who can’t or won’t ever really understand what it feels like to fantasize about the surgical removal of your own brain, I work really really hard to take a deep breath, forgive, and know that every day offers a new beginning.

  • Cynthia Royse
    7 years ago

    Wow. I am the same way. I always feel guilty that my partner has to do so much because I am not able. So when I am able, I over work myself and get tossed once again into migraine land. At the moment I have a migraine due to a cold front and have to do the dishes. Sucks I can only do so much at a time. Dishes are loud, lol

  • Tammy Elder Rome
    8 years ago

    Maybe it’s just my age, but I have also become more vocal about having Migraine Disease over the years. I spent way too many years trying to work through a Migraine so I wouldn’t use up all my sick time. I would not disclose my health condition during interviews for fear I would not get hired (I was probably right). I got tired of hearing lectures about relaxing, taking this or that magic pill, or the skeptical comments that told me I was not believed or taken seriously. I’ve done enough headache diaries, elimination diets, and new age thinking to choke an elephant. It hasn’t done one bit of good at reducing the frequency of the attacks. Admittedly, the severity of my suffering has greatly reduced over the years. I have quit or been let go of jobs because a boss or two haven’t been sympathetic. Now, I just tell the truth, the brutal, honest truth. No excuses, no bargaining, I just lay it out there. I just quit a job because the work environment was triggering too many attacks. Now I work for myself. It’s the only way I have found to truly manage the avoidable triggers.

  • Lynne Schultz
    8 years ago

    the last job I had before I applied for disability my coworkers complained to my boss that I wasn’t friendly and often rude. all I wanted was to get my job done and drive the hour home and crawl in bed most days. eventually I cut way back but when I wasn’t able to come in at all it just made them angry that I wasn’t pulling my weight. I hated to quit, but I just couldn’t do my job. hubby was also worried about me being on the road with a migraine and I’ll admit to driving while on pain meds because that’s the only way I could. my boss was a retired nurse and I think she tried to understand, but pretty sure no one else did.

  • Ashley Massey
    7 years ago

    I’m having such a hard time keeping to my work schedule (and actually showing up when scheduled-due to migraines) and having such a difficult time with my stupid and unsympathetic boss, that I recently applied for permanent disability. This have become too much to handle. I feel like this is the best step for my health and my sanity. Very soon I’m trying a botox halo, then if that doesn’t work, maybe surgery…who knows. Sometimes I feel like some around me think that I’m just looking for sympathy and a free ride. So not true! I would love to be normal and not have migraines ever again. I don’t know if this will ever be so.

  • Marlene Silvey Zavita
    8 years ago

    Oh how well I understand!!!

  • Lora Bolton Becker
    8 years ago

    That is horrible. I have been a stay at home mom for 15+ years so have not had to deal with people in the workplace. I really want to get a job now that the kids are getting older but I’m afraid because of my migraines. People are not very sympathetic if they have not gone through it, I have dealt with that a lot.

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