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Migraines in a professional kitchen

You would think, of all places, restaurant people would be MOST understanding about this. I get nauseous, puke, lose my sense of balance, can't stand the heat, can't stand the smells, lose my vision, break out in a cold sweat, get the shakes, can't even drive...but I don't stop, I can't afford to. I never use my migraines as an excuse; they never keep me from working, and for the most part I don't tell anyone when I get them, for fear of being sent home (and losing money).
At the job I currently have, my boss also gets serious migraines - though probably for a different reason, as he has some serious spine damage from a car accident - and we both keep Costco sized bottles of Ibuprofen (my OTC drug of choice, as I don't have health insurance...neither does he) and aspirin around the kitchen...which helps. Sometimes. The amount I take is probably destroying my kidneys...think those small 30-pill bottles in about, say, 24 hours. However, I have held other jobs where the visible symptoms result in verbal abuse bordering on harassment, no matter how many times I explain migraines, how I've had them since I hit puberty, and no matter how much weak OTC aspirin I take, sometimes they just WON'T go away.
Case in point, after working a rapid succession of 16+ hour shifts at a different job (which probably caused the migraine) I was working the last day before my weekend. And I couldn't stop retching. I would say puking, but my stomach was tapped out - I was dizzy, I was nauseous, I couldn't hear a thing over the pounding in my head, and my vision would "white out" when faced with any bright light.
So I was sent home. And then written up.
Why? I had OBVIOUSLY been drinking. Not like I go through large quantities of ibuprofen; it's not as if I've repeatedly explained migraines to my supervisors and my servers. No, migraines don't look like that.
I don't work for them anymore.

  1. Hi cookerlady,

    I'm so sorry to read that you were treated so poorly. It's understandable that you don't work for them any more. It always amazes me how many ignorant people there are out there seeing as over 36 million Americans have migraine!

    One of the best things we can do for ourselves is keep a migraine journal. Keeping a detailed journal allows us to see what may be triggering our attacks and if we have any patterns to our migraines. Have you thought about trying this? With all the different apps out there, it is easier than ever to do. Let me share with you the link that has more information in it;

    Not having insurance can be problematic, but there are ways to get help without it. We have information in these link;

    I'm not sure if you are aware of this but we can unwittingly create a problem called medication overuse headache or moh. This can happen if we take pain relievers and/or migraine abortive medications, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription, more than two to three days a week. I understand we just want the pain to go away, but if we have moh our migraines will be more difficult to treat and we can end up in a daily cycle of pain that is hard to stop. Let me share this with you on moh;

    I hope this helps,

    1. Hi cookerlady;
      I was a professional cook for about 20 years, and had migraines through all of that time, so I well know what you are going through. It was my last cooking job which caused my migraines to make the transition from chronic to daily. I was so completely and totally pushed to the edge of exhaustion and beyond by an ill-equipped kitchen, unreasonable expectations (such as working 11 hour days with no break, no food), etc., that I was forced to quit. In the 6 short months that the restaurant had been open, I was the 8th prep cook to be hired. I guess I should have taken the hint.
      People don't get how physical a job cooking is, constantly lifting heavy pots, pans, cartons, working in extreme heat or cold. Doing it all with a migraine is indeed an enormous feat.
      When I quit that job I was unable to do any type of work. I was under weight, severely anemic, extremely shaky (my writing wasn't even legible), and had a #10 migraine every day for about 2 months until I finally ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks. Now I'm on disability.
      Please take care that you don't destroy your health the way I destroyed mine. Being brave and carrying on is admirable, but killing yourself in the process isn't. Did you ever look in to cooking for a school? Most schools offer health insurance, and you can collect unemployment during the summer. For anyone who has worked in a restaurant kitchen, cooking in a school is child's play. I worked as head cook in a high school for Sodexho-Marriott and not only got great health insurance but a 401k plan as well! Nursing homes and hospitals also might offer insurance as well as kinder hours. The newer Independent Living type homes for seniors are wonderful places to cook!! I highly recommend looking into one of those, especially the ones like Sun Rise, or the other chains. These places usually have a main dining room as well as a cafe or less formal dining choice. Often their menu is very high class. The one I worked at had a menu that rivaled a great hotel menu with choices such as filet mignon, rack of lamb, chicken cordon bleu on any given night. These places have wonderful benefits for their employees, one rarely is asked to stay longer than their normal shift, and they have very competitive salaries. I actually made a higher salary working as a cook at one of those places than I did working as pastry chef at a high end Italian restaurant! Hopefully, you can find a position where you get some benefits, and a better, less demanding schedule.
      People seem to think the culinary world is so, I don't know, exciting? Chic? Maybe they see impeccably coiffed and dressed Martha Stewart putting the final touches on a beautifully laid out dinner that took 3 other people working frantically for 2 days to prepare and they think "oh, that looks like fun. I'd like to do that too". Then they find out that not too many people in the foodservice industry actually get to be Martha; most of them become one of the 3 people working frantically behind the scenes.
      My heart goes out to you, and my prayers ~

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