Person holds up a fake happy mask to get through work and life scenarios shown in line drawings

Presenteeism: Powering Through Our Migraines

Last updated: September 2022

Presenteeism is the state of a person being physically available for work, life, or whatever but not having the ability to be as productive since we are not fully functional. Many of us go through periods where we are present but not really there, whether mentally, physically, or both. There can be several reasons for this. For some of us, we understand life weighs us down. For many of us who suffer from migraine disease, the brakes seem to get put onto our cognitive abilities, which spills over many times into our physical bodies, just not functioning as they would normally. Our need to be productive in our careers or fulfill our obligations to others often drives us into presenteeism.

Migraine changed everything at work

I worked diligently for years to support my growing family and our needs. It was a huge task, but I could do it quite well when I was well. After I started to get impacted by migraine disease, the need to be present and push myself to accomplish things got worse. I was one of those people who never took sick days, never left work early, or came in late due to health issues. I’ve even gone to work after being injured and getting stitched up! As my migraine attack slowly morphed from episodic to chronic, I continued to push through attack after attack, as many do. Even on the ‘off’ days of the migraine hangover, I was there on the job physically. My mental aspects were obscured by the terrible brain fog I was experiencing. Even some of my medications at the time were contributing to the cognitive issues I was having, which made aphasia just a bit more of a stumbling block.

Pushing through the work day

Symptoms in the cognitive area just got worse over time, and the fatigue I experienced was awful, but I still kept going. It took me a long time to realize that I needed to care for myself. It is far too often that I hear stories from people who constantly push through things in life without regard for their well-being. I watch my wife and now my daughter push through life to tend to the family's needs. They push whether they feel good or not more often than not. It’s not easy. Many of us in the working world constantly move through the day. We rationalize things by saying it’s just a few more hours until quitting time, or I can get x,y, and z done, and I’ll go home. I’ve learned that’s not a healthy practice for you. It’s not fair to you or the people around you.

I've learned when to slow down

I’ve grown and learned to the point where I recognize my need to slow things down. I actively monitor how I feel, and during attack cycles, I know I must pace myself and make intelligent decisions. They may not always be ideal for getting on with life, but now part of my life is learning when to slow down. My days of presenteeism are infrequent now, but it is so easy to fall back into that situation, especially if you’ve repeated that pattern for years. I understand there are times when we must be there. I hope those times are not during an attack cycle. For many of us, it is hard to slow our lives down and take some ‘me time,’ but it will only help you in the long run! Live your best life and always take time to be kind to yourself.

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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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