I have a job, but I also have a migraine

Between making trips to the pharmacy, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and maintaining your treatment regime, having migraines can feel like a full-time job. One of the most challenging parts of dealing with migraine is keeping your symptoms from interfering with other areas of your life, and for many, this balance includes a full or part-time job. Recently, we asked members of the migraine community to describe their work/life/migraine balance, specifically “How do you decide whether to work or not?”. Do any of these work-related experiences sound familiar to you?

What choice? I can’t go to work.

“Well this is an easy decision when you don’t have much of a choice”
“I have learned not to go in if I cannot walk straight, see straight….”
“It’s pretty obvious to me when I can’t even lift my head”

If you are not able to drive, or are experiencing other debilitating migraine symptoms, there may be days when you just can’t make it to work. Many of you have expressed feeling guilty about missing work, but know you are not alone in this feeling, and we support your decision to take care of your health first. Depending on your type of migraine, or even just how you’re feeling that day, sometimes, getting to work may not be an option. It is absolutely possible to live a full life with migraine, even if some days, you just need to stay home.

What choice? I have to go to work.

“I had to go to work because we are shorthanded”
“I struggle with the guilt of not being there for my students”
"I have to work, it’s put up or shut up”

While many migraineurs have days when they just need to stay home, for many of you, there’s no decision- you have to go to work. For many people affected by migraines, the bills just won’t get paid if you don’t go to work. Although there are financial options for migraineurs who cannot work due to their illness, as many of our community members shared, these options can sometimes fall short of making ends meet. However, constantly masking your symptoms can take its toll, and we hope you will rely on your healthcare providers for guidance in making those decisions.

Should I just ‘push through’?

“Had this dilemma today. I finally gave up and came home”
“Pushing through makes it worse… I did that for years”
“I push through because I don’t have a choice”

When managing your migraine, the question often becomes “how bad will this one be?”. Sometimes, you can push through a migraine, take your medication, and be surprised at how quickly you feel better. Other times, you wish you’d never left the house. For many community members, the decision often becomes “Should I just push through?”, especially on a “half migraine day”. Although some people can power through their symptoms and stay at work, for others, ignoring a migraine only makes the fallout worse. While every person’s experiences and symptoms are different, we encourage you to confront your migraines by tracking your symptoms, learning your triggers, and always practicing self-care.

Is my workplace causing my migraines?

“I teach preschool… getting 4 year olds to stay quiet is pretty impossible”
“I felt that coworkers in the past were not respectful nor understanding”
“The light, the noise… I couldn’t take it anymore”
“...if I will be able to handle the busy, bright, fluorescent lighted office”
“I have an incredible boss who will send me home”

For many community members, balancing work and migraines comes down to where you work. Depending on your migraine causes and triggers, the workplace can either encourage or discourage your symptoms- especially when workplace lights, sounds, smells, or activities tend to spark an attack. Although many of you have shared positive experiences with coworkers and employers, some of our community members have found that people in the workplace are not so understanding. To combat your workplace-triggers, we urge you to talk to your employer about workplace accommodations, and know your health and medical rights. If your coworkers’ lack of empathy is affecting your migraine management, check out this sample letter for explaining migraines to an employer, or consider resources for talking to people about migraine.

Is it time to apply for disability?

“I’m fighting for disability”   
“Fortunately, I have FMLA”    
“I only get five sick days per year”

If you are affected by migraines, it may not surprise you to learn that migraine the 12th most disabling condition in the US. However, for many community members, it was a surprise to learn that people affected by migraine may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act. Although many of you have had success with SSDI, the process for getting approved isn’t always easy. If your migraines prevent you from working, we encourage you to consider applying for SSDI, or learn more about your options under the Family Medical Leave Act. Connect with members of the migraine community to learn more about how they access these benefits, and know that we are here to support you on your migraine journey!

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