Figure trying to climb stairs being held back by a brain at the bottom of the stairs.

Impact of Migraine on My Career

Migraine is a disease that touches all areas of your life. A career is a huge area that gets affected by migraine. I’ve had the same career for thirty-plus years, and migraine has disrupted it to the point I had to leave it behind. I was the employee who never took a sick day. That was until migraine disease stepped into my life.

I started out with episodic attacks, and I powered through them the best that I could. Over time, they became chronic and then intractable. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion as migraine took over my life and career despite my seeking treatment.

Could I use FMLA for migraine?

I was fortunate to have a supervisor that had compassion for me, but that compassion wasn’t easily earned. I had to have a serious dialogue with my boss about what was happening to my health. I laid it all on the table, and he was able to see why I was burning off personal time every month. He was genuinely concerned and, in turn, explained the Family Medical Leave Act to me. He wanted to give me a way to protect my position and career. I used intermittent FMLA leave to protect the weeks of time I was needing to take off due to migraine. FMLA gave me twelve weeks of protected time, and that was enough to keep me going during the episodic attack cycle that I was going through.

How was my new boss with my accommodations?

As time went on and my migraines became chronic, my FMLA time was quickly being eaten up due to days-long cycles of migraine. My empathic supervisor was replaced around this time, but he left in place reasonable accommodations with flexible scheduling that were a big help in keeping me working. His replacement was less than understanding. My reasonable accommodations were stripped and FMLA was noticeably a bother to the new supervisor. I was still performing up to the standards that we were held against despite the migraine attacks. I continued to butt heads with the new supervisor periodically. This lead my to start keeping detailed records and notes regarding my interactions with the new supervisor.

Did filing a complaint with the EEOC work?

I had been attacked on several occasions by my supervisor for things directly related to my migraine disease. I kept compiling records and getting things documented with the Human Resources department. Ultimately I had to go to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and file a complaint of discrimination. It was an extreme step to take, but I was going to make sure I stood up for myself and my disability. My work ethic and performance were not the issues. I won my case with the EEOC, but during the fight, my migraines had become intractable. I could no longer stay in my career so the win was bittersweet. I stood my ground despite the disability and created a new awareness within my company for the disease.

How can you protect yourself?

My career was affected by migraine disease, but I fought through it as long as I could. I know many people are fighting through migraines every day in their jobs and careers. I commend you for taking on such a daunting task each day. There are tools to help you in that fight. Use FMLA leave to protect your migraine related absences, talk to your supervisors and make them aware of your disability, and never stop fighting!

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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 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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