Migraine Minefield: Jury Duty

The dreaded letter came in early July. I was being summoned to jury duty. Ughhhhh.

Why can't I go to court?

My first reaction was to begin looking for the letter my former neurologist wrote to my county’s government about a decade ago. You see, I had gone into court to fight a ticket (I promise I didn’t run that stop sign), but I was told I had to remove my hat and sunglasses out of respect for the judge. I tried to explain that the fluorescent lights were a migraine trigger for me and that I at least needed to keep either the hat or the glasses if they wouldn’t let me have both, but the deputy wasn’t having it. I ended up pleading no contest and paying $50 in order to get out of there. Supposedly I would’ve had to wait at least five hours for my case to be called, and I wasn’t about to sit in a fluorescently-lit room with no eye/brain protection for that long, especially if I couldn’t close my eyes or read a book!

How did I get excused from jury duty last time?

Shortly after that incident, I was called to jury duty. My neurologist at the time wrote a letter to the judge saying I should be allowed to wear a hat and sunglasses for medical reasons if I have to be in a room with fluorescent lights. If that was not allowed, I should be excused from jury duty. I was excused and then must’ve been put on a “do not contact” list of some sort because I didn’t get called again for a decade!

How am I handling this jury duty summons?

You can imagine my dismay upon receiving the letter summoning me to the courtroom on August 1, 2016. I couldn’t find the letter from my former neurologist, but in all honesty, I didn’t look that hard. I now have a new doctor, and it didn’t seem legit to cite a decade-old excuse letter from someone I don’t have any contact with anymore. Plus, I have better tools at my command now: my special TheraSpecs glasses that help counteract the fluorescent lights that trigger migraines for me. I felt much more prepared and much less scared of a migraine.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I somehow ended up in two different courtrooms without any of the powers that be realizing I was on the docket. Thankfully, the courtroom I was in most of the time had higher ceilings than the first courtroom, meaning the lights didn’t seem so harsh. The deputies in that room actually allowed us to read until we were called up, so I kind of enjoyed myself.

How long did I wait for lunch?

Then I started getting hungry. Really, really hungry. Groups were called up to the jury box to be interviewed by lawyers so they could be assigned for one- and four-day-long cases that week. Please let me be assigned to a one-day case, I thought, not wanting to miss an entire week of work.

A little after noon, groups were excused to go to lunch. Names were called one by one, and the hundred or so people were divided up into time slots to get lunch. I waited and waited for my name to be called. Nothing.

Dang, I was getting hungry. Really hungry. And fidgety. I went back to my book. If there had been a chance, I would’ve gone up to someone official to ask when the third group would be called for lunch. Turns out there was no third group — they just didn’t know I was there.

When did they realize?

At last, at three o’clock, the judge called for a ten-minute break. I went up to a deputy and asked when the next long break would be — I was really hungry. He looked confused when he saw I still had my jury questionnaire in hand. He whispered to the judge for a few minutes, who beckoned me over. She apologized for them somehow missing me entirely. She was embarrassed, and I, in language that was more formal than this, told her not to sweat it. She asked if I had signed in. Yes, I had. Did anyone ask me for my questionnaire? No, no one did. Did I at least get my $25.00 jury duty check? No, I did not.

How did I get away from my triggers?

And guess what, folks? She let me leave. She had them write me a check on the spot, apologized for the embarrassing oversight (again, I told her it wouldn’t have mattered at all if I hadn’t been so hungry!), and excused me from jury duty. Sure, I still had about six hours sitting with a mostly empty stomach in a migraine minefield, surrounded by harsh overhead fluorescents and men and women with a lot of perfume. The bench was uncomfortable, and I had my neck hunched over my book to try to cut out any extra effect the fluorescent lights would have that my TheraSpecs wouldn’t protect me from. (Bad posture is a trigger for me.) I started getting a little anxious about not being called up, and anxiety/stress certainly doesn’t help my migraine brain, but I tried to breathe deeply and keep that at a minimum.

Was I migraine-free?

When I emerged from the courtroom a little after three in the afternoon, check and car keys in hand, I was relieved not only to be off duty for the rest of the week but to miraculously be migraine-free. Later that evening, I felt a little under the weather, but I didn’t end up having to take any prescription medication!

Have you ever entered a migraine minefield and lived to tell the tale? How about a time you were in the midst of a minefield and were attacked all around and ended up with a bad migraine? Share your stories below!

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