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To work or not to work on this half-migraine day

(Written on a Tuesday in August, 2016)

It’s 10:52 am on a Tuesday, and my regular shift at the bookshop started nearly two hours ago.

This morning, I was up at 7 and felt yesterday’s migraine starting to creep back. I took a Tylenol 3 and had a cup of coffee (I no longer use caffeine daily as I want to use it as a migraine treatment when I can). I had some cereal.

The migraine didn’t get better right then, but it didn’t get worse, either.

I started texting Avid Bookshop’s store manager, T., to ask if he’d come in early to cover the opening duties at the shop. I thought to myself, Wait on this. I may feel better soon.

I copied the text, which saved it to my phone’s clipboard.

I got in the shower and felt a little nauseated but hopeful. Maybe the T3 would actually work today. (It seems to work miracles one day and be completely ineffective the next.)

Upon exiting the shower, I felt a little better. I got dressed and went into the bathroom to brush my hair and get ready. Jim came in and started talking with me about an art-meets-music project he’s working on. His voice is kind of a loud one anyway, but this morning it was really hurting my head even though he was speaking at his normal volume. I kept turning to face him directly instead of looking in the mirror, as that made it so his voice was not going directly into my ear. I worked hard not to flinch, as I wanted to be a good listener and didn’t want to take him out of this brainstorming moment by saying, “I know you’re speaking at a normal volume, but your voice is stabbing my brain.”

Oh no, I thought. The migraine isn’t getting better. I should send that text to T.

So I sat on the bed, fully dressed (down to my shoes) and ready for work, and sent the text to T., the store manager. I got an immediate and very kind response. He had me covered and wanted me to rest.

I lay back, took off my shoes, and decided to film a quick migraine.com video before the head pain got unbearable.

But then…it didn’t. Become unbearable, that is. I started to feel better. Not 100% better, but about 50% better. Better enough that I could technically function at work.

But should I?

So now I’m wondering what I should do: go to work at the shop and try to do my normal job duties while trying to put on a normal face for customers even though I’m feeling kind of gross? Help T. out by not letting him be the only person working on a busy weekday? I’m supposed to work tomorrow, too, and have a lot to do in the shop—I should go in.

OR should I stay home and rest up, hoping that a day of rest will guarantee my health tomorrow, when I’ll be much more productive when I’m feeling good?

The future is uncertain. I have no idea if resting at home is better than pushing through now that I’m 50% better. I set my alarm for 11:30 in the hopes that I will feel better. If I do, I’ll try to go in. If I don’t feel better—or if I’ve gotten worse—I’ll put my stretchy cat leggings on, take off this uncomfortable bra, put on a comfy tank top, and curl up to read in bed, trying not to think about all the work I’m missing.

Have you ever been in a situation similar to this? If you are like me, lucky enough to have the option of going into work or not, how do you weigh the options?

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.

Comments

  • SPSwafford
    3 years ago

    This is sounds so similar! Thank you for normalizing this. I actually used to push through more in my younger days, but I have learned that my overall health is more important. Also, I am a teacher, and I am concerned about being on medication at school and still hurting. I even will debate on which days are more important and try to make those. I am an Inclusion Special Education teacher and Deaf Ed certified. There’s not a sub for me in our rural community so I do what I can. I try not to feel guilty for not being there when I’m sick because it only extends the migraine. Thank you for your blog on this.

  • rjmilewski
    3 years ago

    Between migraines and fibromyalgia, it feels like at least 25% of my days fall into this category. It’s wonderful that your boss is understanding… it’s so hard to know what to do some days!

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi rjmilewski, thanks for being part of the community and joining the conversation.

    You didn’t specifically mention, but it sounds like you may be lacking some understanding at your place of employment. Please remember that you are not without options, FMLA is available to you as well as Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits.

    We’re always here to share support. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Luvlatrell
    3 years ago

    Ugh it’s the worst! I got 100 yards from work today and it came on: the dense feeling on the left side of my head, the neck stiffness and the weird sensations in my hand.

    I feel so guilty for cancelling my clients just a few minutes before my work day was to begin. I actually went so far as to craft a story about a fender-bender! I try not to feel shame surrounding this but it’s inevitable especially with all the stigma attached to it.

    The headaches for me come monthly with my cycle and there is little that seems to help/stop/prevent them. I’ve tried nearly everything but always go back to the stomach pain-inducing exedrin and ice pack.

    Feeling grateful to have found this forum and can really relate to your story.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Well we are sure happy that you found us Luviatrell! I am sorry that you had such a rough day. Are you feeling any better? In case this article provides you with some information you may not have known regarding hormonal migraines, I thought I’d pass along –

    https://migraine.com/migraine-types/menstrual-migraine/
    https://migraine.com/living-with-migraine/hormonal-migraine-the-basics/

    Wishing you a gentle night. Thanks for the comment & know we are always here for support. -Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • djmikeyb87
    3 years ago

    Usually I show up to work out of guilt, but my co-workers know the darker and bigger the sunglasses I am wearing the less I can handle…and if I smell like vaporub… I am resisting the urge to find a dark corner to curl up in and hide.

    Fortunately many of.my coworkers have experienced migraines, and the ones that haven’t judge from the reactions of the ones who have that it is no joke.

    Previous jobs were harder to deal with my migraines, but my current employer has pretty generous sick absence policies and is understanding when reduced functioning is necessary.

    My position isn’t in customer service nor does it require stable office houelrs, so as long as I keep up with my.duties they are flexible, I am lucky, bit I understand the challenges that migraines pose for people with less understanding employers and less forgiving positions…I’ve been there too.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Djmikeyb87, thanks for being here and for sharing your story.

    It’s wonderful to hear that you have found a level of empathy and understanding with your job and coworkers. Kudos to your employer! -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Bill Bartlett
    3 years ago

    I once thought I could work through a migraine…if I could get to work. Driving scares me when afflicted with migraine brain or when vertigo and double vision accompany my attack. So, lately I have been opting out of work for safety sake.

    I was slow to make that decision, and a close call forced my hand. I was driving a few weeks ago while feeling about 50%. My wife was in the car, and I nearly caused an accident. That was a wake up call for me. I could have injured myself, my wife, and/or another driver and passengers.

    It’s better that is stay home if I am less than100%.

    Great story. Thanks.

    Bill

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Bill, we’re so glad to hear that everyone is safe. Thanks for sharing and for being part of the community! -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • RachelRoo
    3 years ago

    Actually, this brings up a question for me too that some of you may know the answer to. I know of FMLA as something people do for surgery or pregnancy…a set of days planned ahead of time with an end date in mind. Does it also apply for days taken out of necessity here and there? In other words, if I have a documented issue with chronic migraines, should it be okay for me to miss a few days of work each month if they do not go past 12 weeks per year? I’m not even talking about pay, I go through my sick leave quickly and take unpaid days. I’m just wondering if FMLA gives me a leg to stand on for the scattered days I inevitably end up missing.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi RachelRoo, FMLA absolutely applies to migraine. You may be interested in reading Expert Answer: Migraines and Unexcused Absences From Work. Please also check out the first article in the series which is linked from within this article.

    Please remember that you’re not alone. We’re always here to share information and support. Don’t hesitate to reach out whe you need a friendly ear. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi RachelRoo – This article may help you out regarding absences from work and FLMA – https://migraine.com/blog/migraines-and-unexcused-absences-from-work/. I am so sorry to hear that you end up missing so many days from work…I am sure this must be very stressful and difficult to manage. Thanks for reaching out. -Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • RachelRoo
    3 years ago

    I completely relate to this story, except for the part about being your own boss!

    I have an especially challenging job for a chronic migraneur, I am a Pre-K language specialist and spend my days in bright rooms filled with demanding children who are occasionally -extremely loud-. I love my work in that it is rewarding, important to me, and I’m good at it…but I also miss more days than the average teacher which fills me with guilt and frustration.

    My last principal was extremely understanding and never gave me a hard time about missing work or leaving early (Not being a classroom teacher, I have that flexibility at least, the day can carry on without me having a substitute in place.). This year though we have a new principal, ironically a migraine sufferer herself, who has become much, much harsher with me. Its clear that the amount of time I miss is a problem for her. A part of me wonders if it is because when she has migraines she comes in to work, and expects me to be ‘tough’ like she is and do the same. However one person’s pain and symptoms are not the same as anyone else’s, and she also has a nice, quiet, dark office to work in when she is suffering.

    It’s made me start to question myself and my decision making…should I be ‘toughing it out’ more and showing up even though I know I will be in pain and that my very job is a trigger? It’s also, and I know this is a bad confession, had me taking more medicine than I should to avoid MOH…because I feel like I -have- to make it in to work or else I’ll be on the naughty list again, and so I pop a triptan so I can try to muddle through.

    So sorry this is such a challenge for everyone.

  • sitaylor0328
    3 years ago

    Migraines are terribly difficult. I’ve had them since age 6. I’m 36. The dilemma described in this story is one I’ve faced many times. It’s so hard to decipher which way it will go. Will it let up or will it continue to progress? The lack of comprehension and patience in people can be as stressful as the migraine. You have to make a living but you’re not that reliable person who never misses a day. Even if you’re a good employee, all those migraine days take a toll on your work, personal relationships, family and you. It gets tiring to miss events because an attack occurs. I’m a chronic migraineur. It’s taxing, mentally and physically.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi sitaylor, please know that you’re not alone, many members of the community share these same experiences. We’re here to share support or just to lend a friendly ear. Don’t hesitate to reach out here or on the Facebook page. We’re glad you’re here. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    I kept trying to leave early on Thursday. I shouldn’t have gone in at all, except I had the clean tablecloths and some important paperwork needed fixing.
    34 interruptions later (well, you know what I mean – seriously, everything was interrupted many times), I’d actually worked overtime, and had lost my temper with both colleagues and clients. (Not yelling but certainly surly and almost rude)
    Not a good look. Not helpful to anyone.
    Shouldn’t have stuck it out – shouldn’t have gone in in the first place. (Today is first day in over a week I’m a bit clearer and have physical balance)

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi JOJ, it’s nice to see you this evening! I’m sorry to hear you had a rough week and glad to hear you’re feeling a bit better. We’re sending all good wishes. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • aks868
    3 years ago

    That happens to me all the time! I feel like I must be imagining the migraine– I have the fatigue, chills, blurry vision, hypersensitivity, etc…,but the pain is not intense or is not there. I keep telling myself to snap out of it or I am just lazy and don’t want to work, but I my heart I know that is not true. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone in this weird type of migraine!

  • Brooke H moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Aks868, I’m so sorry to hear you experience this. It can be quite scary to have symptoms that one is not familiar this. Balancing taking care of one’s self and the desire to continue working can be tricky – not to mention that judging voice you mention! I thought you may also find this article to be of interest: https://migraine.com/blog/internalizing-the-stigma-of-migraine/. Please come hear anytime for support! Best, Brooke (Migraine.com team)

  • LauraS
    3 years ago

    Like others here, this has happened to me so many times. Especially as I get aura migraines without pain.

    It makes it very hard to know whether I’m well enough to work – sometimes it’s obvious, especially on the first day of the migraine.

    But by day 2 or 3, once my stomach has settled, I often think I’m fine until I try to drive or concentrate on work. Then I’ll realise I’m slurring slightly or just forgetting words, which is really embarrassing when I’m on the phone to a client!

    Luckily, as I generally work from home, I can still work, but slowly (really slowly), but it has an impact on family as my husband will have to do the school run, and while he’s very understanding, it makes me feed awkward that I don’t have something more ‘obviously’ wrong with me!

    So I say, just do what you’re capable of that day. If you can go in to work, but think it would a bad idea to be in front of customers, suggest you work in the back office for the day. Keeping to yourself, quiet if you can, just getting on with stuff in your own time, might be an easier way to get back to work than rushing back to the frontline.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi LauraS, thanks so much for sharing your support and suggestions. We very much appreciate you being here and joining the conversation. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • inkypaws
    3 years ago

    This has been me too many times to count. Family members sometimes don’t believe me when I say the pain prevents me from going to work; especially if I’d worked through one just recently. Between migraines and other health issues, my employment has become problematic, but what can I do?

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi inkypaws, I’m sorry to hear that you have been struggling with health issues and work. You may be interested in reading Disability Income Preparation Guide as migraine does qualify for disability. Please know we’re always here to share support and information, or if you just need a friendly ear. -Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • jjrae
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this post, this was me yesterday. The migraine had started the night before and was one of the worst I had ever had (what my doctor calls a full body migraine) I knew I needed to go to work as I had an important meeting so I tried. When I got to my car I made it half a block before I started seeing spots, had extreme nausea and had to stop in the middle of the road, managed to get my 4 way flashers on (luckily not a busy road) and my neighbor noticed and came to help me. Managed to get a short text “tkg AM off migraine” to my boss figuring I’d be ok after some meds and sleep to try for the meeting in the afternoon. by 1230 I was attempting to get ready for work again and blacked out from the pain in the middle of my hallway. knew I needed the afternoon off as well. Today the headache still there but I was able to make it to the office today, wearing my sunglasses and earplugs and my coworkers are aware, all chemical scents have been removed and if I start deteriorating I’m to let them know, and if I don’t feel safe to drive they will take me home and deliver my car after work. I feel really guilty I missed yesterday but given my current task is to spend 8 hours listening to recordings through headphones I’m not sure I’m of much use here anyways.

  • MaddieG
    3 years ago

    More often than not I go to work. I can’t afford the unpaid time off that comes with FMLA… and even if I feel like I need to stay home, I would need to take my daughter to daycare or figure out how to care for her. 2 year olds are not known for being self-sufficient. I fought one this morning, but luckily it did get better after about 30 minutes in the “quiet” room at work. I also realize how lucky I am to have such a thing available when I need it. I wonder if I didn’t push myself so much maybe I’d not get them for as long… meaning, if I let myself have the days I need, maybe I would be able to recover fully in one day instead of the 3 day lingering hell. I’m just so used to not letting them “win”.

  • Steph
    3 years ago

    Sb Thanks for this post. This is me today. I knew one was coming on, am still in denial often trying to rationalize it away. Went through motions of getting up, breakfast, shower (where nauseousness was worse) . Tried to go in but did not make it. Gave in to full day off. The guilt is so silly but real. It is helpful to see other’d stories i know ivam not going crazy. Ty,

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Steph! I’m sending good wishes that you have found some relief.

    The guilt is one of the hardest things to deal with. For me, if I let it. it feels incredibly self-indulgent, there are so many things to get done. Please know that you’re not alone, and that we’re always here when you need to know you’re sane and in the great company of this wonderful community.

    We’re glad you’re here. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Douglas
    3 years ago

    For me the issue is most often “should i go home, or work at 50%”? Unfortunately I am a “knowledge worker”, and if i can’t think straight or trust my judgement, then I really cannot work. Fortunately I no longer need to factor in whether or not I should drive, I remember staying at work more than once because I was afraid to drive. I actually had a co-worker that sat with me for 2-hours past his stop time to ensure I was able to drive.

    I frequently decide to work through, but it usually means that I am useless afterwards (and frequently the next day also).

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Douglas, thanks so much for sharing your story. Your co-worker sounds like a genuine gem, they’re sometimes few and far between. But I’m glad to hear that you have at least one worry off your plate in that driving is no longer a concern.

    Please know that we’re always here to share information and support. -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • Mr FBP
    3 years ago

    I have days like this. As a home worker I have days when I feel unwell enough that I couldn’t drive to a job, but can get through some e-mails at home while I wait for the migraine symptoms to either go or come on with a vengeance. My employer expects to be informed by 10:00 am if I’m taking sick leave for a day, but that isn’t always possible.
    My manager, helpfully, is happy for me to give an estimate of how many hours I’ve lost through the day to migraine, rather than insisting on ‘the letter of the law’

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Mr FBP, thanks for sharing your story. IT’s wonderful that you are able to work from home when necessary, where conditions can be controlled and symptoms mitigated. It’s also awesome that your manager is willing to work with you and remove possible work stress.

    We’re glad you’re here! -All Best, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • cindyd
    3 years ago

    I feel guilty all of the time like that and watch the clock. Missed work yesterday and was sick as a dog and trudged in to work this morning hungover from all my meds and the pain from the day before. Postdrome is awful. My boss and co workers totally understand and I have also had to have three surgeries in the last three years. I am so tired. Ready to retire but can’t. My husband gets migraines maybe 2 to 3 times a year and is very empathetic. Couldn’t make it without him. So thankful for people on this site that make me feel like how I am is normal for me and people like me. Sigh…

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Aww, cindyd, sending hugs and good thoughts. We’re so glad that you’re part of the community. Please know that you’re never alone, we’re always here when you need some support. -Warmly, Donna (Migrainecom team)

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi cindyd,
    Thank YOU TOO helping to let others know that what you/they are going through is normal by taking the time to share this comment. I am so happy to hear that you find our site supportive. We are happy to have you part of it!

    I am however so sorry that you have had to undergo so many surgeries in just the past few years. You certainly have every right to be so tired! I am sure that is an under statement of how you must be feeling on a daily basis with recoveries, migraines, work, family. It’s all a lot to manage.

    Thanks again for the comment.
    Take care,
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Sandy
    3 years ago

    Yep, lived that way for 10 years until I was home more time than being at work. Migraine made me an un-dependable person. And eventually had to stop working.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    I am sorry Sandy that you are no longer able to work. I am sure that had to be a big decision for you to finally make.

    Thanks for taking the time to share & helping to let others know they are not alone in this struggle.
    Wishing you a good night.
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Lisapnz
    3 years ago

    Wow this describes my battle a few times a week. That guilt of thinking that you are almost well enough to be at work vs the fear and guilt that going into work would mean you are unwell tomorrow as well. I find it very hard to make a decision, probably not helped by being ‘hungover’ from the pain & any medication.
    I think we just have to think of ourselves in the moment and try and forget about the workload and deadlines – however I haven’t figured out how to do that yet!!
    Good luck.

  • Tamara
    3 years ago

    Since I am a sales rep I have a very flexible job – except this week …. I have to reset collar/leash sections for 8 stores and they take me 2-3 hours to do each one. I only work part time at the moment and some days less depending on how the head feels.

    I never push through anymore, it only makes things worse for me. I pushed through on Monday because I only had one more account to do and wanted to show off my kitty in his costume to the manager there. Well that meant I was literally exhausted by the time I got home, still have to eat supper (almost too tired to eat), walk the crazy dog that had been left home all day and I napped on the couch until 7:30 when I went to bed …. but had the worse sleep ever so again I started tired and was exhausted by the time I got home.

    Today I had to cut my day short and only do one store out of the two booked. I also feel the pain increasing which I haven’t felt since we added the long acting tramadol a week ago. Hopefully I can get the nutrition, hydration and sleep back on track so I can get work back on track!

    So no never push through, take care of you properly first and then only if you are 75% better from the migraine try and go in. Hope you feel better!

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