Workplace Woes and 'The Talk'
I feel as though I am always walking a fine line of employed and not-so-employed when it comes to balancing my work life and my migraines. Along with other illnesses such as chronic anxiety and depression, migraine can take a pretty intrusive role in my life and can make keeping a job really difficult. One too many sick days, one too many requests for accommodation and I could very easily be seen as unreliable and out of a job. For that reason, I often find myself pushing through intense symptoms while on the clock, and loading up on multiple jobs (I currently have three jobs that I physically report to) as a safety net. That often ends up manifesting as me overworking myself (sometimes multiple shifts per day, seven days a week) in order to keep all of my employment, while having the assurance that if I lose one job from being 'too sick', I will have something to fall back on. I feel as though I am a hard and diligent worker, and I always try my best, but often I have to leave work or call out because I can not function to the standard required by my workplace.
While it can be difficult to find financial security when dealing with migraine, there are options available to those who experience chronic pain, such as workplace accommodation, sick leave, and disability insurance. Many migraineurs struggle to get diagnoses, however, and those that do can struggle to get approved for insurance.
For those of us who are not able to take advantage of sick leave or insurance, we may find ourselves in a constant loop of seeking and losing employment. If we do find employment, we may feel anxious and constantly anticipate losing work because of our disability. This has been especially pertinent for me lately because I am often having to leave work because of other chronic illnesses along with migraines. This affects me sometimes multiple times a week. I anticipate each week will be the week of 'too much asking' and constantly feel anxious about my performance and job security.
'The Talk', the one where performance and commitment is discussed in the workplace, is never fun. It has happened to me a number of times and each time it feels truly awful. I am never surprised, but I always feel exasperated because I always feel like Iam doing as much as I can.
Isn't it enough that I am trying my best?
I try to hide my pain and push through often to avoid 'The Talk', but it seems to follow me at many of the places I go. Between feeling guilty for asking coworkers to constantly cover shifts or relieve me, and pushing through pain to get through as many shifts as I can each week, working is as confusing as it is draining sometimes, and migraine and anxiety tend only add to that confusion.
It can be really uncomfortable living on the edge, waiting for 'The Talk' to happen or hoping it doesn't or hoping that it does but that there is understanding and compassion. One affirmation I give myself is repeating that I am valuable despite what my illnesses say, even at work. It can be hard to believe that in the moment or when things are particularly difficult, but it is true.
Have you lost or struggled to gain employment because of chronic pain? How do you navigate 'The Talk?' Let's discuss in the comments!
When was your last migraine check-up?