Career On the Line….Before Its Start
I’ve lived with migraines my whole life, and although they have changed over the years, I’ve become a pro at dealing with them, out of necessity. The bulk of my childhood memories involve migraines and how they had an effect on just about every special event- birthdays, holidays, etc.- largely because one of my worst triggers was excitement. Therefore, anything exciting to a child was basically doomed to become hell. When I got a little older and was in my final year of college, I was noticing an increased frequency of attacks. College was a stressful time for me, for the obvious reasons and also other reasons, and the migraines responded vehemently. They also became more…interesting.
Altered thinking, hallucinations, you name it. I became a really poor decisionmaker when migraines were involved, and once taught an entire morning of kids age 5-8 when I really should have gone straight home. I saw a wookiee in a field while driving. Pretty wild. I was finishing my student teaching in 2010 and had had a great final day at my last placement, with not only my sponsor teacher on hand but also my supervisor was present for one final observation and meeting. These two women were about to decide my fate: student teaching is a HUGE part of your success in getting not only your degree but your teaching certification. The lesson went wonderfully, and the three of us sat down afterward to discuss my semester. Here I am, awaiting the approval of two people who basically hold my future career in their hands….and BAM, migraine. I knew it in an instant, but I made a snap decision to suffer through it. The meeting couldn’t be that long, and I only lived five minutes away. I’d schmooze with them, say goodbye to a semester of work, and get home and hibernate. Good plan.
Unfortunately, this particular migraine was an all new level of hell. Medicines aren’t always 100% effective, and of all the random remedies I’ve heard, there is only one surefire fix for me: sleep. So, I got home, told my then fiance that it’d gone great, but I needed to nip this thing in the bud and I’d see him in a few hours, and laid down. I don’t think I made it five minutes before I was crying for him to cover the windows with blankets and help me hide from the light. I know it wasn’t a full half hour between my arrival home and the realization that sleep wasn’t happening. I was terrified. My one tried and true wasn’t doing the trick. What now?? 20 some years of this and sleep had never failed. Minutes later, we rushed to the ER as I sobbed; it had been a good 15 years since I’d been in rough enough shape for emergency care. Fortunately, the PA who saw me was a fellow migraineur and hooked me up with an effective treatment (that I was able to get a prescription for to keep on hand so that future events didn’t have to involve the emergency room), but I was so rattled by it all.
Aside from the mental trauma of the migraine and the side effects while coming down, I was in disbelief that I’d basically just been faced with the decision between my career and my health- and I’d made the wrong one. Why should I ever have to choose? Was this going to happen again? Unfortunately, it still does on a different scale- I recently suffered through a particularly serious migraine because it hit during a faculty meeting and as a first year teacher who already feels guilty because I assume everything I do is wrong, I didn’t feel it appropriate to get up and walk out in front of my principal and the entire faculty. By the end, I was almost unable to stumble back to my room between gutwrenching sobs.
Now, I have the entire faculty looking at me suspiciously anyway- I’ve realized that there are special particularly obnoxious lights in the classroom where we have those meetings, and so I have to shut off a row of lights in the very back of the room and sit alone in the dark. It always gets me a few interesting looks but I can’t decide whether it’s worse to let them wonder or to explain. My principal knows, and is supportive, but I still worry and wonder. And based on the last few years, I figure I can still expect more changes to learn how to handle.