Migraine and Careers

As I called in to work on my third week of a new job, I said the dreaded words: “I have a migraine; I can’t come in today.” And then I thought of all the worst possible things my boss could think about that call, partially because I already think he’s unhappy with me (for reasons I can’t figure out), but also because I fear this with every new boss.

Then I remembered that they don’t all think terrible things about me when I first expose my illness. My last job was for a company that actually created a product to help migraineurs (along many other diseases). And once I told them I got migraines, and continued to get them through the course of the next year of working there, I was met will real empathy from my bosses. Because they knew what it was like from working on that project.

And then there was Jana. Jana was my superior at not one, but two, consecutive jobs. I worked for her for 5 years. And because her mom had suffered from migraines for her entire life, not only did she forgive me for calling off repeatedly, she helped me by connecting me with an amazing specialist.

So after today’s call with my new boss, I thought, “Maybe his wife gets them so he knows what it’s like.” I mean, it’s so prevalent that most people know at least one person who suffers from migraines. But then comes the issue of thinking they know a migraineur, when really they just know someone who gets headaches. I can’t even count how many people I’ve met who say they get a migraine a couple times a year, or they had one once a long time ago, or they get them every day but they just take tylenol, so they know what it’s like. But as people who’ve actually been diagnosed with migraine know, migraine isn’t just “a headache”. I get headaches too — in fact, I had a headache my entire first week at this new job. But it wasn’t something that was stopping me from doing my work. I don’t even treat those headaches with pain killers. Those are a cakewalk.

Every time someone says they get migraines, but they actually don’t, I think their doing a disservice to the real victims. Because it creates this illusion that migraines aren’t that bad, and aren’t something that should keep people from coming to work and doing their job. This illness is so misunderstood it enrages me. I’m not sure if other migraineurs feel this way, but I feel like I have this illness nobody takes seriously. And so if it’s not bad enough that I have to endure them, what is this doing to my career?

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