Talking with My Attorney - Stigma of Migraine

Last week, I had my first of two interviews with my attorney and I must say that while he made me feel more at ease with my coming hearing, he also gave me a lot to think about. Maybe a little too much to think about, I ended up not getting to sleep until just before the sun rose the day after the phone call.

The first interview was more or less a meet and greet, get to know me type interview. We went over my work history and he took the time to answer the few dozen questions I had for him. He sounds young but motivated, sympathetic to my situation but didn’t attempt to sugar coat anything I had to ask. He took the time to really listen to me and when I asked him the question that had been bouncing around my head since the beginning, he didn’t even stop to think about it.

What would happen if I have a migraine during my hearing?

The entire process has been a stressor but we are coming up on the most stressful point of my disability journey and that’s being shuffled into a small room with people I don’t know to talk about a condition that they may have already formed their own personal opinions on, underneath the harsh fluorescent lighting and staring into a giant TV screen that I will not be able to control the brightness on. No doubt my appetite will not be good that morning because I will have a bazillion butterflies in my stomach, I probably won’t be able to sleep well the night before and the mother of all mother’s, we are doing this in the beginning part of December, where the winter weather patterns will start to play into everyday life. My birthday is seven days after my hearing, I’ve had seasonal weather, snow and ice storms, a rouge arctic blast - what could I be looking at the day of the hearing?

If no one else will say it, I will – the cards are stacked against me and I have no doubt that a migraine will happen, so the question had to be asked. What he told me made me stop breathing for a few moments.

“If one was to occur, Stacey, I would ask the judge for a break so we can get you to your meds and someplace quiet so you can gather yourself but I would highly recommend we push through to the end. I’m not trying to upset you, but migraine cases are the toughest cases to win, if you were to have one in front of the judge, it would more than likely work in your favor.”

Did anyone catch that?

“I’m not trying to upset you, but migraine cases are the toughest cases to win, if you were to have one in front of the judge, it would more than likely work in your favor.”

I read somewhere that the World Health Organization ranked chronic migraine as number seven of the top conditions to cause permanent disability worldwide but the study has been outdated now for a couple years (2013 I believe). Chronic migraine is not listed among the list of disabling conditions as per Social Security (which proves nothing honestly, there are a number of disabling conditions that’s not listed but you can still get fight for your disability, it’s all a matter of presenting enough evidence to prove you can’t work) but what I’m getting at here is just the simple fact that the stigma has infiltrated in places you may not be aware of – i.e. the government. WHO may have given chronic migraine a thorough once over, but they will not be at my hearing.

I must have been quiet for a little longer than I should have, I vaguely heard him say my name before I snapped out of my deer in headlights look that no doubt clouded my face and caused my already obliterated brain to throw a rod. Luckily, he cooled my nerves down some by telling me he knows my judge, saying he’s a good guy, extremely fair and if I were to have a migraine in front of him – he would take my discomfort seriously. We will discuss my condition further in our next meeting the middle of next month, but I gave him enough information to make him realize that since it will only be the two of us in this room during the hearing, he needed to be aware of my symptoms.

He ended the interview by telling me he’s dealt with migraine cases before, but none as severe as mine and that he was very sure the law firm had never seen such a severe case, either. It’s one thing to have migraines ten times a month – another matter entirely when it doubles and shows stroke-like symptoms. He asked me how I do it – I told him some days I wasn’t exactly sure myself, some days are just easier than others.

I am still nervous about my hearing but not as bad and the rest leaves a little bit to be desired. I am falling into the trap we seem to find ourselves in sometimes – we find out that we are meeting new people and our first instinct is to immediately go on the defensive, assuming they are part of the uneducated mass who believe migraines are just bad headaches. I do my best to not fall down that hole but it’s very hard not to sometimes and this is one of them. I could find out that the vocational doctor knows someone with migraines, or the administrative judge may have a sister or mother that suffers from them. Until I am sitting before them and begin to answer their questions, I’m just not sure. But I do know one thing – my attorney knows people with migraines so I’m not just walking in there with someone that knows how to handle Social Security – I’ve got an advocate.

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