The Misunderstandings of Migraines

There are so many instances in my life that I could write about that illustrates the misunderstandings associated with migraines but there is one in particular that really demonstrates the lack of understanding for this affliction.

The incident occurred a few years ago. My three children were in the marching band for their high school. As required, I had to work in the food stand at the football game to fulfill my obligation as a band booster member. I had woke up that day not feeling “quite right”. In the back of my mind I knew that there was a possibility that I was getting a migraine and told myself that it would pass. Just like many times before, I resisted taking my medication. It slowed me down and made me tired. I didn’t have time for any of that. I needed to be able to wait on people at the stand, hand out change and help to clean up. I needed to be “normal”. As the night progressed I felt the “warning signs” that I was indeed on my way to a migraine: tightness in my neck, dizziness, the inability to concentrate and stuttering. I pushed on reasoning that it was only for another hour. Within that hour, my pain had progressed from a 3 to an 8. My boyfriend had to practically carry me out of there and of course I ended up at the emergency room to get injections. It was a severe one and lasted three days. This is just the beginning of this story. I did not realize that this migraine was going to cause so many problems for me.

I did have to call off from work that night. I work night shift. I talked to a supervisor and told him exactly what had happened to me. I was working the stand, I got a migraine, it progressed to unbearable and I was going to the hospital. He said that it was all okay.

Meanwhile, his boss was at the very football game that I had attended. He saw me in the stand working and in fact, I had waited on him. When I returned to work, I was presented with an employee write up for abuse of sick time. The consequence was a suspension of three days without pay and denial of my sick pay for that night. The comments read that my boss was at the game and did witness me working in the concession stand. It went on to add that if I was healthy enough to work in the stand I should have been healthy enough to go to work that night. In addition, I was due to be promoted to the next level of status at work. This level bumped my pay up. He recommended that I should not be considered for this due to my blatantly open abuse of sick time!!

I can not tell you how upset this made me!! I was made out to be a liar! I did fight this and won! The write up was thrown out and I did proceed to the next level of pay. The hospital excuse I was smart enough to have written for me is what saved me. Also, the supervisor that I talked to when I called off testified that I was crying when I called him.

I had really thought that my migraines were understood where I worked. That was the day that I found out just how wrong I was. The incident had left bad feelings between me and the person who wrote me up.

After all this happened to me a co-worker pulled me aside and informed me about FMLA. It is a federal law that protects people with chronic conditions from being fired for being sick. I was eligible and now am on FMLA on an intermittent basis. I have learned to not care what other people think. I have to take care of myself. I am thankful to spend the last few years of my work before retirement with the safety of FMLA and very happy that migraines are being recognized as being disabling.

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

View Comments (7)
  • wao618
    6 years ago

    Today was one of those “can’t get out of bed” migraine days & I had to take another day off work. I also found out that today my FMLA was approved thank goodness. What a relief that is. Congrats to you for having your FMLA approved as well because unfortunately many people do not understand that migraines are a true illness.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi wao618,

    I’m sorry to hear it was one of those days. We all know what you mean.

    Congrats on your FMLA too. You have a bit of relief now, thank goodness. Feel free to share this information with those who don’t know what a migraine feels like. Kerrie just wrote a wonderful descriptive article about it; http://migraine.com/blog/migraine-guided-visualization/

    Nancy

  • zippy36 author
    6 years ago

    First, I hope you are feeling better. Yes, I am very happy to have FMLA and I use it wisely. I do go to work with migraines more frequently than I take off with them. That is the part that many people do not understand.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. As I was reading it I was becoming increasingly upset. The stigma attached to migraine continues to be so high because no one can SEE a migraine attack. If you had a broken bone sticking out of your body somewhere, there would have been no question about you being sick.

    Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I’m relieved to hear you are using FMLA as it was intended.

    Keep us posted on how you are making out, OK?

    Nancy

  • zippy36 author
    6 years ago

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am very happy and relieved that I have FMLA. I have many accumulated sick days I can use at work but it is frowned upon to actually use them and there is a disciplinary policy in place which can include paid days off and being fired. I have been with the same place for 24 years. My immediate supervisor is an EMT and KNOWS that I am not lying about my condition. He can SEE how my face and mood changes and has been great with me through all of it. The people in charge of him do not see me and they are the ones who make the comments. I have heard that I take off because I have a “little headache”. Also, for some reason, I do get many of my headaches on a Friday. Even though I do work through the weekends on most weeks, because this is a weekend day it is said that I am a faker. I do not abuse my FMLA because I would never risk having it taken away from me. I am thankful that this is in place to protect me and that having migraines is an eligible illness. Thank you for caring.

  • Nola
    6 years ago

    There does seem to be a widespread belief that “if you could do this, you should be able to do that” regardless of a migraine attack in the intervening period. After many years of missing more than my allotted sick days at work, my new supervisor told me about FMLA. Qualifying and documenting was not a problem, as my neurologist has had to hospitalize me multiple times as well as a long-standing treatment for chronic migraine. I am so thankful that this law exists!

  • zippy36 author
    6 years ago

    I am too and it is great that you have a supervisor on your side. I do also. It makes all the difference in the world.

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