Migraine: The Biggest Test to My Career
Having lived with constant migraine pain for the past six years, I’ve found migraine to be the biggest test of my career. For years, the disease has made it hard to get to work and impossible to focus when I am fortunate enough to make it to my desk.
At one point my migraine attacks even stole my career. They forced me to quit my job, sublet my New York apartment and move to my parent’s home because I couldn’t function in my pain any longer. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure.
However, my story didn’t end with quitting my job. Today, although I am still in constant pain—pain that has not gotten any easier to bear— I can confidently say that I have figured out how to have a successful career while in pain. And I am proud of myself for doing everything in my power to not let migraine win.
While the day-to-day is not easy, working and feeling like I am pushing my career forward has helped my psyche substantially. I crave the feeling of accomplishment and, for a long time, I didn’t think it was possible to experience migraine and success. Today, I am proof that it is possible.
Migraine: A Full-Time Job
Anyone with migraine knows that managing the disease is a full-time job in itself. It involves managing symptoms, making sure I am eating properly, drinking enough water, and steering clear of any unnecessary stress.
It involves managing medications: making sure I am picking up my medications, working with the doctor’s office when the pharmacy doesn’t have the script, taking my medications on time and keeping an eye on how my body responds to new medications. It’s also managing doctor’s appointments and battling insurance companies.
Managing my illness is exhausting and there’s often no end in sight.
My Tactics to Manage Migraine at Work
In addition to managing my migraine disease, I work full-time. In my journey to maintain a successful career while in pain I’ve picked up some tactics that have been invaluable to me. While these tips may not work for everyone, here’s a look at what has helped me:
Mental Coaching is Everything
How do I get out of bed on those rough days? Mental coaching!
This is the most important tactic in my migraine life. From the moment that I wake up every day, to my walk to work, to my stabbing afternoon pain, mental coaching gets me through every. single. workday.
I convince myself that I can do it, and then I do.
Keep Your Team Posted, As Needed
My instinct is to hide my pain and mention it as little as possible in the workplace. However, sometimes I am not well enough to get an assignment done or give a presentation.
In these instances, when people are depending on me, I tell my teammates of my condition to make sure that they are on standby for any additional help that I may need. I’d rather have coverage than miss an important meeting/deadline or potentially make a mistake.
When There’s Room to Push Through, Push Through
Some people may hate this tactic, but I live my life by pushing through the pain. If I gave in and stayed in bed every morning that it felt impossible to get out of bed, I would not have any semblance of a career.
So, when there’s the slightest bit of room to push through the pain, even if I may feel worse later, I do it.
Be Nimble and Adjust as Needed
I can’t expect to operate at 100% every day. So, when I have days of operating at less than 100% I need to make sure I am making up for any lost time or loss efficiencies later in the day or over the weekend.
I never want to feel like I am not meeting my potential as an employee. This means that if I feel off for an hour, then I need to make adjustments later to make up for any lost time.
Feeling Slightly Better? USE THAT TIME!
I never feel pain-free. However, when my pain is better than usual, I take full advantage of that time and use it as an opportunity to get things done. These moments are rare, but invaluable for my overall productivity. I feel I must capitalize on that time.
It’s days like this when I really prove myself and make up for any lost hours.
The Caveat: Sometimes It’s Impossible to Work
I’m sure that many readers will be upset at this article because they physically cannot work. I’ve been there too – I completely understand the defeat of not being able to support yourself or feel the fulfillment of maintaining a job.
Although the day-to-day tactics that I outlined may not work for those readers right now, I hope that my story can be the proof that it is possible to get back to work, even if the pain doesn’t get any better.
No one ever teaches us how to survive migraine pain. And, when we’re faced with going to work and are expected to produce quality work on top of our pain, it feels impossible.
It’s important to remember that there are a lot of us going through this situation every day and we are not alone. By sharing tips among our community, we can help each other get through these trying situations in the best way possible.
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