Posted by: Ophelia | April 17, 2008

Temporarily Disabled

It was about 10 a.m when an aura began to fuzz around the outside of my right eye and I knew it was coming. A migraine. I hadn’t had one since freshman year, and I had always considered them to be a fluke, a by product of stress. I wasn’t particularly stressed, I do have several papers coming due in the next few weeks but I don’t feel particularly stressed about it. In any case, I took two ibuprofen (graciously lent by a friend) and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the migraine came on anyway within forty minutes or so.Mine come equipped with photosensitivity and sensitivity to sound, and at the time I was in a crowded cafeteria. I felt the tell tale throbbing on the right side of my head coupled with shivering and waves of nausea. There was no way I could sit through an hour long class in the condition I was in. With the help of a friend, I got back to my apartment (which I had locked myself out of, luckily my boyfriend was still on his lunch break and could let me in) and slept it off.

To be honest I was a bit frightened, I thought that I had left migraines behind me, and if one reoccurred so randomly, how can I tell if there will be more to follow? If there are more to follow, how can I plan my life around them?

While I was expressing my dismay at my blurred vision, the woman at the library’s coffee shop told me about a woman the school employed who also suffers from recurrent migraines. She has to take days off when they’re particularly bad. So I began to think. How are you supposed to find an employer willing to accept the fact that sometimes it feels like my head will split in two and there’s nothing I can do about it–I’ll have to take off? In fact, I technically didn’t have any sick days left for that class but I just couldn’t go. Because of a condition I can’t control, I could end up in academic jeopardy. Think of a migraine onset during a written exam? I don’t think they accept these kinds of excuses readily. At the same time, I can’t control this particular problem, and I’ve yet to find a medication that didn’t make me even more ill or dulled the pain and nausea to the point that I was functional.

I’m not positing that I suddenly know the struggles of the disabled, but that I’ve discovered a taste. A taste of a liability that I’m in no control over but that will be a source of judgment anyway. I’m sure there are going to be people who haven’t had migraines or who have but didn’t think of them as very severe who would have been able to sit through and participate in that class or in an exam or at a job. Nevertheless, when my migraines set in, I can’t function. I’m not sure if a job will understand that, and this invisible liability is going to prove worrisome as I move into the workforce. I mean, it’s all in my head, and they’d have to take my word for it–and I’m not used to nor do I anticipate that happening. How can they accommodate me if the problem isn’t visible? For most, it’s hard to grasp the severity of a problem without personal experience or something in your face.

It’s a hard line to follow. I mean should I be allowed time off for every (random) migraine? If not, why not? I’d be completely unproductive–oh but here’s a problem, how would I even get home? I can’t drive while I can’t see and can’t have light in my eyes. I would have to hope the issue sets in before work and not during or I’m out of luck.

Although my migraines are unpredictable and temporary, I’m afraid of the stumbling block they present in the long run. I’m not sure they could be treated with preventative medication since they’re not regular. Furthermore the number of days allocated as unexcused absences at the college is three, luckily the semester is almost over but what if I have two or three more migraines? The amount of days corresponds to an average person who might catch a cold, but there isn’t room for any sort of chronic illness. I have to hope that I don’t get any more migraines this semester since that doesn’t really fit in with the whole 3 days absence allowed for five months.

I don’t know how I would manage if I had a more painful or debilitating chronic illness, I don’t know how one can manage in a world designed for “normal” people with “normal” illnesses. It’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while.

Also this is why I didn’t update yesterday, I fell behind on my classwork thanks to this incident.



  1. Migraines sound awful. I get a lot of bad headaches, but nothing incapacitating. I hope you are able to finish out your semester without further incident, and I hope that you do not struggle with this problem much in the workforce.

    And what do you mean by “normal” illnesses? Just wondering.

  2. I suppose I mean short term illnesses that more people are likely to recognize and understand–not to say that migraines don’t fall into that category themselves. I just think that people respect the sorts of illnesses they can identify with and have experienced–I’m reminded of the response I see to fibromyalgia which is generally a lot of scoffing.

  3. I guess I find that hard to understand, because I am someone with a chronic illness (type 1 diabetes). I have found that I am more sympathetic for people who have illnesses/injuries in general.

    I wonder how that can be changed, the scoffing and the likes.

  4. I guess the general populace is only sensitive to things that affect them–I just saw a thread about allergies and how people scoff and attempt to force the person to eat foods they’re allergic too because they’re just “picky”. It’s weird. But you would think illnesses and the like are something everyone has experienced or at least knows someone who has experienced it.

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