Maybe it has happened to you.
You get ready to start your day and almost immediately you feel like something is off.
Noises start bothering you. You see flashes across your vision. The colors start to blur together. Then the light becomes unbearable.
Before long, the stabbing pain behind your forehead starts and only gets worse and worse.
As the pain throbs with each heartbeat, you can barely keep your eyes open.
That is how it feels to have a migraine. I have been getting them for almost 10 years now.
I was in a car accident a decade ago. For almost two years afterward, my head was constantly in pain. And at least twice a week, I would suffer the most debilitating migraines.
When they hit, if I turned too fast, it felt like a rusty nail being hammered to the left side of my head.
All I could do was just lay down, lights out.
I was in university at the time and, despite the intense pain, I had to learn to work through it in order to finish school.
When I was done with university, it came time to enter the corporate world of finance. High stress. Long hours. A terrible combination for any migraine sufferer.
One of my biggest concerns entering the workforce was the anticipation that my migraines might elicit a negative reaction from colleagues. I assumed they would think that I was just being lazy if I had to miss work.
I started to think that these experiences of stigma would be really damaging to my professional relationships.
But it turned out I was completely wrong.
Sure, some people would not believe the extent of my migraines because they had never experienced it.
But my experience with people in the workplace was more positive than I had imagined.
Some of the guys I worked with were either migraine sufferers themselves or had a spouse with frequent episodes. They completely understood.
Sure, once in awhile I would come across someone who had no idea what it was like. They would occasionally make comments like “it is just a headache,” or “just take some Advil and you will be good…” Some guys that do not get migraines see it as just another headache.
But in my experience, it is not the norm.
Times are changing and non-sufferers are becoming more understanding towards men with migraines.
I remember the first time I had to leave work because of a migraine. My coworker made a joke how I was probably just trying to get off work early.
The first few times that happened, it really got to me. I did not want to seem lazy. Why was everyone not more understanding?
The corporate culture I worked in was to work hard and long hours.
The truth of the matter was that I was leaving work early. Sure, some compassion from coworkers would be nice. But I was getting paid to get a certain amount of work done.
Going home early meant it would not get done for that day.
Other times it was with my spouse. I would have to cancel plans and just rest because the migraines would make it impossible to move without vomiting.
These incidents started to take a toll on my personal and professional relationships.
But rather than feel sorry for myself I tried to figure out what I can do differently.
If I ever had to leave work early, I stopped feeling bad about it. I could not function anymore. I needed the rest.
However, I made sure to come in extra early the next day and stay extra late to catch up on what I had missed. I did not expect everyone to just get it and cut me slack.
When I canceled plans with my spouse because a migraine was just killing me…I stopped feeling bad about it. I took the rest I needed. But I make sure to spend quality time with her the following weekend. I did not just expect her to get it and cut me slack.
In my experience, I have been fortunate enough to have compassionate people in my life.
But that compassion from others does not come without hard work on my part.
I try to not ever take without giving. If I take time off work to prioritize my health, I make sure to put in more work as soon as I am able to. The same goes with my personal relationships.
It has been 10 years since I started having consistent migraines.
Over that time, it has been very eye-opening for me.
It has been one of the best things that happened to me.
It has forced me to stay self-aware and in order to recognize my triggers.
I live a much healthier life because of it.
If I eat too much chocolate I get a migraine. If I party too late, I cannot function the next day. And if I do not manage my stress properly and stay hydrated, my brain feels like it is going to split in two.
Migraines are never a blessing. But like everything else in life, it depends on how you look at the situation.
I choose to see the benefits and utilize my migraines to live a more healthy fulfilling life.
What about you?
Photo credit: Flickr/Heather Kennedy