Speaking Out About Migraine at Work

How my employer and I had a lot to learn about my debilitating illness. Knowledge is worth sharing.


Driving home from work, I knew relief from my migraine medicine was waiting for me inside my house, I just needed to get there. My eyes saw an empty space in the lane to my left, but I knew I was being deceived. It was rush hour traffic, so my mind was confident another car occupied the space.

I didn’t change lanes in case my mind saw reality clearer than my migraine-impaired vision. After a couple of blinks of my eyes, the car traveling along wide me returned into view outside my driver’s side window.

My shaky grip on the wheel tightened. Fear and nausea rose in my stomach during the remaining miles to safety.

In the early 1990s, I knew little about migraine. Rescue medication was in the form of a shot, not a pill. Tightening of the chest and difficulty breathing were medication side effects lessened by lying down immediately after the needle released the drug into my body.

Treating an episode at work was impractical. At the office, I had no place but the floor to lie down. Leaving work early before symptoms progressed wasn’t an option, either. This point had been made clear to me on more than one occasion.

“When your co-workers get a headache, they take an aspirin and keep working.”

I took four ibuprofen and kept working. I knew this common headache treatment would be ineffective. The pain and nausea were only muffled long enough to get me through the rest of the day without vomiting.

“Sick leave is a privilege that can be taken away from all of us if someone abuses it.”

I wasn’t pretending to be sick. Leaving work early to medicate myself and arriving at work the next morning with no outward signs of illness didn’t mean I wasn’t sick.

My migraine knowledge was young. My employers’ migraine knowledge was missing. Neither of us understood enough about my illness.

I could’ve hurt the innocent souls travelling down that highway beside me. We all got lucky and made it home safe. This was my wakeup call to learn more, to educate others more, to manage…



Tammy Hader - Author of Walking Old Roads

Ex-accountant, lifetime cat lover and avid wearer of hats. Author of Walking Old Roads available on Amazon.com. Visit me at https://tammyhader.com.