“I was in despair at that point; I would’ve done anything”
Jane* is a 58 year old woman who started getting headache in her 20s but was not diagnosed with migraine until about four years ago, despite consultations with many health professionals, including doctors, alternative healthcare professionals and dentists. She was finally diagnosed with migraine by a neurologist. However, it was only when she was in her 50s that migraine started to have an impact on her work: “I started getting headache more and more frequently so that four out of five days I had a headache and they were bad enough to affect my concentration at work and made it very difficult for me to function at work. I didn’t get aura or vomiting or visual disturbance. I only had pain itself.”
Jane believes that her problems at work were exacerbated because she did not talk to her line manager about migraine. She says that “foolishly in retrospect” she kept going into work: “I would’ve been better taking sick leave. I had a stressful job and the stress got worse and the headaches got worse and it was all compounding each other”. She was then placed in a less demanding role, but consequently lost her substantive post within the organisation, making the problem worse: “I definitely had a problem with my subsequent manager not believing in the severity of my condition because… when they did the performance ratings at the end of the year he said my migraines hadn’t been ‘severe’ enough to justify the drop in performance”.
Limited access to an NHS neurologist led Jane to pay privately for specialist care, and to see an acupuncturist and a physiotherapist. She recalls, "I was in despair at that point; I would’ve done anything”. At the private consultant appointment she had a thorough evaluation of her lifestyle and the changes she needed to make. As a result, she cut down on the medication and made lifestyle changes. This was helped by taking time off work, with two months full-time and three months part-time to phase her return to work. About a year later Jane took voluntary redundancy, though she feels this was something she was pushed into. She got a new job in March 2017 working two days a week: “the new job is more junior, less well paid and less stressful so I can now manage migraine within those parameters”. A key benefit of her current job is that it is flexible, and this was one of the main reasons why she took it. Nevertheless, she still did not disclose her condition until she had been in the job for about six months, which reflects the fear many with migraine have about discussing their condition with their employers.
*This case study is anonymous and the name and photo given is not representative of the individual who provided their story.