“I mean you can’t walk in a straight line and you’re looking after two completely helpless people – it’s scary…"
Lauren* suffers from chronic migraine and had her first migraine around the age of twelve, though she was not diagnosed until she was seventeen. Her early experience was that “people did not understand and you feel like you’re not believed. I was told ‘just take some medicine and go to bed for a while you’ll be fine’. So you do, you ‘get on with it’”.
As well as migraine, she also described co-morbidities including depression and anxiety-type issues around being able to cope at work with migraine symptoms. Generally, Lauren does not get migraine with aura, and describes the experience as: “they start with pain in the back of my neck or a light headache and then evolve into extreme pain with noise/smell sensitivity, and often light sensitivity - sensory overload”.
She is now employed, working from home with a lot of flexibility and autonomy, and an understanding employer. However, she previously had employers who offered no support: “It’s a lottery which employers you get and even within employers as well (i.e. with line managers)”. Lauren described how, due to her condition, some employers viewed her as ‘unreliable’, saying “this has affected my ability to get promotions and progress in jobs”. Lauren suggests working in an office is not a good environment for a migraineur who needs flexibility, such as coming into the office late if you wake up with a migraine you need to get under control.
Generally Lauren does not disclose her condition during a job interview process, but does try to address it relatively early with an employer because it is a chronic condition that needs to be managed. She presents it as “something that I deal with”. Lauren felt that smaller companies in particular cannot necessarily cope with someone who isn’t always there, whereas a big company will be able to absorb this better.
Lauren also spoke about how migraine impacts parenting and recalled the struggle of being at home with children and experiencing a migraine: “I mean you can’t walk in a straight line and you’re looking after two completely helpless people – it’s scary. I remember a day when that happened, my husband was overseas on a conference, there was nobody I could call. You’re really stuck and alone with that”.
*This case study is anonymous and the name and photo given is not representative of the individual who provided their story.