Trust me, you don’t have a migraine
When I was 10-years-old I got my first migraine. I didn’t know it at the time but I woke up in intense pain. I went to my family kitchen where I saw my dad preparing his morning espresso and I hugged him for comfort, afraid of what was happening to me.
Later when I was in my late teens I developed aura migraines. An aura migraine is a very strange sensation and you never forget your first time. You practically lose the ability to see, and you become extremely sensitive to sound. The aura lasts for about 30 minutes (sometimes longer) and is followed by an intense headache that lasts for days.
I get what a physician calls “cluster migraines.” Meaning that my migraines appear close together, often three in one week. As soon as I sense the aura coming on I get nauseous, dizzy and I flop sweat. It’s not fun. My triggers are sudden weather changes, and as much as I love the rain, it’s around that specific weather pattern when I am most vulnerable.
Over the years I have witnessed many colleagues leave work with an alleged migraine. I fight the urge to laugh at them, because a migraine is a debilitating acute disorder that when struck, leaves a person utterly helpless. In my case, I can’t leave the bed or move without extreme discomfort.
My doctor has prescribed countless medications for me, each at $40 a pill, and sometimes they work, but most of the time they don’t.
It’s not that I’m smug about it, but I get a little irritated when someone tells me that they have a migraine when in fact what they have is a headache. I get those too. Often.
My migraines are hereditary, carried down by my father. He comes from the generation that didn’t believe in going to the doctor, and because he was self-employed there were days where he must have had the strength of a titan to drive the hour to work for a 12 hour shift.
Nowadays we go to the doctor over the slightest ailment, like a mild cold.
That’s another thing that irks me. Despite all the knowledge at our finger tips people still don’t know the difference between a cold and a flu. A cold is a mild irritant: Stuffy or runny nose, cough, chills (sometimes), but you’re still able to go about your day and complete your chores, albeit a little slower. The cold is usually localized in your head, and does not affect the remainder of your body, as much.
A flu is something entirely different. I have never had the flu, and as I stated earlier about a migraine, once you have one, you never forget it. A flu is aches and pains throughout your body and is accompanied by a high fever, sore throat and headache. It appears suddenly, often overnight, and your entire soul feels as though it has been wrestled from your being and you can’t get out of bed. In the most extreme cases, the flu can be fatal. Because I have never had the flu, I could never say that I know what it is like to have experienced one, but I do know others who have been less fortunate and let me confess that I hope I never fall victim to that insidious virus. There is no such thing as a 24 hour flu, and if someone skips work for a day only to return the following morning claiming to have had one, they are either lying, or sadly misinformed.
So why am I writing this? Perhaps because since returning to the office environment I have noticed that some colleagues want time off from work, and they usually use the excuse that they are physically sick with the flu or a migraine, when in fact they just need a mental health day.
Unfortunately the stigma towards mental health in our society is a barrier that prevents people from being truthful about why they have to take the day off. It would be progressive — as we learn more about mental illness and how so many of us are affected by it either directly or indirectly — if we could be more honest about why we need to take time off of work, and that often a mental health day is the same as having a little cold. It stops you from doing the best job that you can do, so why not take a day to refresh your mental energy?
There’s nothing wrong with that.