At this time, I'm a full-time freelancer. I work part-time on-site for a local client and furnish the rest of my work to editors online. Previously, I worked in office and retail environments both full and part-time and learned methods for coping with chronic migraines. Whether behind a desk in an office or making lattes as a barista, these tips have proven most effective for me.
Planning Work Schedule
In any job, planning your work schedule is the best way to deal with keeping a job while you have chronic migraines. Even as a freelancer, I am conscious of my own hours. I make sure to get up at least an hour before I have to actually start working. This gives me time to deal with a potential migraine by taking medication and drinking coffee before it's time to start working. If I have to head to the office, I avoid tardiness by waking up early enough to deal with a potential migraine.
When allowed to set my own work schedule (or when I worked at a coffee shop that asked for my shift preference), I always select the evenings because I generally develop migraines in the morning.
Availability of Medication at Work
Being able to take migraine medication at work is integral to being able to work through a migraine. Over the years, I've been on various types of medications. Some medications (as well as the migraines) make me act with a lack of clarity. As an editor and proofreader, this can prove problematic because I need to be attentive and able to catch small errors and track many details.
I cope with this by tackling high-concentration and detail-oriented tasks first or ahead of deadline. This way, I don't have to worry about my capabilities if I develop a migraine during the rest of the day.
Depending on your work environment, you may need to notify your supervisor or manager about your need to take medication during work hours.
A comfortable workspace is key to avoiding migraines and dealing with ones that inevitably occur. In the past, I've felt bad about asking managers to provide workspaces clear of fluorescent lighting and other triggers, but at home I've created my ideal set-up. It includes:
- Dim lighting
- Access to caffeine/coffee machine and tea
- Absence of loud noises
- Smoke-free location
- Privacy and the ability to work without restrictive clothing, ponytail holders, makeup, and other clothing or fashion-related triggers
- Lumbar support and comfortable work chair
Commuting with Migraines
When I worked nearly an hour away from home at a full-time office job, commuting with migraines was the most difficult part of working with my condition. This resulted in unsafe commutes - I shouldn't have been driving under the influence of migraines and powerful medication, and the early morning sun glare only worsened the condition.
When I work off-site for a client now, my commute is minimal, making it much safer. When I work at home, I have no commute at all and simply wait until I can get rid of a migraine before I start working.
Part of my office commute involved traveling by train. The bright lights and train tracks were particularly difficult, and I was always afraid my migraine would cause me to vomit on the train. Although more expensive, I took to commuting by car when I had a migraine. This way, I could pull over if I had to and I had as much control as possible over my environment.
Know When to Quit
Working with chronic migraines isn't easy. You need to know when to quit - whether that involves going home for the day or seeking FMLA benefits. If you truly can't handle work conditions, it may be time to find a job with a more accommodating schedule or environment. This ultimately proved best for me.
More than anything, I felt like people thought I was using chronic migraines as excuses for getting out of work, leaving early, or not showing up at all. More than a decade ago, my college roommate simply didn't understand what I was feeling or why I would miss class for migraines until she experienced her first migraine. After that, I received more sympathy from her. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen with bosses and managers, so I've learned to document my visits to the doctor's office and overall just remain prepared.
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This article was originally published on the Yahoo Contributor Network.