“She has been working for me for five days and she has already called in sick once, and on another day she had to leave early because she had a migraine,” said Marla, who manages a vascular surgeon’s office in New York City that’s very short-staffed at the moment. Marla was referring to 26-year-old Danielle, the daughter of a guy she went to college with that she hired last week. Marla was exasperated, but was showing signs of break-through empathy. She said with a worried look,

“The girl was sitting with her head in her hands looking like she was going to vomit or pass out.”

I said “Yup, that was probably exactly what was about to happen. Good thing you sent her home.” Just as the young girl was leaving, she said, “Please don’t tell my Dad.” Marla asked why and she explained that her Dad thinks she uses headaches as an excuse to be lazy.

Hearing Marla’s perspective was eye-opening. Even she, a reasonable person in the medical field, didn’t know what to make of it when someone bailed on work due to a migraine. And it’s hard to imagine that a father would doubt his daughter’s migraines are legit.

Also, at 26 years old, it’s possible Danielle doesn’t yet have a handle on her migraines. I’m not sure I have a handle on mine yet, and they’ve been going on for nearly 15 years.

In fact, I remember when I was hit with one of my first migraines. I thought it was the flu. It came on abruptly one day as I was preparing to host my sister-in-law’s baby shower at my house.  I went from fully functioning in the morning to mince meat about 2 hours later.

Luckily friends and family took over my kitchen, and got the food out, and kept the party going. I was a zombie hardly participating, trying not to run off to get sick.

Good times.

It took many more migraines to realize I was prone to them, and a neurologist to help me realize that researching their cause could be one prong to action… but the other would have to be a treatment game plan to deal with them. When they became more frequent, and I was getting 12 to 20 of these severe headaches a month usually coupled with nausea, my doctor said that’s considered “chronic migraine” and you need to make some lifestyle changes to reduce the frequency and have medication at-the-ready to alleviate the pain and nausea when the next one hits.

The Migraine Research Foundation describes migraine as an extremely incapacitating collection of neurological symptoms, and says “migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world.”

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Emmy-winning reporter Gillian Neff has been covering health topics for 16 years. She is currently a freelance reporter and anchor at News 12 Connecticut and also pursues her passion for medical news through Gillian Neff Health Reports’ blogs and videos.

Gillian Neff

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