I have been a full time teacher with Chronic Migraine.
I have been a full time stay at home mom with Chronic Migraine.
I am a full time mom and part time teacher with Chronic Migraine.
They all are difficult jobs and adding a chronic illness makes life even more complicated and difficult.
So the questions remains, how do you work while having Chronic Migraine? How was I able to return to work
Work part time
I only work a few days a week and seem to have letdown migraines on my days off. I save time for self-care during those day.
Tip: Know time off policies and if a substitute is available
Find coworkers who support you
At my job that I missed a lot of time off, my boss was arrogant and my coworkers were judgmental. With my new job, my coworkers are like a supportive family and my boss is loving and understanding. This benefits the group because I’m not motivated to work out of judgment or consequences but out of commitment and love for the job and workers I call friends. I really have fun at work and love to be there.
Ask for and learn how to accommodate your needs
I requested that my classroom be on the side of the building that does not get direct sun or heat. I also have control over the lighting. Heat and lights (fluorescent) are especially big triggers. I use Axon Optics glasses on days I need extra light protection for my eyes. I use other lotions, oils and natural products to treat myself topically.
I found that when I disclosed that I had Chronic Migraine to my boss at one job I was judged and at my current job she understood me better. The same goes for clients. As a teacher who was missing work, I sent home a letter explaining my chronic disease. I found that the parents were very open and appreciated my honesty but I was unsure what the feedback would be. Understanding the children and families I work for has allowed me to personally connect more. I feel like my families want the best for me as I want the best for them and mutual respect once again motivates me.
Low stress, high reward
With a part time position, my stress has decreased tremendously. I am able to focus on myself, my family and other aspects of my life other than my job. Stress was my main factor in turning episodic to chronic. I now have a handle on how to deal with stress and my priorities are different. As a teacher without children and now with children, my views on teaching are very different. I have always had a passion for teaching and love children. The reward is huge!!! Being someone who is making a difference every day and seeing growth in my students is so rewarding.
It gives me pure joy and joy is great medication! Find joy in your job.
Set realistic goals and expectations
Putting pressure on myself to be something I’m not only raises stress. I have realistic ideas of what I can do, what I want to do and how I’m going to attain those goals. Setting myself up for failure will only derail my treatment. I set goals I know I can reach and am proud when I meet them. A positive attitude and learning from the past allows me to move forward.
Driving is extremely difficult with even a low grade migraine. At my old job I had a longer commute and found that many days I was throwing up on the side of the road before and after work. At times I liked it to decompress but most of the time was pained from the drive. I now have a short drive that I can drive to with my eyes closed (don’t worry, I don’t but I could).
Water, coffee and snacks
Caffeine can be a benefit or trigger. Coffee is beneficial to my migraines. During my morning of teaching, I drink coffee before the students arrive and drink a huge water bottle throughout my day. As a class, we have scheduled potty breaks and snack time so we all get time to refuel.
I wake up the same time every day whether I’m working or not. I stay on a consistent sleep schedule in order to be refreshed and ready for my day.
When I feel a migraine raising, I get a bit panicked. During my students specials I have the ability to take a break, focus, drink more coffee, or water. Just allowing 10 minutes of quiet and focused breathing make a world of difference to my rising pain.
Use flexible work time if possible
I am able to get a lot of my work done outside of the classroom. I am also a busy mom and find that planning and prepping can be done once they go to bed. Instead of staying late at school, I bring a lot of my work home and also plan ahead. By being over prepared I am able to relieve stress. If I’m sick in bed and worrying about work, I get sicker. When I have everything done, being sick for days doesn’t stress me out about work because I know I’m prepared. Planning and being prepared makes my life, in general, much easier.
Moving my body and distraction
There are days I go to school feeling sick and am completely consumed by my students. The minute my students leave and all is quiet, the pain comes flooding back. I’m so distracted and filled with endorphins while I’m at school that at the end of the day I’m punished more. There have been days that I work till lunch and am in bed until the next day. The distraction of a job that I love helps me get through many mornings.
Having a job that I am active in helps. Stretching, dancing and moving keeps my body active. I would not be unable to sit at a desk staring at a screen all day. My body needs to move and my brain needs a break from technology.
Money vs time
As a part time employee in the teaching field, you can imagine I’m not a millionaire. Working salary and full time was not something I could keep up with. Working part time, I do not make a lot of money but am able to do what I love with people I care for. Sometimes money isn’t everything (although it pays for my medical expenses, so I really need it).
With all of this said, I found a dream job. Not everyone gets to work part time (either financially or in their field of interest). Disability is difficult to get as a migraine sufferer and most jobs it is difficult to find balance. Time off isn’t always possible without consequences and substitutes are not common. Falling behind on work is inevitable. Finding coworkers that are friends is not a choice but a lucky draw. The same goes for bosses.
All circumstances and lives are different. I encourage you to find something you love. Find a part time job, a job online, a job that can be flexible and a job that makes you happy. Migraine is the definition of pain and unhappiness…..find something you love and makes you better. Easier written than done, I know!!!
I, honestly, was not sure if I’d ever be able to go back to teaching with how severe my disease is. I took a chance and it paid off. I was very aware that it may not be possible, but I never let that deter me. I tried it and it worked. Not every job works but I’m so glad I took that leap.