Use Migraine as an Excuse, Recommends Advice Columnist

An advice columnist recommends using migraine as an excuse to avoid the potentially awkward conversation that would ensue if a female employee told her male bosses that she has to work from home one day each month due to menstrual cramps. And he does so in a remarkably insensitive manner:

I suggest, at the risk of overkill, concocting a migraine headache. Migraines can last for hours or for days; they’re famously disruptive to work schedules and social calendars. Also, it seems somehow permissible to use a migraine as an excuse because—well, I hear they’re awful, but—they’re not contagious and they don’t generally snowball into anything fatal, right? There’s no special worry about the mortality of the migraineur. Further, some back-on-the-envelope cultural analysis suggests some mystery and glamour to the ailment. It’s a serious person’s malady, with a Didion tinge of thoughtful drama.

Glamorous is not the word I’d use to describe the illness that has caused me to be housebound and even bedridden. I should start wearing silk pajamas and calling everyone “dahling.” I may not be able to work a steady job or form coherent thoughts, but at least I have a “serious person’s malady” — too bad few people take migraine seriously enough to recognize it is a potentially disabling neurological disorder. Perhaps if I play up the “thoughtful drama” people will understand how migraine has gutted my life. At least a woman can be spared the embarrassment of admitting that she menstruates by trivializing the severity of an illness that wreaks havoc on millions of lives.

Think I’m over-reacting? Here’s an explanation of the harm of using migraine as an excuse.

Want to leave a comment for the advice columnist? Following this link to the article on Slate. I have left a comment and expect people will soon respond that I’m too thin-skinned and need a sense of humor. Funny how people say that so readily until they encounter a topic that pushes their buttons.

13 Responses to Use Migraine as an Excuse, Recommends Advice Columnist

  1. Dr P says:

    I wish upon the author just ONE migraine. Then maybe he’ll “get it.’ After all, it’s not contagious, and probably won’t snowball into anything fatal.


  2. Danielle says:

    If I had the ability to summarize migraine into one word, I also would pick glamorous. Obviously. (Insert sighs of exasperation, dramatic eye rolls, and the taste of vomit in the back of your throat here.)

  3. Angela says:

    Are you an idiot??!! Have you ever had a migraine?? Blood pools in my right temple and swells it out. The veins in the side of my face swell out and it looks like someone beat me. Sometimes I lose my vision and can only see shapes or nothing at all. I have had to raise two children this way. I have spent days in the dark because light is unbearable. When you have your first migraine, I want to know about it!! Do not make so lightly something you obviously know nothing about!!

  4. Jamie Flannigan says:

    My menses have brought me disabiling Migraines that come with increased risk of heart attack/stroke. I wasn’t even allowed to take my Triptan meds this month. I’ve been homeless 4 times from Migraine & moved 35 times. I’m 37 and can guarantee that there is no glamour or status to be gleaned from this situation. People who misuse the term abuse those with an actual, seriously disabiling disease. My life is a fragment of existence, a normal life will never be within my grasp.

  5. Maia Sepp says:

    Unreal. I’ve tweeted her about it. I doubt I’ll get a response, but this really has me seeing red.

  6. I replied to the thread. I hope that “advisor” sees different. It’s people like him who make it hard for employers to take us seriously.

  7. To anyone who does not chronically suffer from migraine: let me try to describe it to you. If you have ever had a really bad hangover–say, back when you were in college, and you drank to the point of blacking out–do you remember how you probably felt the next day? Head pounding, vomiting, waves of bilious sickness penetrating to the marrow of your bones, the world a bleak gray flat desolate place? This is what a migraine feels like, and it can last for a week, and you need not have had one drop of alcohol to bring it on.

  8. Wendy says:

    I would like to know if you are still benefitting from taking the DAO?

    • Wendy, yes, though only in combination with a low-histamine diet. The DAO isn’t enough for me to be able to eat higher histamine foods without triggering a migraine. I also started a comprehensive digestive enzyme called Similase last week. Either it is helping or I’ve figured out how to manage my diet without triggering migraines.

      Take care,

  9. Thanks for all the comments. I haven’t read the comments on the advice columnist’s post itself — I don’t think my psyche can handle it at the moment! I hope we’ve at least made some people think twice about using migraine as an excuse.

    Take care,

  10. Julie says:

    Very thought provoking. I can’t say that I’ve never used a migraine (or another of my chronic illnesses) as an excuse to get out of an uncomfortable situation. Your post here inspired my own thoughts on how we use chronic illness as an excuse at times.

  11. Thanks for all the comments. Did anyone read the comments on the post on Slate? I figured they would upset me too much, but I’m curious how the “discussion” went.


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