Working with pain: Dancing on thin ice

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You know it all circles around. I have made numerous compromises for this chronic pain, many career changes and not continuing my academic studies for my PhD. You always get to that point where you are forced to alter your life because of your health… until you become a hermit. And it is always difficult, but in the end, you put up with it because the change is beneficial, as in less suffering. I really thought I would not have to do that again, because I landed a job that is desk work, no shift work, and while interesting doesn’t require the full capacity of my intellect on a daily basis, so typos and completely unreadable handwriting aside, I can still do my job effectively with a mild to a moderate migraine.

Certainly, I had fewer troubles coping when I had abortives. It was all downhill without the abortives. It becomes exceedingly hard to cope when you cannot get rid of the pain or the aura symptoms. It rapidly goes from problematic to impossible, no matter how hard your doctors scramble to find something to help out and no matter how accommodating your employer is. In the end, no one is happy, least of all me, because I am in a situation I cannot fix and cannot tolerate.

So my employer has explicitly told me if I miss one more day I will be either fired or I offer my resignation. She says she would not like to fire me and by doing so it would affect my unemployment insurance. I am not worried about the unemployment insurance because a) I can get medical unemployment and b) there are jobs aplenty around here, so getting hired is not hard, although keeping the job would be equally difficult at this point. One of my co-workers suggested that I seriously consider another work leave, as then I can keep my job and my place in this chosen career field and hopefully find a resolution. So really here are the problems:

1) I cannot stop a migraine from happening, nor abort one when I do. I am basically guaranteed three migraines a work week, but maybe more, and obviously I cannot predict when. Okay, lately it has been more.

2) I can very accurately predict hormonal migraines, and they last at least a week and are very acute. However, I also get painful PMS symptoms. I can’t take two anti-inflammatories at the same time and as a result, I get very sick with the whole nausea/digestive issues and the pain is not well managed. And I cannot choose the med my doc puts me on, or overcome her reluctance in giving me painkillers… so this time of the month is a critical time and no matter what assurances I make that I will go to work, it becomes impossible with that sort of onslaught of pain. The migraines are just constant during that week or longer time-frame.

3) There is nothing I can do about the aura symptoms. My vision can be very impaired, at least recently that is the case. I have ringing, thrumming all the time and occasionally hearing loss. I have problems with concentration, typos, writing, speaking and walking. All of these are important factors no matter the level of pain and thus there when I am at work.

4) Morning migraines combined with sleep disturbances make it very difficult for me to function in the morning. I have a sort of intense fatigue, I am mentally not there and the pain gives me all the more reason not to do anything when the Arthrotec does not work right away, or at all.

So what solution is there? Well, the one I offered is at best a weak compromise. Keep in mind my boss wanted me to train for a position that is needed due to staffing issues and now she cannot because I am not dependable. So she is not pleased, nor are my co-workers and the added guilt makes me feel just dandy. So I offered that I continue to do the job I know well with some altered hours. Starting a little later, so that when I get up at the same time in the morning, I can take my med right away and by the time I need to go to work, I assume it would actually be working. I said I would talk to my doctor about an additional med, even T3s or something, to add to the anti-inflammatory so that even if I am at work and I have an acute migraine I can take enough meds to dull it… and this is not a great option, but it would work as a band-aid and I don’t get side effects from painkillers, so it will not make me any more fuzzy headed than the migraine itself. I even suggested at the start, I don’t have morning appointments, that I do calls or paperwork instead, thus reducing the risk of morning cancellations.

While my boss accepted this solution, dependant on my doctor and her advice, it really depends on my head, which obviously has not been dependable. But I want to keep working as I want to establish a routine and I don’t want to sacrifice my position or career. I need to just maintain. Just last until some better treatment is offered. I am not really hopeful or depressed at this point, rather numb and detached.

On the plus side, my eye doctor said my eyes are perfectly healthy (and at this point that is something). I have a extremely mild astigmatism and slightly nearsighted on the right side. I don’t need glasses. Unfortunately, it would have been better if I did need glasses because then, I would be able to see. The visual snow is intense and in certain lights, it is immensely sparkly and warpy, in other lights I can barely see and everything is hazy and grainy. Even close up there are the sparkle, the double vision and this problem with focusing so that the more I look at a letter on a screen the less I can see it, it kind of shimmers. And then there are the normal auras, the blotches of blue or white that appear and disappear, the warping blue/black at the lower and upper part of my visual field. I read up on this prolonged aura a bit and there are some particular drugs that might decrease it

It is like a paradox, no matter how you look at it, it is impossible for me to work and impossible for me not to work (the whole unable to pay bills and all that). So try my compromise and hope works, or get fired, or go on leave again.

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