Everyone knows there is a stigma associated with chronic pain. It sucks but we have to deal with it.
For example, my employer told me that other staff members had been complaining about my sick days, which in the particular case she sited that staff member was not. I was understandably hurt when my boss said this and I said ‘not to me’. But she said there had been complaints. Which made me feel like shit.
Because at the time, I assumed her to be telling the truth which meant that co-workers who I thought understood the battle I go through and expressed sympathy were, in fact, lying to my face and complaining to the boss. It devastated me.
Because I really appreciate that they have my back when I need them, because trust me, my employer never does. Now whether there were numerous complaints or not, the stigma in this example is on the boss, not the staff, although in some workplaces it can be both. In my case, although I am told she sympathizes with my situation somehow, it often is reflected that it is unreasonable to call in sick for a migraine. Well, unreasonable if you get them chronically. Not if you get them occasionally, then it is perfectly reasonable. It is sort of like they want you to feel ashamed for being sick, or guilty that you inconvenienced others by being ill or that since you can work most of the time with migraines then why can’t you all the time. Not sure really. But I have, in the past, been told several different insulting ways that it is not acceptable behaviour. I’m sure it is acceptable to be ill and to have an incurable disease, just not to actually have it in any way affect others. I’ve seen the stigma in several forms over the last decade and I’m sure you have all had your experiences with it. It has in many ways destroyed my self worth
But today it was not directed at me. Today we are training someone for another branch and at her home branch she works with someone who gets migraines and she gets frequent absences from them.
She said they all think she is really not having a migraine when she calls in sick. I told her flat out that I get chronic migraines, that I had one while she was talking to me, and that while I can work with some, I can partly treat some, and I can resort to painkillers for others … that some days it is impossible to come in.
She wanted to know what medication I am on so she could see if this other lady is on the same. I told her I take a triptan and preventatives. But this is stigma on this poor ladies side. Sounds like she gets frequent migraines herself and that can lead to frequent days off. And they don’t believe she is ‘really having a migraine‘ or that she is really ‘calling in sick for a migraine‘. How the hell would they know? Do they get frequent migraines? Do they know how complicated treatment is for migraines when you get them frequently? That would so suck to work with people judging you like that when they have no clue what frequent migraine sufferers go through.
She said this lady if she had a migraine, would not have been on Facebook if it was that bad. Granted on the days when I get killer migraines and call in sick I spend six hours of the day holed up in my room praying for relief or sleep… but if I say was on strong opiate painkillers and I used them for those killer migraines and was too drugged up to feel pain, but also too drugged up to drive and work… then maybe I would be on facebook. Hell, sometimes in intense mind-blowing pain I blog as a pain distraction. It sounds insane, but I need to distract myself in some small way. I can’t handle just Thinking about the pain, which leads to a spiral of dark tormented thoughts. What we do to get through the pain, is our business. It sounds like they really don’t believe this girl. That sort of attitude drives me nuts. Would they have the same bias if someone had cancer and had to miss work? Would they think she is faking it for the time off? How ill do they want someone to be before they believe they are not ‘faking’ it.
Isn’t it insanely funny she chose to talk about that to me? I was about to tell her that I could not say anything about someone else suffering frequent migraines when in fact I have them almost daily and I also miss more than I should of work. I should ask for this girls name and then we can chat about the stigma in the workplace.