How long do you persist with working through pain? It is a question I ask myself all the time. There are a lot of factors to consider and I grasp them all. There is income stability. There is the factor of work helps with isolation, the sense of productivity and is emotionally and mentally beneficial. We feel good when we work. But then there is the chronic illness. The pain.
When do you draw the line between Functioning and Non-functioning? I hate the word because I think people use it to say that we Can work. That we have the potential to work a job. That we have the capacity in a limited sense of the word. Minimally functional. I don’t use it like that. I use it in the sense that one some days I can barely function with the pain and go to work and wear my facade and get through the day. And there are days I am completely non-functional and can’t get to work. And it seems like there are too many non-functional days. And barely functional doesn’t seem to cut it all that well in a workplace. Just getting by doesn’t seem to be the standard.
So you have to say, okay, I get that I can’t have a full-time career. Okay, I understand that. I will compromise in some way. I chose to go down to part-time which my employer accommodated. This should have vastly improved the situation. It has not. I am just as poorly off full-time as I am part-time because my chronic illness and pain doesn’t change. So I push through the pain to get through work and then am completely useless on my day off. And it is this crash and burn situation all week until the pain gets so severe I miss work. There is no capacity to cope or balance it out well. Because work is a massive amplifier of pain.
It destabilizes my depression because you feel worthless failing all the time. It is not something I feel I have any control over and that lack of control, the lack of ability to change my circumstances And failing causes a lot of emotional friction. A lot of hopelessness. At that point, you have to wonder if the emotional toll is worth it. I know in the past I have just kept pushing and pushing and ignored my emotional wellbeing, which led to suicidal ideation and, then suicide attempts.
Eventually, you have to say work is not working for me on any level. It just doesn’t work. On any given day, when scheduled to work, that day could be an immensely bad day and then you just cannot work. But let’s say it is a regular, average day.
So then on average, you are looking at pain between an 7 and 8. This does and will cause cognitive issues with concentration, brain fog, short-term memory and long-term memory. I often get transient aphasia and have problems with word finding, using the wrong word and garbling up sentences. I get what I call are the migraine stupids where at one stage of the migraine I forget a lot of policy, products, how to do things… it is the cognitive and neurological issues with migraines combined with the pain. And the side effect from taking the tripans makes you dopey and stupid as well, but you need it to dull the pain for a few hours. I will also be extremely nauseated and likely vomit at work. If not that then I will likely have diarrhea, which is also a thing that happens with my migraines. The nausea is constant, but not the vomiting. The diarrhea comes in bouts depending on the migraine. I can lose my vision. My hearing. Get very loud tinnitus. I get confused and flustered. Confusion makes it difficult for me to understand what people want and then how to do that thing. It is like suddenly not being able to understand and communicate suddenly and everything gets puzzling. I get vertigo, which makes me feel really spacey … at those times I have a serious time concentrating as even my eyes can’t track right. I get dizzy spells. And feel very faint. I am sure there is more on a Normal day. Not counting even the issues with FM I have. But that is a normal day. Every migraine is different so it is … like a box of chocolates you never know what you are going to get except you always get the pain one, the nausea one, the photophobia one and the phonophobia one…. the rest are up for grabs.
My point is any day is a migraine day for me. Any day can be a high 8 or 9. When I have hormonal migraines they are always high at 8-9 for 6 days straight migraine. I miss days with them because no one can work with that pain for that long without it. So that is one a month I will always miss work. Any day has the potential to be a day I can’t make it in. Every day is already a day that is difficult to work through and depending on symptoms sometimes seriously difficult to work through. So working 3 days a week, 2 days, 1 day… wouldn’t make a difference. Because when I called in sick on a Monday it didn’t make it easier to work the other two days, not one bit.
So even if I accept I should be on disability will disability accept that? Coming from the people that brought out ‘You seem significantly improved’ when I had no change at all and gave me a couple months leave for when my depression got worse and I had a suicide attempt. Yes, those people don’t seem inclined to believe FM, chronic daily migraines and depression qualify someone for long-term disability.
It is a hard decision anyway. And in the end it is the insurance copy, unfortunately, that makes that decision and I have little faith in them.