Suffering in silence
Valerie’s first migraine attack took her by surprise. She was dining at a restaurant when she saw a flash in one eye – a strobe that grew in intensity and size until she lost vision in that eye completely. “Truthfully, it freaked me right out. I thought I was losing my vision and had a friend rush me to the ER,” she recalls.
Valerie was referred to a neurologist and diagnosed with migraine soon after the attack. Diagnosis did not lead to a speedy recovery, however, and Valerie struggled for years with debilitating symptoms as she bounced her way through providers and treatments. “Neurologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and osteopaths,” she recalls. “And with that came a long list of treatments and remedies: low-dose antidepressants, prescription and over-the-counter medicines, ice packs, heating pads, ointments, vitamins and minerals, migraine trackers, change of diet and the list goes on.”
Like other people with migraine, stigma was also something Val experienced during that time. “You don’t wear a cast or a sling with migraine, and the symptoms aren’t obvious to those who haven’t lived it. For those of us living with it, it’s exhausting to explain and defend, so we often suffer in silence,” she explains.
Valerie felt the stigma significantly at a prior job that offered “no compassion or understanding, let alone flexibility,” she says. At the time, she was working at an IT service desk on a shift schedule. Every time she had to miss work due to a migraine, it impacted the rest of her team’s schedule. “The anxiety of calling in sick and what are people saying about me and not being considered reliable and dependable was very heavy,” she explains. “Eventually I chose to leave, and at Lundbeck I found compassion in my colleagues and like-minded people.”