Migraine sufferers can have successful and meaningful careers on their own terms. They can obtain the additional satisfaction of overcoming a serious health handicap in doing so.
Migraineurs have made great contributions to society - see http://www.migraines.org/myth/mythgood.htm. I flourished in my first career as an actuary and a financial services executive, despite continual battles with migraine. Now I serve other migraine sufferers who are ready to achieve more of their potential.
Like all worthwhile missions in life, it requires planning to become successful in the workplace. It is up to you to define what “success” means to you; and only you know the degree of pain that your migraines cause. As a result, your journey to success will be unique as well as challenging. It will also be a dynamic process as internal and external conditions change.
The 10 principles which will lead you to a successful career are:
1. Migraine management is an integral part of your career plan
Your medical condition means that you cannot perform at a consistent level because of various factors which are largely beyond your control. This has two implications: over time you need to do what you can to control more of these factors (triggers, lifestyle, etc.); and it is important to adapt your workstyle to take your migraines into account.
Ignoring the reality that you will have future migraine attacks will mean that your work performance will suffer more than it needs to. Therefore your career plan should incorporate this reality.
2. Know yourself
You need to make a realistic assessment of what you are capable of doing if you could manage your migraines better.
Ask yourself (and/or others): “What am I really capable of, if I could limit the degree of suffering that my migraines bring?” The suffering associated with migraine, once de-linked from the pain, can be reduced with coaching.
Don’t sell yourself short – you have strengths and capabilities and skills that may have been hidden until now. Your potential is greater than you realize. Knowing yourself also involves pinpointing areas in which you are weak.
3. I will prevail!
The greatest disservice human beings can do is to give up on themselves. I know that a long-duration headache or a series of migraines can lead to despair. But if you have a career plan that encompasses migraine management, despair is less likely to take root. Instead, your determination and willpower will overpower these temporary setbacks - because an even more deep-rooted desire to succeed at what you enjoy and are good at will lead you to combat despair.
4. Take a weekly (or longer) focus
Give yourself permission to have bad days!
The nature of a migraine attack is that those days of pain and suffering seem to overwhelm the good days. I have reduced the scope of this problem by monitoring my migraine status each day and then reviewing the results each week and month. Knowing there will always be bad days, I’m able to ask “How am I doing overall?” This longer term perspective also generates a sense of gratefulness for the days when I am well.
5. Be a cultural fit to your organization
You may choose to be an entrepreneur, or in a small or large business. Whatever the organization, it should allow for the flexibility that your migraines are going to require.
A position that calls for you to be at your desk during normal working hours, no matter how you feel, will prove to be more difficult than a job that is measured by what you produce by the end of a particular time period. A company or industry which has a more relaxed environment will likely be a better fit than one in which every day produces a crisis.
If you elect to have your own business, you set the working conditions up to a point. Here your success hinges on you and you alone. If you become too successful, stress can become an issue unless you learn to delegate and collaborate with others.
6. Get support teams for your pain and suffering
There are many remedies for migraine pain, ranging from over-the-counter to prescription drugs, from abortive to preventative medications, and from medical to alternative care. It is essential, in my view, that you have continuous access to a trusted medical care provider - at the least he or she will be able to reduce the amount of pain you have.
At work, you will discover who you can trust with the truth of your migraines and what they imply for your workstyle. The most important person is your boss, then your support staff and trusted peers. You can validate their trust by maintaining integrity and coming through with results.
In addition, family, friends or a third party coach can be very important sources of support and encouragement.
7. Arrange the Plan B’s
What can you do when migraines happen at work? There a number of options:
o Have your rescue medication with you at all times
o Use a rest area in the office
o Hot or cold packs
o Be able to work from home
o Share with trusted co-workers that you are not at your best
o Ask for more time
o If possible, delegate
8. Ensure you are engaged
At first glance, it may seem easier to run your career at low speed in order to have less stress. There is a risk of being shuffled into a position in which your talents are being under-utilized, however, and this can lead to frustration and lack of engagement with your work. At that point your career plan will be going off the rails,and you will need to find a way to re-motivate yourself.
9. Sweat the small stuff!
Minimize your chance of getting a migraine by:
o Avoiding your food triggers
o Limiting stress
o Getting the right amount of sleep
o Proper exercise
o Ensuring proper lighting
o Taking breaks
o Avoiding scents as much as possible
10. Retain your perspective
These keys are quite comprehensive and may seem overwhelming. They are, in fact, a lifetime prescription for career success.
Yet career is just one aspect of life. It is balanced by family, recreation, friends, health, spirituality, travel, finances, learning and so on. A single focus can be dangerous, just as an exclusive focus on your struggle with migraine will limit your world. I heartily endorse spreading your wings!
Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s never your fault if you have a migraine. The greatest counterweight to all the serious material in the first 9 points is a sense of humor – being able to laugh with others, and most of all, to laugh at yourself. That, my friends, is my highest endorsement of all.
You can have a meaningful and successful career. While there will be more obstacles for you than for some others, with dedication and support as summarized above I know you can accomplish great things.
Gerry Fryer is a professional coach who specializes in working with chronic migraine sufferers. Please visit his dedicated website at http://migraineindependence.weebly.com to learn more and receive the free report, "A Dozen Migraine Strategies", as soon as you subscribe.