The War Begins At Work

I feel its very important to point out here that migraine is a very complex disease. It varies from nothing more than a really bad headache in one person to a debilitating condition in another. For employers, managers, even the general population… Understanding the effect Migraine has when its commonly referred to as a severe headache is the biggest hurdle. Once my employers understood the degree of control this condition has over me they have become amazingly supportive.

Due to a restructure I, once again, had to explain my condition to my new Team Manager. I’d made them aware when I applied for the position, I discussed it with HR and my manager during my first week of employment. So this was the third time (or fourth if you include the discuss during my interview). So I told my new team leader the story so far.

Although, not fully over the migraine, I returned to work on the 26th January and was informed that if my attendance didn’t improve I’d be placed on an action contract where “the outcome could be dismissal because I am on probation”.

I’d been working at my new job for almost 5 months when they conducted my 1st performance review. I was told my performance was not meeting the requirements of my role and they were putting me on an action contract.

I argued that if the company took into consideration the effect the migraines were having on my attendance then I’d have finished well above target for these two months I was out sick. But of course, it doesn’t work that way. 

I was also informed if I didn’t hit the agreed targets of my action contract I would be invited to a meeting where the possible “outcome could be dismissal because I am still on probation”.

So that was twice I’d heard that phrase in 1 week. I left this meeting feeling like I was being managed out and therefore no matter what I said, my objections would not be listened to, regardless of my health condition.

Pushing For More

My condition is exacerbated by tiredness and stress. But I worked weeks with out a day off, working unpaid overtime on scheduled days off to improve my performance. I went to work with flu, a severe ear infection…

I also tried to do whatever I could to help them understand my condition also. The “Dark Destroyer” is not the same as the common misconceived migraine. It is not a severe headache. In 1 particular meeting I gave them the Migraine Trust’s “Working with Migraine Handbook for Employers” and highlighted that according to them I’m covered by the Equalities Act 2010 part 5 – Disability Discrimination and we should look at reasonable adjustments.

What more could I do?

Sorry – No Vacancy

When a new position became available in a different team… the role wasn’t a promotion, but it was a more challenging role and I had three years experience in a similar role in a different field. The hours were set rather than a rota and as a migraineur keeping a routine is key to managing symptoms. So there were a lot of ticked boxes for me. 

I spoke to the team manager recruiting the position and she gave me several reasons why I’d make a very good addition to the team. I would be considered for a position when one became available, once I had improved my performance in my current position and my attendance. (You know, to this day I have never had a sick day that hasn’t been migraine related since they began. That’s in 2&½ years!)

This is the first time I felt as though someone was reminding me I am not a complete human being. I will never be able to guarantee my attendance at work because I have no control over my condition. This made me believe that no matter what I do, or whether I am the top performer at my job, my condition will always hold me back.

But aren’t there laws to prevent this? I hear you say… 

The Dark Destroyer’s Disciple of Stolen Speech

Another performance review and this time I was told how critical the last month of my probation is. The following day I had an acute migraine attack in the middle of the day. The disciples of the dark destroyer came from nowhere, affecting my right side and my ability to speak. I asked for time away from the phones to allow pain meds to work and was taken into the office and reminded how crucial this month was for me and I could either stay on the phone, do an off the phone activity or go home.

I couldn’t speak and I struggled to reply. I wanted to stay and see if the meds worked. After an hour and half I went to the pharmacy for additional pain relief. The pharmacist didn’t want me to leave until I’d taken them and they’d had an effect. And even though I wasn’t well enough to go back on the phones and talk to customers. I did.

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