Migraine Triggers at Work

Migraine and Working at a Restaurant

Migraine triggers at work are everywhere! My Migraine Life has created many work experiences and my work environment has always affected the way I manage while I’m there. Living with migraine and working at a restaurant, it’s not easy! My favorite restaurant is closing!  It is a place I worked at in high school and have spent countless family meals.  Four generations of my family have known it and the owners. 

It’s my personal “Cheers.”  There are too many memories to list.  My husband asked my parents to marry me there.  When I was pregnant I craved their potato skins.  At that time, the cooks would see me in the parking lot and would bring them out to me with our drinks so I wouldn’t have to wait for a second longer.  It is a place my children yell out the window and wave at and a place I have sweet memories with my grandpa.  I am sad that it is closing and that all the memories I have will be in the past.

Migraine Triggers at Work

While I think back at all the years at my “Cheers” I remember hostessing.  I believe everyone should work in the food industry and retail at some point to learn countless lessons.  When I was a hostess, I learned a lot.  Mostly that people are rude and when they get stressed they like to yell at someone for uncontrollable reasons.   I remember one particularly slammed Saturday night.  My station was in between the smoky bar and the smoking section which meant every night I was triggered. 

In high school, I was episodic and not the chronic walking migraine that I am today so I could handle it.  As the night progressed I had a waitress yelling at me about seating her section too often even though patrons requested to be seated at a particular table.  Then the line began.  Here’s the thing about wait time…..it’s uncontrollable.  If I saw a check on a table, I could only estimate if the person would pay right away or sit and have a drink for another 20 minutes. 

Work Environment

At one point, I was running to help bus tables, expedite food, and seat people.  The volume was growing, stress built and the smoke thickened.  At this point, a man came and got in my face to yell at me about the wait time.  When I say he yelled at me, I mean he actually bent down to get into my 16-year-old face to scream!  His intention was to embarrass me, make me cry, and somehow make himself feel great about doing so.  I look back and get even madder that I was so young and this man who puffed out his chest was able to send me over the edge.  I started crying and the migraine went from about a 5 to an 8+ instantly.  It was then, that I learned my work environment heavily affects my health.

Work Experience

The owner who was helping with crowd control saw me crying and immediately put her motherly arm around me and settled things down.  It was one of the first times that I realized other people had control over me.  I’d like to say I have control over myself but in reality, I could not control my triggers or emotions and therefore allowed the macho aggressive man to win. 

I’d like to say that I learned from this man but I already knew not to be a jerk to other people.  I thought it was common sense to treat others the way you’d like to be treated (It was the motto of my elementary school).  I thought seeing the crowd and that checks were on tables was obvious.  The thing I learned that night is that people think they are better than you are when being served.  How odd.  I learned that compassion can come from a boss and that work experience leaves lasting impressions.

What triggers your migraine attacks at work?

work environment work experiences

Dealing with a Migraine at Work

This was an important lesson because working as an adult I have seen very little compassion from my bosses.  It was a day I remember so vividly because I didn’t understand migraines and how they worked, just that they hurt and disabled me.  In hindsight, I would tell my 16-year-old self that I can’t control others.  I can only control how I react.  It is something that I allowed to happen just a few weeks ago and still struggle with today. I can’t control people getting mad at me but allowing myself to get thrown into a migraine is allowing them to win and that’s defeating. 

Being a people pleaser,  and don’t like to be yelled at or surrounded with negativity.  I don’t do well with stress.  I think it’s the fact that other’s attitudes can bring me to heightened pain when they can walk away and enjoy life like nothing has happened that bothers me the most.  When people mistreat me, I get sick.   The power that others hold over me is really frustrating and makes me want to avoid people who have nothing nice to say. 

Migraine in the Workplace

Lessons from Migraine and Working at a Restaurant 

  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • I can only control how I react.  This lesson is something I’ve been working on for almost 20 years.
  • Everyone has bad days and everyone will do something to make someone else mad.  The way you react to that madness is important.
  • Bosses can be human and kind
  • Tip your waitresses and say thank you to your hostess.  You don’t know how their day is going and they don’t know about you.  It’s just the right thing to do.  Be kind or at the very least don’t be rude.  Passing on negativity is poison.  It literally makes me sick.
  • Remember how important work experience and work environment are to your health

Want to know more about how to better your situation at work?

Check out my 13 ways to survive migraine at work

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Sarah Rathsack

I tell stories of My Migraine Life. Living life through Migraine consists of advocacy, treatment, prevention, and searching for health and happiness in a positive honest way. My kids, husband, dog, family and friends motivate me to make a difference in the Migraine World.

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4 Comments

  1. Jack on January 13, 2016 at 10:41 am

    That is very nice. You might want to print this and send it to the family.
    Love, dad



  2. Sally Harrold on January 13, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Something I learned in my Chronic Pain group is that chronic pain sufferers tend to be people pleasers. I know I am. We, as a group, tend to “wear our hearts on our sleeves” and let emotions rule, I was told. I think there’s quite a bit of truth to it. Our emotional baggage causes stress and our stress exacerbates our pain.



  3. Amy Bobbitt on January 13, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    This is so true of me. People pleaser and can’t say no because I want to show people I am not labeled by my migraines(which only makes things worse). I’m a nurse so you add to that list that when people are sick they tend to demand but I have come to learn they are really scared and in pain too. So thanks for your prospective on dealing with mean people.



  4. Virginia Axon Optics on January 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I am the same way, both a people pleaser and someone who can be made physically ill when mistreated. I’ve found that the cruetly shown in the restaurant industry was at least more honest than the sneaky way people are cruel to you in the professional world. It’s disheartening. I’m sorry to hear that your restaurant is closing, I hope you visit as often as you can before the last day!



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