Excusing Yourself During a Migraine Attack

There’s no good time for a migraine attack, so here’s how to politely leave

Managing migraine is no easy task, especially when your symptoms arise unexpectedly. How do you excuse yourself when a migraine attack catches you by surprise? We asked our Move Against Migraine Facebook support group to see their best tips and tricks. Group members shared how they politely leave a variety of situations, and we’ve rounded up the best and most helpful pieces of advice.

How do you excuse yourself during a migraine attack?

Educate the people you’re with

Because migraine is such a misunderstood disease, education is a great place to start when excusing yourself due to an attack. Many people find it helpful to share they live with migraine on a non-migraine day or before they’re experiencing an attack. Explaining the phases of an attack, the different types of migraine or the symptoms you feel allows you to share your knowledge of migraine so that people understand what you experience.

Unfortunately, migraine stigma is pervasive, so it’s important to reflect on the situation before sharing to reduce the chance of conflict. On, the other hand, it is very common. So it is possible that one of your co-workers or friends has migraine or has a close family member with migraine. For member Rachel, she takes a moment to consider if her excusing herself could be a teaching moment. “It depends if I am in an environment where there can be a teaching moment about stigma,” she says. “If I am with people I trust who are open to understanding migraine as a disease, I fully disclose.”

MAM member Staci has found that the people in her life want to know more about what she’s going through. “I find people just don’t understand but want to educate themselves,” she says.

Because MAM member Pamela’s friends know she lives with migraine, she accepts her friends’ invites with a reminder. “If it is just a dinner with friends, I always warn them ahead of time: ‘I can go, unless I have a migraine,’” she says.

Education is an important piece of the migraine puzzle as it is an investment into the people around you. Educating your boss, coworkers, friends and family about migraine puts you into a better position to plan before an attack arrives.

Lean on your migraine support team

A migraine support team includes anyone who assists you along your migraine journey. Many people with migraine lean on their support team to help excuse them when an attack occurs. For Member Valerie, she attends social activities with her spouse or another close family member. “I always have an emergency kit with me and they know what I need,” she says.

Leaning on people you trust can take a lot of stress off of your shoulders during an attack. For example, Member Michelle leans on her friends when she is unable to drive. “If I’m in the presence of a friend who understands or lives with migraine too, I might, for safety’s sake, ask for assistance to get home or [to the] hospital.”

Excusing without mention of migraine

While a teaching moment is great when it pops up, it isn’t always the best choice. Excusing yourself simply by saying “Excuse me” is completely appropriate. Deciding whether to share your migraine story or not is your choice, and both choices are valid. Member Michelle says, “If a migraine attack comes on suddenly, I retreat quickly and precisely,” adding that she doesn’t feel the need to share.

If you are pressed for a more in-depth explanation, it may make more sense to describe your symptoms than to say you are experiencing a migraine attack as many people do not understand the seriousness of migraine. Pain, nausea, visual disturbances and dizziness make sense to those who have never experienced a migraine attack.

Dr. Angeliki Vgontzas, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests saying something generic. For example, “I am not feeling well and will need to excuse myself from class for the rest of the day,” or “I have a medical condition that temporarily interferes with my work, but if I am provided an opportunity to take a break and take medicine, I can typically continue my workday.”

When an attack comes up, you must advocate for yourself by doing what you need to for your health. For more resources on navigating life with migraine, visit our website.