Sie Pei’s daily life comes to a halt during a migraine attack

Hours on the bathroom floor

I had my first attack when I was 23. Headaches that did not disappear with paracetamol, but turned into a maddening pain that lasted for days. Like my head was in a clamp, and at the same time, an impact drill was being held against it. During an attack I vomit, cannot tolerate sound or light – not even from my phone – and I cannot move either. One time when I lost my medication, I ended up on the bathroom floor for hours until my friend found me and could help.

Reluctance to go to the GP

Together with my GP, I found the right medication step by step. But I do not know what triggers my attacks. I could still find out, but to be honest I am afraid to go to the doctor again. They are already so busy, and I feel that I have already called upon the healthcare system more than enough. The GP can better spend the time it takes to do a trigger test, on someone who needs the care more than I do.

Be quiet, do not stand out

It is hard for me to take up space. That is how I was raised: be quiet, behave yourself, do not stand out, and do not ask too much. I think it is a message that many Asian people get from their community. If tomorrow the newspaper said that GPs had a lower workload, I would feel less guilty about taking up a slot during consultation hours.

The taboo on unexplained illnesses

My family does not understand migraine. They think it is just a headache. Take a painkiller and move on. A broken arm is visible, so they understand. But when I have a migraine attack, I lie in a dark room under the covers, and my parents do not see that. Illnesses that are not immediately visible or explicable are a bit of a taboo in the Asian community.

Time and again at the company doctor

Because of the attacks, every two months I am ill for a few days, and then I cannot work. I work at a large hospital, and protocol automatically kicks in if you are ill for more days than is statistically expected for your age. As a result, I have to report to the company doctor every so often. Every time I have an attack I get stressed: soon I will get another call. I think it is a waste of the company doctor’s time. They are aware of my condition and that it can’t be helped. So why invest all that time if nothing can be improved?


Sie Pei is 30 years old and works in IT