Kelly Clarke’s Advocacy Story
Kelly Clarke’s advocacy story is written and told by Kelly Clarke and edited by the Miles for Migraine team. Miles for Migraine’s Advocacy Stories highlights the many different ways that health advocacy shows up as individuals advocate for themselves and others. This project is not limited to migraine and other headache disorders, nor is it limited to individuals that personally experience a health condition.
Kelly Clarke’s Advocacy Story
My migraine story begins like a badly-written episode of Road Runner: I was hit by a large truck traveling at highway speed. I’m not Wiley Coyote, so I sustained multiple serious injuries, including a one-way ticket to the wonderful world of migraine. I was fairly new, in an insular small-town community. My crazy story about my invisible injuries, articulated with my new speech difficulties, was met with disbelief, cyberbullying, harassment, etc., which sadly remain a problem today. Due to intense pressure to keep working, I did as best I could. But my newly-injured brain barely allowed me to function, much less advocate for myself.
Kelly’s Migraine at Work
Migraine disease in a high-stress job is awful. It has caused me to pass out, lose my balance, fall, etc., in front of coworkers. The first time it happened at work, I was berated viciously in front of 20 people. I stammered an apology and ran to the restroom sobbing. I called my husband, begging him to take me to the ER. My head hurt so badly I was afraid I was having a stroke or a brain aneurysm. I was fired, and false and malicious gossip quickly seeped through the local industry community.
I live in an area that is diverse but not inclusive and work in a fast-paced field in which ableism is deeply ingrained. The months when my medical care had to come first, and now my physical differences, have trashed my personal and professional reputations. Last year, I fell again at work, due to migraine dizziness, and pain. I crashed into a conference table and dropped my laptop. The only woman, non-engineer and disabled person, in the room, I was mortified.
But when I started to apologize, I saw only faces of concern. I was among friends. “I’m sorry for the disturbance. The truth is, I have a migraine coming on. I get really dizzy when that happens. I’ve been struggling with many serious injuries since I got hit by a truck, and I’m having a terrible time getting medical care.”
How Kelly’s Advocacy Changed Things
Trusting my coworkers led to one of them pulling some strings; that landed me with a care team that focuses on my best interests and finally gives me hope. Not for nothing, most are female. Because I gave my new coworkers the option to at least hear my side of the story, most empathized rather than think the worst about my character. The important thing to remember with an invisible disability is not everybody is hateful. I advocate for myself by aggressively disproving the “people with invisible disabilities are lazy” stereotype.
The accident took my intelligence but not my drive or my obsession for achieving. On my best days, I bring 150% to the table and use nerdy techniques like Pomodoro sprints and Smartsheet to stay pathologically organized. I reach for opportunities like public speaking and writing competitions more aggressively than before. When my productivity dips, I explain it’s because I’m feeling poorly. Thanks to my new migraine injections, there is no more falling. I am hanging onto this job. I work with amazing people, and besides, medical care isn’t cheap!
Tell your Advocacy Story
Do you have an advocacy story to tell? What is one of the most memorable advocacy experiences in your headache disease journey/daily life? Try to recall a time when you practiced advocacy. Perhaps you shared your story, posted on social media, or attended an advocacy event such as Headache on the Hill or a Miles for Migraine event. Looking back on that experience, what did you notice? Did you experience a negative moment such as shame, stigma, or a positive moment such as joy, hope, or relief? If there was conflict, did you resolve it or was it a conflict that still affects you today? If the outcome was positive, how did that make you feel? Did the outcome cause you to advocate again for yourself? How has your most memorable story shaped you today? There is no right or wrong way to share your story.
Are you inspired by these advocacy stories and want to donate to Miles for Migraine? All or part of your donation may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. Please consult with your tax advisor. Funds raised help with our operational costs so that we can continue to produce races and youth camp events. Money raised through donations and race registrations goes directly to medical organizations researching migraine.
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