Posts Tagged ‘MIDAS’

Who You Calling Disabled?

June 5th, 2010

I hesitate to call myself disabled. I work 25 hours+ a week at a demanding job, I do get out and see people, sometimes, and I’m down to only 3 or 4 days a month in bed. Most days I can wash the dishes and straighten up a bit, more than half my days I get some exercise, many days I can manage the laundry.  I’m down to 5 to 7 Migraine days a month, from 12 to 20 a few years ago. Although I have some fibromyalgia pain many days, days like today when I feel wrung out and ache from head to toe don’t come more than 2 or 3 times a month. So who’s calling me disabled?

I push forward through my life with a great deal of determination and most of the time I confidently expect to get better and better. I have learned so much about how to take care of myself, how to manage my various conditions, and I’ve really improved so much. Days like today, where all I can manage is some reading, some hanging out on line, some tv, when I travel from the bed to the armchair to the bathroom to the kitchen, and that’s a major undertaking, days like today can fill me with despair. I may never get any better than this. I have to accept that possibility – not that I won’t keep on getting up and being positive (mostly) and working striving and pushing (and breaking down when I push too far). But maybe this is as good as it gets.

I am researching Migraines and Social Security Disability for an article I’m planning to write. I encountered the blog of a disability law firm who have helped a number of Migraineurs to get their disability recognized, and compensated. Here’s what struck me. In writing up a Migraine Disability case study, Lawyer Jonathan Ginsberg recounted that the vocational witness called in his client’s case testified that although she felt the claimant could do light duty, low stress work, that no jobs existed that would allow her to be absent 4 to 7 days a month. It’s hard to do this kind of research and really stay detached, and reading that I thought, wow, I could easily need to be absent 4 days a month! The fact that I work less than full time, and for a flexible and understanding boss, makes it possible for me to switch hours around and avoid some of those sick days. But I would be disabled under the same criteria that got the woman in that case granted disability benefits!

Then there’s the MIDAS scale. MIDAS is the American Headache Society’s Migraine Disability Assessment Test. A year ago my MIDAS score was 57 – Which is “Grade IV Severe Disability.” I have been retaking the assessment every few months, and I am down to a 30. Great progress! Guess what a 30 is?  “Grade IV Severe Disability.”

I am not knocking my progress, really I’m not. I recently had a reader write in and ask me how to take back her life from Migraine. That’s certainly a phrase I’ve used a lot. Having 5 to 7 Migraine days a month is incredibly much better than having 12 to 20. Being proactive, recognizing our sensitive nervous systems and caring for them, looking at the areas we can impact and working on them, all of these things do make a difference. I am doing better all the time, building up my stamina (though slowly), and managing these days to earn somewhat of a living, which is nothing to sneeze at. But I felt I needed to tell this woman, you can take your life back in the sense of being in charge of your life, but that doesn’t mean you can make the disease go away.

There come those days, like today, when I slam into the brick wall of my own limitations. I worked a long, hard, stressful week this week and today I woke up feeling like I had been pushed through a strainer. Do any of you recognize that one? I’ve felt it on and off for many years, at least ten, and now I recognize it as a sign of a fibromyalgia flare. I feel strained, like my nerves and muscle fibers have been stretched, shoved, pushed, shredded, sieved, including the nerves in my temples that start the Migraines. Days like today feel blank, wasted, and I cried this morning at the prospect of a life ahead filled with days like this.

My disability is invisible, at times even to me, but it’s there. I will keep on striving. And I also need to be with what’s so, that this is who I am. I am this person with a hyper-sensitive nervous system, I do need days of recovery from just the normal everyday days of life.

I know I’m incorrigible, but I have high hopes for tomorrow.

- Megan

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Posted in Managing, Musings, Uncategorized | Comments (0)

The MIDAS Touch

April 5th, 2009

I recently took a MIDAS (Migraine Disability Assessment) test, and the results were enlightening.   The MIDAS test was developed by Richard B. Lipton, MD, Professor of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY, and Walter F. Stewart, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.  It provides an objective measure of how much your Migraines disable you, or impair you from work and acitivities of daily life.  It is a useful test in several ways.  Many Migraine and headache specialists make use of it to determine how you are affected by Migraine disease, and to measure your progress in treatment.  The test is also useful if you need to build a body of evidence for a disability benefits application.  You can find and take the MIDAS test on line at the American Headache Society web site,

In addition to being helpful in your treatment, the test may be helpful to you personally, in better understanding the impact of your Migraines.  The test has you look back over the past three months and count:

due to Migraines.  Then it asks you for the number of days you had head pain, and the average severity of your head pain.  After you fill in all these numbers, the web site will calculate a score for you, which will indicate mild, moderate or severe disability due to Migraine disease.  Taking the test again on later occasions will provide an objective measure of how your treatment is working.

MIDAS is not brand-new, but my headache specialist does not use it so I had not taken it before.  I do, however, keep a very detailed diary, which is necessary to do this test.  If you haven’t kept track of how many Migraines you had, when, how severe they were and how they affected you, you won’t be able to complete the test.  Here at Free my Brain we will have a diary available for you soon.

What I learned for my self is that I am considered severely disabled by my Migraines.  This might surprise many of the people who know me, as I am up and functioning most days.  I have most of my Migraines in the evenings.  This means, however, that I have virtually no life when it comes to socializing and leisure time, and it also means that I must constantly choose between work and family, work and household tasks.  I have to earn a living, which is a struggle, so I don’t have as much time with family as I would like, very little time with friends, and as for household tasks, ha!  Reading my MIDAS results, you could predict the layer of dust in my house!

I suppose the test confirmed things I already knew.  It is a kind of validation, though, and it helps me focus on what I need to work on.  I need to be vigilant about my lifestyle – getting enough rest, doing my relaxation practice every day, working with my doctor to find the right preventive regimen for me. I need to maximize my health so I can do my work, be with my family, and then if I have a little energy left worry about the house! The MIDAS touch? Keeping that focus is pure gold!

- Megan

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Posted in Managing, Medicine | Comments (0)

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