Reflection Cube

Three-dimensional thoughts

Tag: workplace

migraine pain - brain on fire - what it's like having a migraine

What It’s Like Having a Migraine

Ever had a migraine? Do you know a migraine sufferer?

A migraine is not just a common or severe headache. It is that, but much more. A migraine with aura means a migraine accompanied by sensory disturbances or odd perceptions or sensitivities to various stimuli. An aura is something that can show up for people before a migraine or seizure. However, I often experience mine during the migraine.

Everyone’s migraine experience differs in some way from others’ experiences – in the presence or absence of various symptoms, the severity and timing of those symptoms, and the triggers and remedies.

I’ve had migraines since I was six (or at least, I first recall experiencing them at that age), and only since radically changing my diet and lifestyle in recent years (especially the past year or so) have I seen major improvements.

I don’t get migraines very often now, but when I do, they’re still quite the nightmare.

Walking Through a Migraine

It’s 11:15 at night. You just got home from work, and you feel a throbbing pulse of knotted-up heat surrounding your right eye. You try to massage your head and dig at the deep pain, but it is too deep to reach, and it almost feels like any pressure you apply just pushes the pain deeper inside.

“Light jazz” music is on the radio when you walk inside. Normally, this type of music can give you a headache, but now, it’s triggering feelings of nausea. The lights are too bright, and the smell of garlic bread and pasta seeps through your nostrils and pierces deep into your head, setting on fire your already inflamed brain. The pain intensifies and spreads. You wish your remedies could pervade your head this quickly, could heal the damage as fast as it’s inflicted.

You faintly, dizzily wobble up the stairs to your bedroom and lie on the floor in the dark.

It’s been a long day, but you want nothing to eat. Even imagining food or the smell of it makes you sick.

You struggle to find a comfortable position.

Once you do, you don’t want to move. Doing so – even an inch – just reignites the fire.

Even the slightest motion is infinitely painful. It hurts to talk.

People visit and ask you questions. “Are you okay?” “What can I bring you?”

You attempt to respond as briefly and painlessly as possible, not speaking too loudly or moving your mouth too much. Which then prompts them to ask you to repeat your response, because it was not discernible the first time.

Inwardly annoyed – at your own hypersensitivity and pain more than anything – you muster the strength to speak more loudly (if possible), knowing that may set you back for the next several minutes or hours.

You know that they care and mean well, and you don’t want to ignore them. But it’s so painful to shout. You feel like you’re shouting. All sound is magnified. The vibrations of sound fuel the flames permeating your head. And it hurts to move your jaw. It hurts to think.

Your cognitive function is compromised, and it’s painful – if not impossible – to process thoughts efficiently or lucidly.

In response to your loved ones’ queries, you request a hot cloth to place on your face. This will aid in blocking the traces of light biting through your eyelids, as well as relaxing muscles and possibly clearing some nasal congestion, removing at least some pressure from your head.

After about five or ten rounds of heating and applying the hot cloth, you’re beginning to feel some improvement, but you know that your only hope for seeing the end of this migraine is taking pain reliever and trying to sleep it off.

But…nope. Unless you’re fortunate, it’s still there in the morning, if slightly less so. “Hey there!” it greets you. “Didn’t think I’d leave so soon, did you?” Your head feels like a block of lead weighing down your pillow, and you know you lack the energy or equilibrium to get out of bed uneventfully right now.

The pain has traveled since you fell asleep, radiating to other areas of your head.

Once you finally manage to safely descend from your bed to the floor, you attempt to rebalance yourself enough to make it down the stairs, and repeat the hot cloth procedure. You also prepare a cup of tea so that you can drink in the steam (and eventually drink the tea).

You finally feel like eating something mild, and after doing so – and continuing to apply other remedies – the final traces of your migraine at last begin to fade.

Migraines and the Workplace

In the workplace, staying home for a migraine is often viewed as a weak or unnecessary decision. As far as I recall, I never called out for a migraine (perhaps because I feared it’d be viewed as an “excuse” not to work), and so I remember dealing with them while working.

(The first manager I worked with there was pretty kind and understanding, and once he found out I suffered from migraines, he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to care for myself, but he left soon after I was hired, and leadership changed a lot after that.)

I wonder how much the quality of my work was compromised, as migraines can diminish my thinking/processing ability, and also render me more dizzy and clumsy (I did spill/break my share of things at that job, a highly active and fast-paced position).

To make matters worse, at my first workplace, we were actually not allowed to have water bottles with us. We were only permitted to somehow carve out the time to walk far away from our work area (which was not always allowed) to drink water (laced with germs, heavy metals, and likely fluoride) from the water fountain.

If employers are going to “demand” that their migraine-suffering employees show up to work, they should at least make provisions for their staff that would aid them in coping with the pain:

An electric tea kettle.

A quality water filter.

Maybe some gluten-free tea bags with minimal ingredient lists.

Pain relievers (at least – or including – natural options such as boswellia and maybe white willow bark. Businesses should be able to get away with providing these if they label them as “food” and not “medicine”).

Slightly longer breaks.

Light sensitivity glasses (and/or yellow-tinted glasses for desk jobs), or allowing employees to bring/wear their own on the job.

If businesses are unwilling to make these accommodations, they should not expect employees to show up to work while suffering from migraines, unless they want to risk damage/loss in inventory, information, or labor processes and work quality due to clumsiness/dizziness, severe pain, and impaired neurological processes in their employees.

Chronic illness and autoimmune disease rates are only increasing, so the long-term solution is not simply to fire these employees and hire healthier ones.

The solution is to make our workplaces, homes, and environment cleaner, less toxic, and safer for – and more supportive of – those with chronic illness.

Triggers and Remedies

Some things that may trigger migraines for me (sometimes, they start out as garden-variety headaches and “transform” into migraines):

  • Dehydration.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light or sunlight.
  • Crying.
  • Walking inside the mall (which I don’t do anymore).
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Running, or lifting weights.
  • Eating dairy, eggs, corn, coconut, or foods high in various glutamates (tomatoes, grapes/raisins, black beans, foods [such as soups] with the ingredient MSG [monosodium glutamate]).
  • Eating foods high in refined sugars.
  • Eating foods containing dextrin, dextrose, or maltodextrin.
  • Exposure to gluten/wheat (sometimes even without consuming it).
  • Certain types of “jazz” or other “light music” (not quite sure how to describe this music, other than that it sort of tastes like peaches canned in pear juice).
  • Exposure to petroleum for more than a few seconds.
  • Exposure to synthetic fragrances (even briefly smelling them on other people).
  • Smiling for long periods of time (something I still have to work to do less, but often do because sometimes people perceive me as angry or upset if I wear what feels like a neutral face [I have deep-set eyes, so this makes me naturally look a bit more austere or intense when I’m not smiling]).
  • Staying at a party for more than maybe 1-2 hours.
  • Riding along in a car but not driving (in this case, I can usually only prevent a headache or migraine if I’m lying down or resting comfortably against something, or am riding along only for a short time). Additionally, the scents/smells of others’ cars often bother me and make me feel unwell.
  • Sickness.
  • Not taking magnesium.
  • Not getting adequate sleep.
  • Walking through a hardware store.
  • Walking through the laundry detergent aisle.

Some remedies that can help:

  • Being in a quiet, dark place
  • Putting a warm cloth on head
  • Steaming face over hot tea
  • Drinking water/tea
  • Taking natural pain relievers

If you are a migraine sufferer, what are some migraine triggers for you? What things help?

Please see disclaimer.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

Colorful rays of light and energy

A Little Encouragement For Your Monday

Some questions to soothe the anxiety commonly induced by Monday madness and melancholy:

– What’s the worst thing that could happen today?

– How likely is it that that thing will happen?

– Am I going to give others the power to offend me?

epictetus quote about rock, insult, offense

Remember that it is we who torment, we who make difficulties for ourselves – that is, our opinions do. What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective? – Epictetus

– Does it matter what others think of me?

– Who is one person who could use an encouraging word today?

– If I should get fired (or in some way “fail”) at work today, what good might come from that?

– What is going well?

– In what way can I set an example for my colleagues/clients/family today? (Perhaps through kindness, a listening ear, diligence, eating a healthy lunch/dinner?)

– What am I doing better now than I used to? What helped me get there? Who helped me get there?

– What faculties and abilities do I take for granted that allow me to do what I do?

– Why am I at this place? What led me here? What keeps me?

And Some Phrases/Reminders to Tell Yourself <3

– Who I am today is not who I was yesterday. I am stronger and more knowledgeable. I’ve learned from yesterday’s mistakes.

– My mistakes (even those mistakes I’ve accidentally repeated) do not define me. They do not diminish or describe my character, and they largely point to my level of fatigue, stress, or workload. My “success” or “failure” within this sphere of life cannot amount to or measure my worth.

– Nothing others say to me can be offensive to me unless I permit it to be.

– Others may express disappointment in me, but I am giving my very best, and seeking/implementing feedback where I can, so I have no reason to be disappointed in myself. I am only human.

– There is more to life than this workplace/position/season. And instead of pulling work into the rest of my life, I’m going to endeavor to bring beauty and life to this place.

– There will be some people who just don’t like me – no matter how hard I try to be friendly and likable – and that is perfectly OK.


Sending you bunches of cyber hugs right now. <3 <3 <3

<3 Kate

teddy bears hugging

Photo credit: Pixabay (CC License)


Please see disclaimer.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

people in torture chamber (ie. at work)

Stuck in the Torture Chamber

It’s been a s****y week at work. You don’t know how much more of this f*****g crap you can take.

You’ve been giving it your best. You know you’ve been doing that. But your best is just never enough.

Your company just won’t give you enough hours/compensation to accomplish everything that is expected of you.

How, in forty hours, with a limited team, are you supposed to crank out one million “widgets” [replace widgets with various metrics, productions, content, sales, patches, code commits]? This is NOT. HUMANLY. POSSIBLE. This system doesn’t work. Who invented this insanity? And how did I get pulled into this?, you wonder. How did I even end up here?

Your company is treating you like a soulless engine, without the capability of human “error” or “weakness”, or limitations. Your leaders expect “optimum” (hint: unrealistic) fuel efficiency.

And what can you do? If you want to keep that paycheck coming in, and maintain a solid resume and LinkedIn profile, then you may not see leaving as an option.

Depending on the approachability, flexibility, and power of your boss(es), you may not see changing or influencing your current environment as an option, either. Maybe you’ve already tried, and were met with opposition or even personal or professional attacks, suggesting that “Perhaps you’re not up for the stress this job entails”.

You’ve had it. How can they be so out-of-touch as to expect you – or your team – to give beyond the humanly possible? How can they expect you to make bricks without straw?

Maybe you’ve been accused of being “slow” when you’re really just conscientious (more so than the rest of your team). Yet your boss stresses the importance of accuracy, so you can’t sacrifice that to speed things up. (Yet…somehow, the rest of your team seems to get off the hook for low accuracy more easily than you. Ugh.)

My words of encouragement for you:

If you’re doing the best you can, and seeking feedback, then relax. You’re giving it everything you’ve got. And that is enough.

If you’re conscientious and that is “slowing you down”, be encouraged. You’re the kind of employee whom many companies and teams would welcome.

And if you’re that diligent and serious about your work, you probably also have what it takes to start (or collaboratively start) a business.

Bottom-line: Rest assured that for people like you, there are plans to fall back on. This job is not “it”.

If this situation doesn’t work out – whether it’s you or your boss who reaches that conclusion first – it’s not because something’s wrong with you. You’ve given this place your all – as much as anyone could have given. You’ve gone the extra mile.

But the economy sucks. Companies are employing fewer “engines” and squeezing all they can out of the ones they “acquire”. It’s not your fault for being human. It’s not your fault that you gave it your best and your best still wasn’t enough.

I know the thought/possibility/reality of losing your job can be unsettling, and potentially embarrassing if things actually do fall through. But you are no less an amazing person for it.

You are stronger, because of what you’ve been through.

And you’ll take the shards left from the collapse of this hideous dungeon that engulfed you, and reforge them into something beautiful. Something that fits you – your personality, your skills, your passions and interests – so much better than that prison cell ever did. I believe in you.

It might take a while. It might take some more falls, setbacks, scrapes, and scratches before you find something that “fits” and “works”. Don’t lose heart. This is the point where many people give up. Where they lose all hope, accept that they’re “a failure”, and stop caring about life.

It’s perfectly OK to be where you are right now. But it’s not okay to assume that you’re “doomed” to be a “failure” forever.

Life is a series of sprints, stumbles, and scrapes. But the only person who is a “failure” is the one who never tries to get back up and run. Where – or in what direction – you run almost doesn’t matter (okay, as long as it’s not something illegal or wrong or completely irresponsible…you know what those things are. 😉 ).

Try new things. Get messy. Get embarrassed. Travel uncharted territory. Jump into situations where nobody understands you, or why on earth you’re trying “that thing”. Keep at it. Keep rocking that s**t. I think you’re wonderful. <3 👊

But even if you decide to stay in the dungeon a little longer, I’m proud of you. It takes some colossal strength and guts to stay in a place like that. Just…get a therapist/counselor, or have a team of family and friends who can help you maintain your sanity, ‘K?

And don’t get stuck there, if you can help it! Keep looking around and planning/preparing for something else. You can only swim in insanity for so long, before it seeps into your pores and begins to become you (…or you become it???).

Martin Luther King, Jr. quote disappointment-hope

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

<3 Kate

See also: Just Another Work Day

© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

small container of pink powdery makeup

Beauty Tips: Makeup for Your Work Photo

I speak from my own pain. 😭

Early last year, I was just beginning my journey at a new workplace. On orientation day, my HR coworker took photos of me and the other new hire. Aesthetically, I was anything but prepared for this photo.

It was bad enough that I tend to feel tired during the time of day that this picture was taken (I looked pretty wiped out in the photo). But on top of that, my makeup – though perhaps acceptable for the workplace itself – looked atrocious in the camera lighting.

I was definitely NOT photo-ready.

I lived with months of embarrassment, which I would feel every time I saw this photo – (it was BAAAAD, people) before I finally requested a retake from HR, when someone else happened to be getting their picture taken. I felt so vain requesting this, but the severity of the unsightliness was great enough to move me past that.

This may seem to be an egocentric concern to have, but consider that your coworkers and bosses are going to be viewing your picture each time they review staff photos to become visually acquainted with those on the team. An unflattering picture has the potential to harm your chances for career development and promotion (though the level of such career impact will depend, to some degree, on your field of work and company culture).

And so, to prevent you, my makeup-wearing friends, from making the same mistake at your future workplace (and if and when you get your photo retaken at your current job), here are some tips for your first-day-at-work professional photo.

Tip #1: Keep it Natural

Pretty girl with natural or no makeup

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

When I had my photo taken, I was wearing (IIRC) a rosy “nude” sort of lipstick. Well, this lipstick actually ended up looking close to a bright pink in the photo. It appeared as though I had no idea how to apply my makeup for the workplace.

What to do instead: If you have fair skin like mine, you’ll want to wear, at most, a clear or lightly-tinted gloss, or a true nude lipstick (not super rosy, deep, or colorful). This will actually come through as way more flattering in the camera lighting.

In my opinion, if you have darker skin, you can pull off just about anything. Even deep or bright reds would probably look great on you. But if you have lighter skin like mine, STEER. CLEAR. of reds! Even reddish browns. They have no place in workplace photos.

While red can accentuate the rich beauty of deeply pigmented skin, if you’re pale and pasty like me, it’s more likely to make you look like a) a (possibly willing/complicit/desirous) target for sexual harassment and favors, b) vain or self-focused, and/or c) like you’re there to look pretty rather than to work. These judgments certainly aren’t fair, but they happen nonetheless, and you want to (covertly) hijack your bosses’ and coworkers’ brains and convince them that none of these assumptions apply to you.

With fair skin, red lipstick can stick out like a sore thumb in pictures (not saying red lipstick isn’t pretty with fair skin, but IMHO, it’s just way too pronounced a look for this occasion). You don’t want to draw excessive attention to any one part of your face in the photo.

If you opt for a lip shade that’s not clear or transparent, you’ll want to wear a lipstick that’s slightly warmer (more brown/golden-toned) than what you usually would wear. Not bolder or deeper, just a hint more golden-brown. (So no icy, cotton-candy pink, or totally pasty, sugar-cookie nude lipstick.)

You want something with some sunlight in it. The color will cool down in the fluorescent lighting of the workplace, and you want warmth to offset this.

Tip #2: Go Light on the Eyes

pretty blue eye with minimal makeup

Now, I don’t want to get too specific here, because “proper” or flattering eye makeup depends a TON on your eye shape, and to some degree, your eye and skin colors.

Again, in this case, I think those with deeply pigmented skin can get away with a much bolder look (or with no makeup, for that matter. Dark skin just naturally looks put-together and alive). If you have darker skin, chances are, you could pull off a semi-bold eyeshadow look with heavy liner.

If you’ve got lighter skin, however, you’ll want to very tightly apply a thin line of neutral-colored liner. No blue, purple, or green. And unless you have other dark features (like deep brown/black hair and dark eyebrows), you’ll probably want to steer clear of black liner as well. Additionally, I recommend little or no mascara. At most, apply a small amount just to the tips of your lashes, or only to your top lashes. You’re essentially going for a no-makeup look.

I know this can be counterintuitive for those of us with pale skin, because we feel like we have to add color everywhere to fill in the pastiness. But too much color in certain areas can actually accentuate the pastiness throughout the rest of the face. And there’s the risk of looking a bit clownish or “nightclubby”.

Depending on the closeness of your eyes, you could apply just a bit of white liner to the inner corners of your eyes. This has the effect of making you look more awake. It also has the effect of drawing the eyes out further from each other. Be sure to blend it well though, so the application isn’t super conspicuous.

If you apply liner, shadow, or mascara TOO HEAVILY, you risk looking tired, depressed, or even a bit angry and hostile. Worse, your boss might think that your makeup is leftover from last night (especially as things begin to smudge and smear)!

Sometimes, a rose-gold eyeshadow with a bit of shimmer adds a nice finishing touch. It’s very subtle, but can add that glowing effect to your eyes. Consider this instead of, or in addition to framing your eyes subtly with brown liner.

Tip #3: Use a Gentle Setting Spray

If possible, invest in a setting spray that you’re comfortable breathing in. (Though I still recommend trying not to breathe in the spray, even if the formula is mostly or completely natural. 🙂 ) You may have to search online to find a quality natural spray that you like. Or you can try making your own.

The benefits of applying a setting spray are many. It will give your makeup a fresher, no-makeup kind of look, as it tends to firm-up the makeup, making everything appear seamless and smooth. Additionally, you’ll have to worry a bit less about your makeup rubbing off on your clothing or wearing down as quickly. Your eye makeup should stay in place much longer, preventing smearing. Having one less appearance-related thing to worry about (like smudged makeup) can also boost your confidence, which comes through in a photo.

I don’t recommend applying the setting spray every time you wear makeup – just when you know your makeup is going to be put to the test, you’re going to have an extra-long/active day, or it’s a special occasion (such as first day of work or job interview).

Tip #4: Contour Your Face

image of contour and highlight points

Photo credit:

Contouring is a great way to highlight the features of your face and to enhance the appearance of alertness and vitality.

Generally, some great rules of thumb are: apply your lighter color (your highlighter) in a vertical line down the middle of the nose, darker color (your contouring shade) just outside that middle line, highlighter in the middle of the forehead and chin, highlighter below the eyes, and contour on the cheeks – below the highlighted areas beneath the eyes.

You can contour with liquid concealer and/or with a bronzer powder. Be sure to blend in the concealer/highlighter and finish off with a powder close to your normal skin tone, so the contouring is not obvious, just subtly defining.

For some great tips on contouring, check out this video.

Tip #5: Skip the Blush!

Or go very, very light. Just for a faint glow.

Blush was considered fashionable in a certain day. And it still is, in certain settings. But it has the potential to appear somewhat old-fashioned, especially if you were not born in the time in which it was popular.

Save blush for evening dates and other social events. It has the potential to carry negative connotations in the workplace, similar to the messages that can be accidentally conveyed by pale or fair-skinned women wearing bright red lipstick (especially for a photo).

If you can apply your blush faintly and smoothly enough that everyone thinks it’s just the natural glow in your cheeks, then be my guest, but please, learn from my mistakes:

When reviewing pictures of myself in which I was wearing blush (to what seemed an appropriate extent in “real life”), I’ve noticed that the blush really, really sticks out in my pictures. Again, it looks like I don’t know how to apply makeup, and tends to make me appear more tired and emotional (even though this perception is unfair, it’s a tough one to shake. Face redness tends to be associated with a more reactive or sensitive temperament).

For some jobs (such as retail, sales, and creative work), bolder makeup may actually be considered preferable. Sometimes, such a look can help people succeed in these lines of work. But I’d still recommend a more natural look for your photo.

To sum it up, less is more. This isn’t to say you don’t necessarily want to wear any makeup for the photo (it really depends on you – your skin health, personality, and preferences).

All in all, the goal is to look presentable without looking like you put much effort into it (the whole “I woke up like this!” thing). You want to look low-maintenance, awake, alert, calm, and focused.

Bottom-line: Stick to nudes, gentle golden, and rose-gold tones. Keep everything subtle. And when in doubt, the answer is probably: don’t.

stylish businesswoman

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash




© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

stereotypes, uniqueness, stars

Stereotypes: Part 2

This is the second part in Reflection Cube’s series Stereotypes.

If you haven’t read Stereotypes: Part 1, feel free to check it out here.


Stereotype #5: Depressed individuals are weak or self-focused.

person resting in bed, cuddling cat

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

There’s an unhealthy stigma – which is only beginning to dissolve – in our culture that says a depressed person is a weak person.

Depression, like any illness, happens to the best of us – to the strong and weak alike. Depression typically involves biochemical changes in the brain (though this is not the only factor in depression). Wacky neurochemistry is a monster too powerful for even the hardiest spirit to combat alone.

So a depressed individual is not weak. In fact, significant mental strength is drawn upon by persons who fight and survive depression (make it out alive).

Regarding the “self-focused” accusation frequently thrust upon depression sufferers:

In order to recover – or at least prevent themselves from sinking deeper – depressed individuals may (and, generally, should) be compelled to concentrate on their own needs for a time, so it follows that they might come across as a little “self-focused”, but depression is rarely (if ever) an attention-seeking tactic.

The insinuation “You’re just trying to get attention” is made by those who have never experienced depression, or perhaps never experienced it in the utterly debilitating and overwhelming way that many individuals do.

This is one of the most excellent pieces I’ve ever read on depression:

Also a practical, short read on how to express support for a depressed person:,,20393228,00.html#how-to-show-you-care-2


Stereotype #6: Physically attractive (by society’s standards) women have below-average intelligence.

silhouette of woman standing in sunlight near shoreline

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

The assumption here may be, I suppose, that if you’re attractive, you must be vain and seriously obsessed with maintaining an attractive appearance. You obviously spend too much time in the mirror (and, therefore, less time reading or learning).

There seems to prevail – particularly within occidental society – an outlook which precludes the possibility of being both beautiful and smart. You can’t possibly have the time, money, or the genetics, or whatever to be born with or to achieve both beauty and intelligence. You just can’t have it all! If you “lucked out” with looks, then by default, you must have paid the price with another part of yourself (like, brains).

(For my perspective on beauty, click here.)

Unfortunately, this stereotype can negatively influence an attractive woman’s career opportunities – her ability to land a job or progress upward in the workplace.

Women have been fired for beauty.

Another example:

More attractive = Less intelligent

Beauty Discrimination in the Workplace

Beauty Discrimination During a Job Search

There’s no way I can cover all the stereotypes out there, but these are a couple that came to mind. And no doubt, there are countless others that haven’t crossed my mind, which I may be guilty of unwittingly believing and supporting.

What stereotypes drive YOU nuts (can be one(s) you’ve noticed that don’t directly affect you, or something you’ve personally experienced)?

Share about a societal stereotype that you’ve observed or perhaps caught yourself perpetuating. Who knows? You might see it pop up in another Stereotypes post!

pretty yellow flowers

Photo by Jacob Townsend on Unsplash


© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved


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