Ethics of Responsibility minus Reliability

I am troubled by the issue of taking on responsibilities whilst not knowing to what extent I’ll be able to carry them through. This came up when I read that stress can be a migraine trigger, because taking on a new responsibility can result in stress. I know that many of my fellows on this board are caring people. How have you come to terms with this issue?


For the first two years of this illness I was completely unable to work. My symptoms rendered me unable to function at a job they were so severe.
Once I became well enough to work, I struggled with this a lot as I work freelance and when involved in a project can have huge responsibilities. The fear was that I would let people down at a critical point. Ultimately I decided I just had to carry on and live my life and currently do the things I would have done if I didn’t have this condition. Everyone could have some kind of problem when undertaking work, an accident, sudden illness etc… Who is to say someone else wouldn’t let people down? If I’m honest it was also driven by financial imperative, after two years out I had to work or lose my home.

My experience so far has been that none of my worst anxieties re letting people down have happened. In fact the adrenalin required when shouldering responsibility has usually kept my symptoms at bay. I won’t lie - I have been in some hair raising situations where I’ve had to work or attend meetings very ill whilst pretending to be well - it wasn’t pleasant but I got through it. And ironically - having just done a highly pressured job for months, it is now, post the work that I am in a relapse and unwell again.


Thanks, Hannah.
Spoken very straight.
I look forward to the day when I have symptoms enough under control so that sort of approach is viable.

I have done the adrenaline thing to get me through a stressful situation and though I usually have strong relief from the MAV during the stressful situation I also get a backlash when the adrenaline runs out and get hit with the MAV symptoms stronger than normal.

Hi David,
I would be honest with my employer.

for your sake as well.
There is nothing more daunting than trying to be something youre not.


I think how ethical or not it is not to reveal this to an employer rather depends on the job you do. If I were, for example, a surgeon, I would have to reveal my condition. People’s lives would be in my hands if my illness caused me not to do my job properly. The same is true of a children’s cardiac care nurse and a friend of mine who got MAV, she could have killed someone by being too foggy headed and dizzy to do her job properly and the same applied. I work in a creative industry. In a worst case scenario where I can’t finish a piece of work it would be possible for someone else to step in and be paid to finish it for me. (I would simply lose that section of my fee.) Not ideal, but totally possible. This is true of other jobs too - a teacher, for example, could be replaced by a supply teacher. I would say it is a matter of weighing up what the worst case scenario is if things go wrong.

Some employers may be sympathetic and wouldn’t discriminate against you, but many would. Is it ethical to discriminate against someone on the grounds of disability? I’d say unequivocally no, but it happens all the time if people reveal their condition. Of course employers aren’t open about this, they simply don’t give you the job and it goes to someone else, you’d never find out why. I am freelance, this is particularly true of me where I’m not protected by a long term contract which pays for sick leave or has provisions written in to a contract for when you are ill.

A more daunting prospect to me than choosing not to tell my employer about my illness, was the prospect of not being able to pay my bills/mortgage or keep the roof over my head that I had worked so hard for.I am single and support myself. I weighed up the ethics of what I was doing long and hard. It is a worry, I still worry about it and in fact, as I said, have had some truly horrible experiences where i have been forced to do work when very ill. However I felt I had no choice. I do tell employers that I suffer with a strange form of migraine, which explains my food intolerances which are sometimes evident in work meetings where I need to order different food etc… However I don’t reveal the extent of the condition or ins and outs of it. I am aware that many others on this board will be in a position where they simply can’t work. I am speaking from a position of now being well enough with the help of drugs to go back in to the workplace.

I agree that the adrenalin used to get through a high pressure situation can bring on worse symptoms afterwards. This has happened to me too. Although I know this also happens to people who don’t have MAV. Many people get ill post a pressured job. Also, sometimes I actually think working helps me - it tricks my brain in to thinking I am well. I am ill now after a long period of pressured work, although this time I think this has more to do with the punishing jet lag I suffered after the holiday I took post work, rather than the period of work itself.

In short, If I’d told the truth I am pretty sure I would never have worked in my industry again. I needed to work, so I didn’t mention it and so far, in the six years I have been back at work on various freelance projects, I have never let anyone down.


Hey Jen,

I can see where you’re coming from and honesty always should be the best policy but I am VERY reluctant to tell my employer just how trashed this disease makes me feel. All they know is that I get the odd “migraine”. They wouldn’t understand the full extent and I absolutely wouldn’t want them to know how messed up in the head I feel some days anyway. At the end of the day I deliver what they want and everyone’s happy. I do my best to not take a sickie (I feel like it 3x a week). If they knew here how fogged in the head I get (or dizzy when it’s happening) and how shot my memory can be on bad days I wonder if I would have ever been promoted. I definitely don’t want my boss feeling sorry for me that’s for sure. He’s the sort of guy who would treat me like I was missing an eye or something. :shock:

Just thinking this through a little more and I would definitely have to reveal this if I was an airline pilot and could potentially run a 747 into the side of a mountain. Now that would not be cool. :?


I thought The concept was ethics.

which means the morality of right or wrong,
Moraly you should always tell the truth.
so my answer is based on the morality , not the consequenses of your actions or those of your employer.
I know we dont live in a perfect world.
So in essence you need to do what you have to do to survive.


I’d like to ask those of you who do plow on through despite the fuzzy brain how you know that you have done a decent job of work. Working past/through pain/fatigue is one thing, in my own experience, but it seems much more under my volitional control than is competence, an area in which I find diminishing returns with ongoing distress. This applies both to limitation in the more creative parts of my work and dumb mistakes in all parts of it.