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Retirement with Migraine or Any Chronic Illness

A Personal Perspective on early retirement.

Key points

  • Retiring can be exciting but also stressful.
  • Discuss the stress factors with your financial advisor but also with someone who will really listen.
  • Think about the physical and psychological impacts of retiring.
  • Retiring due to chronic illness is desirable but not possible for all who suffer.

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." – Vince Lombardi

For so many reasons, I cannot believe I have reached the point of retirement. I had one formal interview, which was at Monroe Community College, in Rochester, NY, in July 1987, after I completed my graduate work in May, and there I have stayed.

I have lived, yes lived, 37 years at MCC, having given all my best for my students, my colleagues, and my College community. I even introduced a Therapy Dog program there, certifying first my Gretta, MCC’s first Therapy Dog, and then Ollie, before their retirements in 2023.

Now, I find myself retired from the department and the College. This is an enormous change. Because I have multiple chronic illnesses and have been involved in caring for my parents since August and now my husband, I may not have the same feelings and reactions that many people would have who retire early, at 60. I am young to retire, I know. Nonetheless, because of these factors, there are not the stress-free days or free calendar days that one hopes for in early retirement.

Nonetheless, there are certainly reasons to retire “early,” if you can, and reasons to be cautious about making such a move. The transition, itself, produces stress that is tangible, visceral, and even lonely. I had the advantage of the COVID-19 changes in the workplace, however, which, in terms of making this change, was incredibly helpful.

When the college resumed after COVID, it had necessarily changed—fewer face-to-face classes, more online. Meetings were/are often held via Zoom, and so there was/is less inter-communication and contact. Thus, I didn’t have to jump from a fully vibrant, active presence by all on campus to nothing. I sort of retired gradually, it seemed.

Nonetheless, the decisions are difficult, even if they’re good. These changes, stressors, and alternative routines all affect migraine and other chronic illnesses: “We hypothesized that a decrease in headache prevalence would follow the retirement transition due to an overall relief from work-related stress. Further, we hypothesized that a retirement-related decrease in headache prevalence would be more pronounced among participants who have high levels of stress at work as well as a personality type more prone to overreact to stress" (Fila, et. al).

The transition itself is very stressful for so many reasons--working out the financial implications, developing a schedule or routine, and finding new forms of identity and purpose in life: "The period before retirement when you are planning, both financially and emotionally, for the big day. This is often an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking time" (Hoffman).

However, many people are not in a position to retire, despite their chronic illnesses. That’s a terrible truth. In my next article, we’ll discuss the transition and its implications for migraine disease. Many of the same truths will resonate with any of you suffering from one or more chronic illnesses. Studies have shown a significant reduction in migraine attacks for those who retire. We'll explore the reasons why but also the obstacles one faces during this period of change.


Fila M, Pawlowska E, Szczepanska J, Blasiak J. Different Aspects of Aging in Migraine. Aging Dis. 2023 Dec 1;14(6):2028-2050. doi: 10.14336/AD.2023.0313. PMID: 37199585; PMCID: PMC10676778.

Hoffman, Tristan. “Retirement-stages-and-how-to-beat-retirement-depression.” Health Partners//….

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