Thursday, March 6, 2014

Migraines 101

Migraine Headache Symptoms: Flashing lights, blind spots, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, numbness in the extremities, throbbing on one or both sides of your head, or behind an eye, speech impediments, intolerance for small children, and death. 

I started getting migraines when I was 12. My first one was a doozie.

I went numb down one side of my body, and, since having a migraine means one side of your brain shuts down, I couldn't talk, read, feed myself, or walk straight. It was frightening.

Oddly, I felt it necessary to act like I was fine, and tried to read the newspaper as if nothing was happening.

I didn't fool anybody, but it made me feel a little better about the situation.

I don't remember much from that day (apparently Emily was distraught, Melissa was having some hysteria of her own, and the doctor made a house call to see me), but I remember the next day feeling fantastic!

Made me reconsider my feelings on migraines.

Gosh, I thought, if this is how I feel after having a migraine, I should have them more often! Never mind the agonizing pain and general upheaval of my psyche.

I had them intermittently through my teenage years (probably due to my hormones), and didn't see another one past my 18th birthday.

It was lovely. But every time someone would mention migraines headaches or having one, I would be filled with terror. My first migraine was a terrible experience, as were all the subsequent migraines, though, they did prove entertaining to others, and to myself after the fact.

Chris often mocks me about my first migraine (and I don't even remember him even being there), and pretends to run into walls while laughing in a crazy way, imitating my lack of depth perception at the time. Trying to explain blind spots and other migraine symptoms to someone who hasn't had one is an exercise in futility.

Another time, I remember having no control over my dominant hand while trying to brush my hair, and I ended up brushing my eyeball. It was insult to injury, and as I sat on the floor of my bathroom feeling completely dejected, I tried to explain to Mom and Emily that I was fine, and I HAD to go to the Young Men/Young Women dance that night! It came out like this:

"Butiwhtieoi thixoktjpeor tho twpoin gobys tios!"

Mom and Emily looked at each other, and then told me to go to bed. Which I did, but I wasn't happy about it.

The last one I remember I was alone. I was so horrified that I was alone, and I didn't know what to do.

My brain tried to make some sense, and managed to squeeze out a rational thought.

" need to eat."

Okay, I thought, and then I walked around the island in the kitchen for 10 minutes not remembering what I was supposed to be doing. When I finally remembered, I got myself a box of honey nut cheerios and felt pretty good about myself for being able to take care of my migraine on my own that I almost didn't notice that I was about to pour an entire gallon of milk into the cereal box.

I stopped myself just in time.

Migraines are awful. I was migraine free for almost 12 years. Right before I got pregnant with Leah, I had one, but luckily it wasn't like the ones I had as a teenager. It lingered and it was awful.

I hoped that I had seen the last of them.

Something happens when you get into your 30s, though. Your hormones start to change. Hormones are one of the contributing factors for migraine sufferers. I didn't think anything of it, though, until two days ago when I happened to notice a little rainbow zig-zag protozoa in my vision. I'd had blind spots before, but never disco-era protozoa, and so I hoped that it was just a really enthusiastic floaty in my eye.

No such luck.

The little protozoa was right in my line of sight, and no matter how much I moved my head I couldn't see around it (migraines shut down the brain, so yes, I KNOW that I couldn't actually look around it, but at the time, I thought I could, so shut up). It was annoying, but I managed to sort of function with it right there.

It then decided to grow, and that made seeing things much better.

I think that the brain does those weird rainbow, flashy light things to distract you from remembering that after the zappy lights go, the pain sets in.

Now migraines aren't just a headache. Imagine that you have a toothache. Now imagine that all your teeth have a toothache. Got it? Now transfer all those toothaches into your brain, or more specifically, behind one of your eyes, and then let it move around for two days, from one eye to another, and around the back of your skull, so your whole brain gets the same, equal treatment. That's a migraine.


Luckily for me, I have a bottle of Vanquish in my medicine cabinet left over from my last migraine two years ago.

Now, I don't drink caffeine. My heart doesn't like it, and so I avoid it like the plague, but it's the only thing that works on migraines for me.

So, going from 0 to 60, as it were, was rough and I ended up being wired all night long and just laying there, wishing I could sleep.

I have to say, it really irritates me when someone talks about having a migraine when it is clear that they have only had a bad headache.

I get snarky and I snap at them in my head with, "Oh YEAH??? Have you been DIAGNOSED?????? NOOO??? THEN S.H.U.T. UUUUUUUUUUUUUPPPPPPP!!!!!! You have NO idea what a migraine is REALLY like. You'll LIKE those piddling 'migraines' you keep having."

But I don't say it out loud. Because that's rude.


Katscratchme said...

You just made me want to make a photoshop version of my rainbow critters.... Hm...

Trillium said...

Your description of the classic migraine should be included in physician's reference books! People who have never had a classic migraine, but call their bad headaches migraines, probably think that you made up and exaggerated your symptoms. I am a witness that your description is not exaggerated.

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