I have struggled with migraine headaches for years. It will not surprise many of you who have read my work for any length of time that my brain is slightly broken. I try to look on the bright side of things (except when I have an actual migraine, in which case I just want dark.) I have long asserted my affliction was the Creator not wanting me to feel needlessly handicapped without a meteorology degree. I can feel a rapid weather change coming on faster than Environment Canada (or Karen from Mean Girls) can predict it. It’s not as if I haven’t tried to get rid of them.

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I saw a neurologist – actually two of them. The first one gave me a beta blocker which was helpful from a pain perspective only in that my blood pressure is low enough that it almost stopped my breathing entirely. I could scarcely focus on pain as I gasped for air. The second one asked how I planned to address the fact that I was overweight. I pointed to my six week old infant and said, “Breastfeed.” His plan was anti-epileptics (and hopefully a brush up on his people skills), but I was very nervous of the cognitive impacts described in the pamphlet of side effects so I declined. After all, wasn’t it just all in my head, like everyone says?

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NO. “Migraines aren’t just “all in your head”. If you’ve ever had a migraine, you will know it’s a full body experience”(that you wish was an out of body experience). It’s like a spa wrap but with stinging nettle, poison ivy and caustic acid. I hate being touched in that state. Having a migraine reminds me of that scene in Mean Girls, except the question is “How many of you have felt personally victimized by the elastic waistband of your yoga pants?” I can’t stand how they pull at my skin. It’s sensory overload. Socks feel oppressive. My ponytail holder feels like it is trying to tear every hair from my scalp which is also on fire. My bra seems to be lined with sandpaper. Every article of clothing is too tight on my skin, like saran wrap that is stretched beyond what is reasonable to cover a casserole dish. I feel like death and while I don’t crave human contact, I long to be understood.

‘Tell me all about your headache, sweety,” my partner says, “just as soon as I finish turning on EVERY FREAKING APPLIANCE IN THE HOUSE, mmmmmkay?” Ever. Single. Time. I know he’s trying to help so that the housework doesn’t get too far behind, but my needs are few in this time of convalescence:

1. Quiet

2. Dark

3.Drugs

4. Scent-free.

After all, a migraine is like a bullhorn for smells in the same way that it significantly amplifies noises. The odour of stinky socks seems to be on steroids and just one whiff hastens a reunion with my lunch. I don’t know what one hand clapping sounds like, but I do know that the washing machine, the dryer and dishwasher sound like the 4th of July. I really, in that moment, long to be Independent. Oh Say Can You See that my head is going to explode unless I get some peace and quiet?

I really wish it would explode sometimes. If you stick a grape in a vice, that’s a pretty good visual of what my eyeballs experience. And that shower scene in Psycho? That’s what the stabbing in the back of my head feels like. I am motion-sick and violently nauseated by the subtle sway of my body as I breathe. I inhale the small tablet from the triptan family and hope for the best.

This is not to be confused with tryptophan. That’s the amino acid attributed to turkey, which has a 95% chance of being accompanied by stuffing which are pretty awesome odds, in my humble opinion. I take medicine and 50% of the time it works, 75% of the time it knocks me right out and 100% of the time my toes feel seriously weird. Weird, weird toes. That’s if I have medicine, because I often forget to refill until I get a migraine and then I’m too sick to refill. My drug plan only covers the generic, and it’s a dissolving tablet. Unfortunately, that means my pharmaceutical experience is like sucking on a piece of chalk. Refill related hindsight is 20/20, and that’s not the only way these headaches contribute to my perspective.

Migraines have shaped how I feel about sequels – I dread them, because they are never better than the original and you wish they would just stop making them already. It’s all been done before. I do, however, wish they would do a Mean Girls sequel. With the frequency of my migraines, when it rains it pours and like Karen says, “There’s a 30% chance it’s already raining.”

Do you get migraines? How do you handle them?

16 Comments

  1. Well said- you described them perfectly other than the craving for foods that make them worse … Hot dogs , chocolate and the smell of gasoline. And do I give in thinking this time it may help? of course! Dark, quiet, no smells, drugs and rescue remedy…

  2. I do get migraines and I feel like my whole body loses it’s muscle elasticity and control. I flop around. I sleep in the dark. I yell as quietly as possible for everyone to get out of the house and I ignore all electronics and eat nothing. I pop my pill and hope for the best. It just sucks.

  3. I suffered from them for years before getting put on proper medication. I used to use a combination of Sudafed Sinus & Headache with a heated rice sock over my eyes and that worked okay enough – not entirely, but enough to function. Now I’m on a prescription for sumatriptan (Imitrex) and have been for the last couple/few years. I quarter the tablets because insurance only covers 9 pills a month ($165 if paid out of pocket for 9 pills) and if it’s a rough-weather month, I might be battling the same migraine for three or four days, only to repeat the process a few days later. I have to ration them. I start with a quarter tablet and some motrin, if it’s not gone in an hour, I take another quarter tablet.

    I have weird sensations from the triptan, too. Like, I’m super tingly in my hands, especially if they’re in warm or hot water (like when I wash them). And sometimes, I get the briefest lump in my throat – that passes really quickly, but it’s a weird little thing.

    I need dark, and I need heat – across my eyes and over my ears, sometimes at the nape of my neck. And quiet and stillness. Sometimes a long hot shower helps, too – just letting the water hit my head is nice, like a hot scalp massage.

    • Also – I have a shiatsu massage pillow for my back and shoulders. That works WONDERS. I get knots in my trap areas and even along the back of my neck on either side, it’s such a helpful thing. I’ve had to replace it like four times over the years, because I tend to wear them out LOL. But even a softball pushed by your back against a wall can help work that stuff out, too.

    • I get them from bad weather, too! I could be a meteorologist. I always know when a storm’s looming. Sumatriptan is my magic bullet, too. And yoga. I’m going to try the shiatsu massage pillow. Great suggestion!

  4. I absolutely hear you on migraines! Very well explained. I get them 4-5 days at a time and often have to push myself to work through them.

  5. Great way to describe a migraine. I opted for anti-epileptics, and oh, sweet relief. Well, I am also now mainly gluten free, and between the two, I am now getting my migraines under control. I did try to go off the Topomax, and that was a huge mistake, I had a two week long migraine, and yes, it was two weeks without a break.

  6. Great post! I too get migraines (usually triggered by scent) and I don’t think people understand just how horrible they are and unlike any other headache. To me, it literally feels like someone is hitting the side of my head with a hammer. Luckily, mine tend to be treated with triptans, but I still find myself feeling “out of it” post migraine until I can get a good sleep in.

  7. I haven’t had one, but my dad has always had chronic migraines. They are better controlled now with preventative medication, but he has battled a lot of doctors to get effective treatment!

  8. I’m a long-time migraine sufferer. I’ve been spotted rolling down my car window to heave in traffic, passed out in pain on the kitchen floor, and begging for an object sharp enough to lob off my head. The best part though is when someone who clearly has NO clue asks, “Do you really have a headache AGAIN?” Sorry if my debilitating pain somehow bothers you! Okay, rant over. I said all that to say, I feel your pain! Yoga helps reduce the frequency for me. And sumatriptan has been a lifesaver.

  9. Sending you blogger love from #throwbackthursday. I suffer from migraines and only people who’ve ever experienced them can have a clue. I see lights and have gotten so weak I can barely stand.

  10. What incredibly accurate and detailed description! Migraines are simply, THE WORST. I especially loved the grape imagery…it made me chuckle but only because I understand the pain, not because it’s actually funny. 😉 Great post!

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I have never had a migraine and I think it’s helpful for people who have never experienced this to distinguish between a migraine and a headache.

  12. So happy to have found this #throwbackthursday post!

    I suffered from migraines for almost 20 years, tried all the regular things my regular doc thought of and they just kept getting worse. I lived either in excruciating pain or in a fog of meds or the after-migraine-fog. Turns out it was a B Vitamin issue, a genetic inability to activate B-6 which turned me into one big walking Toxic mess. On my very first visit to an Applied Kinesiologist he figured it out. Now I take an Activated B-6 supplement twice a day and have no migraines …unless I slack on my supplement. Alternative? Yes! And so very worth it.

  13. I’ve found that for many people a migraine feels the same but with a little variation. Sensory overload is a good way to describe it (although you said it more eloquently). I had one eons ago. Darkness and quiet were all I wanted. Then, when I got spinal meningitis I had them daily. The worst. I don’t know how you manage.

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