Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pardon Me While My Head Explodes

Yesterday I had a day-long, as in, from the moment I woke up at dawn til I finally slipped into blessed unconsciousness just before midnight, migraine.


The first time I ever had an actual, full-on, NO THIS IS NOT JUST A HEADACHE, THANK YOU, migraine, was when I was in my senior year of college. In the middle of film class while I was squinting at a grainy 1940s drama, trying to ignore a dull throbbing behind my left eye, I experienced a sudden sensation not dissimilar, I imagine, to what one would experience upon having a rusty iron spike driven into one's skull.

I saw rainbow halos around Gene Tierney. Not the pretty kind of rainbow halos either. I'm talking about the thug kind of rainbow halos that dismember fluffy baby bunny rabbits and send the baby bunny rabbit pieces to you anonymously through the mail, postage due.

I slunk out of the lecture hall and staggered to the women's restroom, convinced I was going to hurl. What was wrong with me? Was I dying? Was it a brain aneurism? (I always knew I'd die tragically of a brain aneurism before I hit 25-- I just KNEW it!)

I wasn't dying, of course. I was being hazed. For initiation into the exclusive club of migraine sufferers. Ah, joy.

The migraines continued, at first randomly, then weekly, then, at the worst point, almost daily, for nearly six months. They seemed connected somehow to my vision; they were often triggered when watching movies on a big screen (so much for that "A" I was hoping for in film class) or when I spent more than an hour straight working at my computer. I saw several specialists and asked repeatedly whether my extreme nearsightedness might be a factor, and whether getting a new eyeglasses prescription or having corrective surgery on my eyes might provide some relief. A general practitioner, a neuro-opthamologist, and two optometrists all told me it would not.

I cut chocolate, coffee, tea, balsamic vinegar, parmesean cheese, asiago cheese, and wine out of my diet. I changed my sleep patterns. I tried to meditate. I took long baths. I took long walks. Nothing helped.

Then my glasses broke, and I got a new pair. The headaches all but disappeared.

I started eating chocolate again immediately, and attempted mightily not to wish chocolate-triggered migraines on all of my doctors.

Since then my migraines have been blessedly rare. As long as I keep my eyeglasses prescription up-to-date, I can go months at a time without experiencing one. Sometimes I even start to think they might never be coming back.

So, at first, yesterday morning, when I woke with a dully throbbing head, I tried to convince myself it was not a migraine. I was sniffly when I woke up in the morning, so I thought, hey, this is a sinus headache. I'll take a hot steamy shower and drink some peppermint herbal tea. That will clear up my sinuses, and the headache will disappear.

It didn't.

Around lunchtime, as the dull throbbing became more of a shrill hum, I realized I hadn't been getting much sleep the past few nights. Maybe it was a sleep-deprivation headache! Miraculously, my son fell asleep in my lap with no fuss whatsoever shortly after lunch. I decided to take a little nap with him on the futon.

When I woke up, my headache was worse.

Suddenly it occurred to me-- I'd had caffeinated tea or coffee every morning for the past five days until that morning, when, silly me, I'd tried to clear up my sniffles with herbal tea. Of course! It was a caffeine withdrawal headache. That was it. Look at me, an addict. What a terrible habit, making myself dependent on a certain drink ingredient every day to function. I told myself I would have to cut back on the caffeine. Right after I made myself a nice big steaming stoutly brewed cup of Earl Grey. To wash down some Extra-Strength Tylenol.

My headache stayed.

My husband came home to find me languishing in a chair under dimmed lights with my eyes half-closed while our half-naked child traipsed gleefully through our uncleaned house wantonly scattering plastic toys. Shortly after he arrived I shut myself in our bedroom, locked the door, and hid under the covers of my canopy bed, without a word.

Oh yes, Migraine was back, and Migraine was determined to punish me for forgetting that I am one of Migraine's Chosen Sufferers.

One of these days, I am going to figure out a way to kick that bitch Migraine's ass out of town.

As long as it does not involve giving up chocolate.


Anonymous said...

That sucks big time! I have only had one (knock on wood) and it was horrible. I hope you feel better soon.

Anonymous said...

Since you were able to write about it, I hope it was a one day thing only .. sounds terrible and I can only imagine how much more fun that is when a 2 year old keeps you from bedrest ... Maybe next time try a bottle of wine ... mighty not help, but at least you have a reason for the migraine then ...

Anonymous said...

Oh, I FEEL your pain. My eyes teared up just reading this, much like a man's eyes will tear up when hairs are forcibly yanked from their legs. Sometimes, Migraines are just so insidious and tenacious that no substance on earth can beat them into submission. But if I was a gambling woman, I'd put my money on you beating Migraines any day.

Kristin said...

Sorry to hear about the migraines. While I've never experienced something of that magnitute, I can certainly empathize with having to care for a small child while feeling like you're not going to be able to go on. I had the flu once with two small children at home, and could only lie in bed feeding the baby while I let Josh have his run of the house.

Benticore said...

I grind my teeth like an epileptic beaver at night and that causes me to have the most fantastic migranes. The kind that start at the base of the neck and wrap around the head, across the cheek, face, and eye, and back into the skull at the top. Like half a spiderman mask or something, but without the super powers and the buxom redheads.

Excedrine Migrane works for me. So did buying a mouthpiece to chew up at night. Maybe you've got chewing issues?

Of course, I chew on any plastic substance within reach during the day (a nasty, vile habit I'm trying to soon as I finish off this straw)so that might be a symptom for me.

Been chewing any straws lately?


Anonymous said...

I have the visual halos too. I too thought I was having a stroke the first time I lost vision in my left eye.

My best friend brought me some wierd mushroom tea, which cleared it up in about 3 hours. Of course, it may have been highly illegal mushroom tea, but at that juncture you could have fed me frozen shit on a stick and I would have asked for more.

Blog Antagonist said...

Oh boy, I can sure sympathize. I too am extremely nearsighted, and I too have terrible migraines. I also get auras, nausea and tremors.

It's true that keeping my Rx up to date helps, but I still get them and they seem to be getting more frequent as I get older. The wonderful hormone component, you know. I take a low dose tricyclic adp for prevention, and it seems to help, but the efficacy seems to decline with use.

I was nodding my head right along with your post. I've had those days where I throw everything at that sucker and nothing works. I can't take any of the otc migraine meds because the caffeine in them makes me sick to my stomach. So, I usually just retreat to my bedroom, crank the air down to about 68 and lie there with an ice pack on the base of my skull until the pain abates enough for me to remain upright without feeling like someone is digging around behind my right eyeball with a fork. (Mine are almost always on the right side of my head, only had one on the left once)

Sorry to ramble! I came here to congratulate you on your perfect post award (GREAT post, very funny!! The award is well deserved!) and this post caught my eye.

I know this post is a couple days old, so I hope your migraine has gone away.