Sometimes you just have to write…

Migraines suck!

I carry these with me everywhere, just in case.

I carry these with me everywhere, just in case.

I had my second migraine yesterday in as many weeks. I often get one early in vacations: something about relaxing after a time of tension causes it. In college I used to get them in the afternoon after my last test of exam weeks.

  1. Mine always start the same way. First I have a moment of dizziness, which I often ignore because I get that sometimes anyway.
  2. Next, the visual distortion starts. It’s tiny at first, just a small spot in the middle of my vision that looks like a tiny prism. Then it grows, staying round at first, and glittering.
  3. Slowly it opens out from a circle to a sideways V shape, always with the pointed end to the left. This gradually morphs into a C shape with the open side to the right. Now it’s disturbing quite a large part of my vision with its prism-like distortions, so that I can still see clearly peripherally, but not if I look directly at something.
  4. The C expands and moves, over the course of about 20 minutes, to the left, eventually leaving my field of vision altogether.
  5. At that point, after about 20 to 30 minutes, the headache starts. If I haven’t taken my medication, it’s a blinding, pounding headache that lasts the rest of the day.
  6. And while my vision clears after the first thirty minutes or so, my thinking does not. It’s strange, but it’s like some kind of connection has been cut off between my brain and my mouth.

One time I was in a lesson with a first-year class (11 and 12-year-olds) when I got a migraine. I dealt with it, explaining to the kids what was happening and setting them some work to do while the visual disturbance went on.

When it cleared, I offered to read them a few more chapters of the book I was reading them at the time, The BFG, by Roald Dahl. It became evident within the first few sentences that there was still something wrong with me. While I could clearly understand what I was reading, what came out of my mouth was often completely different words than I was seeing and intending to say. It was gibberish – and, if you know The BFG, it was not the gibberish that’s already in the book.

So that weird brain disturbance comes next. It never lasts for more than five or ten minutes, so I’ve learned just not to do anything until it’s passed.

Mostly I find the visual disturbance more disruptive than the headache. While I wait for it to clear, I can’t do anything. If I’m driving, I have to pull over and park to wait for it to go away. Anywhere else, I can’t read, I can’t watch tv, I can’t even look at the scenery. Sometimes I’ll listen to the radio, but I have trouble following it. I can continue a conversation, but I’m never quite sure if I’m making sense.

Generally, if I take medications as soon as I notice the visual distortions, but well before the headache hits, my migraines aren’t bad at all. I take a sumatriptan tablet (I carry them with me everywhere.) and either a big dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. If it’s available, I wash them down with diet Coke or a cup of tea because the caffeine seems to help as well. Once the headache hits, in that case, it’s quite bearable: much like a regular, everyday headache. And for the rest of the day I’ll feel a bit weak and have waves of dizziness from time to time if I’m walking, but that’s all.

I know I’m lucky that my migraines are relatively mild. I don’t have to lock myself in a dark room for three days like some people do. Medication helps, while for some people it doesn’t. I don’t get nauseous and throw up like some people do.  

But two weeks in a row? On vacation? Migraines suck!

Do you get migraines? And, if so, what works for you? And do you have any idea how to reduce or eliminate the visual effects?


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This entry was posted on August 12, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , .
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