July 16, 2011

On Migraines & Why You’ll Never Feel Good Again. ~Robert Allen

Photo: Diamond Farah

We all know we are going to die someday.  It’s part of the human condition.

When you’re in the midst of a migraine, that sense of impending death comes strong; you’re sure you’re going to die.  And you know you’ll never feel good again.

You simply know it.  Perhaps it’s that pulse in your temple or the nail being driven into your forehead.  Perhaps it’s that you can’t think or move and light becomes an enemy, its rays pulsing in your skull.

Photo: Alex E. Proimos

“Migraine” comes from the Greek words for “half-head, which is certainly how you feel when one comes on; one side of your skull can feel like fire or sharp pressure or like a psychic sledge hammer beating against your temple.

Excepting, of course, those two hemisphere headaches that make you want to explode in flames of angry-aching and take more and more pain medications, until you’re spun out, high AND have a migraine.

Migraine suffers are also known for their fancy French name, migraineurs. Fancy, but it changes little as your eyes squint and you hear nothing but a high pitched “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeethumpeeeeeeeeeeeeeeethumpeeeeeeeeeeeethump.”

Certainly migraineurs try to know their own headache triggers.  For some, it’s blue cheese; for others it’s sitting too much, stress or lack of sleep.  For many, migraines happen for no known reason. The reasons might be vague and sometimes unknown — but the disease itself feels like a death.  The kind of death where the light at the end of the tunnel hurts your eyes.

One of the most difficult parts of a migraine is explaining a migraine to other people.  It’s not just a bad headache; it’s your head and body in absolute pain, your thoughts jumbled, vomiting sometimes, spirits failing, ears pounding. From one to ten on the pain scale:  11.

But those descriptions only cover half the battle; a migraine affects every system of the body and can seemingly ruin your life for an hour, a day, or a week.

Photo: Ian Burt

A migraine has four aggressive stages:

A pre-migraine can start days or hours before the actual headache.  This can look like depression, confusion, intense emotion. Soon, the migraine begins to course through your head and body and you know that you’ll soon be in pain.

Then, right when the ache is about to begin, you enter the aura phase: you get to see the blurry world with pain and light-ridden eyes and your stomach starts to ache and pulse.

Then the pain phase arrives uninvited, as if the others didn’t hurt. It will last hours, or even days.  This is the part all migraneurs fear — how long the pain will last, and what can be done before it worsens.  Many agree:  take a walk, drink caffeine, take pain medications, do yoga,  or have an orgasm.  Get your body moving and free until the migraine goes away.  And remember: they will end, it’s just hard to remember that while they’re happening.

Then it’s over.  But not really.  Post migraine can be as bad as the headache itself.  After effects can include depression and other mood swings, a sense of psychic unease and a sore and aching body.

But the good thing is that you will feel good again and migraine pain — like all pain — is mostly forgotten once it’s gone.

Thank God and Vicodin.

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