Thursday, October 28, 2010


People who don't get migraines often ask me what it feels like.

"How would I know if I've had a migraine? I've never had one... at least, I don't think so..."

"Oh, you'd know," I reply, while trying to suppress the feeling of pressure in my head that I fear will materialize, simply by thinking about it.

****warning — vivid description to follow****

Take this morning, for example. While I was sleeping, someone took a marble and pounded it into my skull, slightly off-center. Then they took another marble and forced it into my eyeball through the iris, on the same side of my head. At least, that's what it felt like.

Then there was my vision. It went all kinds of wrong. Sometimes it looks as if someone has turned the saturation way up:

My 3 year old helping me do laundry1

Then, the edges start to get fuzzier and fuzzier as my field of vision closes in on me. The pressure starts to mount in my head, like having a bad cold.

My 3 year old helping me do laundry2

(It pains me just writing this post!)

After the fuzzy hyper-saturation, things start fading away. At this point I'm usually in bed, loaded with drugs, with a pillow over my head in an attempt to shut out all light. This is when my pain typically turns stabby on one side of my head. If I haven't taken something to abate the pain by this stage, it's all over (meaning, the day is over. I'll end up in bed for a good five to eight hours.)

Catching the headache in time is the key. But this becomes problematic when it develops while I'm asleep, like it did this morning.

My 3 year old helped me do laundry3

One time, prior to the fuzzy darkness invading the edges of my vision, I saw the image turning crystal-like around the periphery as if shards of Superman's ice-laden fortress of solitude were invading.


I had some other odd symptoms with that particular migraine. As my vision went, my thoughts became harder and harder to string together. I had a hard time thinking of the right words. And when I found the right word, it was difficult to say it. Eventually, I couldn't speak coherently. It was very interesting, actually. I spent a good twenty minutes with the visual and verbal disturbances, then suddenly, the pain that had been non-existent hit. It made me nauseated. I threw up, and five minutes later, the stabbing was gone. Just like that.

Today, however, I had a more typical migraine. It started bad and then ebbed and flowed all day with the help of medicine. I could feel it still there in the background during the better phases. Kind of like that sense of pending doom when you're in the shower and the nice warm water starts turning cold. You know what's coming. But there's no escape.

There is a silver lining to all of this doom and gloom and icy fortress of solitudeness. After the migraine?


Giddy, feel-good, natural endorphin-fueled (in response to the pain) happiness. The contrast is amazing. For me, anyway. I don't know if other migraineurs experience the euphoria — I hope they do!!

Nothing brings out joy quite like a healthy dose of misery!


Kristy said...

Yes, I have had 2 migraines in my life. Only 2. I know I am so lucky. Because I have had 2. And, I KNOW when it is truly a migraine. It. is. awful.

DKTL Peoples said...

so sorry, I too suffer from these terrible things!

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

All this and no honorable mention of the Firefighter/Paramedic that took care of everything so you could rest in bed?

Mandy said...

Oh... migraines.are.the.worst. I've gone to the hospital before because of one. Horrible, horrible feeling. My only hope is that I catch it in time with some Excedrine Migraine.

But agree, after it's gone, I feel like a new woman!

SarahB said...

I must admit I was afraid to read your description for fear one of my own would start. And that reminds me of an English AP test I took that had an essay about migraines complete with descriptions - I thought that was especially cruel!

I find your visual symptoms interesting. So different than what happens to me! At first my depth perception is just off, and that's my early clue that something is about to happen. Then I get a blind spot. It starts out tiny and grows in a blob shape. I usually grab a piece of paper with writing and if letters are missing from words I know to hurry and take my medicine. After the blind spot is a jaggy pulsing bright amoeba shape that grows and grows and I hate that I can't hide from it, even with my eyes closed. Followed by the aphasia which I hate the very most, numbness in face, arm and sometimes leg, and then the pain finally starts in.

The aphasia was described to me years ago by a neurologist as very similar to what happens in a stroke, just temporary, and it really is like what my grandmother is slowly recovering from after her stroke. She knows what she wants to say but somehow it just confused along the way.

SarahB said...

And the euphoria - I don't get that at all! I feel rotten the next day even, sometimes into the 3rd if it's an especially bad one. No high just sort of like I've been drug through the wringer.

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

Oh I feel for you. I had a migraine once, just once, and seriously thought I was seconds away from having a stroke. I used to think "how do you know you're having a migraine?" And you're right, you know. My husband gets them bad, Vision problems precede them which is when he takes some medication to hopefully prevent it. Like you, if he doesn't catch it in time he'll have it for the rest of the day and take a good day or two to recover with residual migraines.

At least you can find some silver lining in it all! :)

Fire Wife Katie said...

Oh Sarah - your migraines sound 10x worse than mine!! Very interesting about the difference in visual disturbance. I do get blind spots sometimes, but I've only heard tell of the flashy parts. And no euphoria? :( :( :(

Rachel said...

I am so sorry! They run in my family but (thankfully) I got the deafness stuff instead of the migraines. (That was totally in cheek, please don't be offended! :)

My mother has caffeine induced migraines - didn't realize the trigger until she was incoherent in the ER. My uncles have had terrible scares with failure to breathe. I just cannot imagine - and I am praying for healing for you friend!

Ratz said...

Oh i get migraines too... although i haven't had one lately and they are not very acute... i can understand what you mean...

Sunny said...

man, migraines are the worst! once it goes away, it such a relief, it almost makes me feel numb. glad you're feeling better!

Katherine said...

Migraines are terrible! I went through a three year stretch where I didn't get any, and I thought I was miraculously cured. Only to have them come back with a vengeance. I talked to an ENT doctor at work, and he mentioned Botox injections for migraines. That is exactly the type of treatment I'm all for.

smoore2213 said...

I stumbled across your blog and love it. It will take me a few days to sort through it all, but so far it's touched me in so many ways.

I've started getting migraines since the birth of my first child(which, by the way, we went though much the same as you, except that I'm still anovulatory except maybe once or twice a year). I assume maybe it's hormone changes? I don't know, but I usually feel like I'm about to die. Miserable.

I look forward to reading!

mnlop said...

I'll never forget my first migraine - it happened in French class in Jr. High. I remember stumbling to the office. They gave me the phone to call home. It took me a while of staring at it before I finally told them I had no idea what my phone number was!

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