Yesterday I had a migraine. There is not a precise trigger. Indeed I wonder if there is such a thing, or if it is ambiguous, really, for everyone. For all migraneurs, according to some loathed website I hastily googled yesterday before setting down for the ride. Migraneur? It's not an art. It's not a skill. And I am not enacting it, like a performer, as the name suggests. I\m just suffering it.
The loose triggers are not drinking enough water, feeling stressed, and sudden heavy exercise. However the migraine only hits after the exercise has been performed for some time, feeling stressed may be part of the symptoms rather than the cause, and the water part? Well, I had a bottle of water with me yesterday, so... Perhaps I need to ensure I drink an entire litre before exercising. As I set off on a jog down the local black sand beach, I felt pretty good. Certainly nothing to portend a migraine. Coming back, I noticed my thoughts had taken a blue note. I was feeling a little sad, a little lost, in an unshakeable way. I decided to give myself some TLC this evening and allow myself to be sad, if I needed to be sad. Then as I waited at the busy bypass to get to my moped... I saw it. The things I didn't see. The way an oncoming motorcyclist was abruptly missing half of their body, until they weren't. The blind spot, blotting out a small round piece of the world, and gradually getting bigger. "I don't believe this," I protested to the smoggy air. "Oh come on..." I'd just had one a couple of weeks ago. This was out of schedule.
Conclusion 1: Inexplicable sad feelings are likely a sign of an oncoming migraine.
This would be a more useful sign were I Pippi Longstocking, for there is so much in the world to be legitimately sad for. Nonetheless, as I prepared myself to run across the bypass while dodging actual invisible traffic, I checked another sign. The aura happened in both eyes. This is a good sign, as an ocular migraine restricted to one eye could be a sign of something more serious. The blind spot was getting bigger, spreading out into a lazily sprawled stain of crackled lines. I hoped I would not crash driving home. Driving home, I felt the usual feeling of bizarre excited panic. I needed to take two pink Migraleve and lie down immediately, and hope the codeine would knock me out before the pain began in earnest. Also, I was hungry. The last few migraines have been accompanied by food cravings. I need salt, carbs, and more salt. Crisps, fried potatoes, chicken, rice, food, now. Back home I shake out a small pile of salt and dip bits of food into it. I wear sunglasses in the evening, not only to start a Wintour-esque fashion trend, but also to blot out the light. I wonder if I have taken Migraleve early enough to stop an attack, like the pills promise can happen. Fastforward an hour, and I feel nauseous, my head is building up into an awful pressure, and I can't feel the codeine yet. No, an attack is happening.
Conclusion 2: Pink Migraleve won't stop a migraine attack. I took them on an empty stomach about 10 mins after seeing the aura. Nope. Still gonna suffer.
Somehow I sleep, but migraines also make me hypersensitive to sound, and I live in an office building. Ordinary-volume voices passing by my door wake me up though my ears are stuffed with ear plugs and my blood rising in opioid level. And how lonely it is, to be in pain, to be ill, to be lying in darkness, and to not have someone to lie down next to you. I extend a hand and long for someone to hold it until I am asleep. I don't want to be alone in the dark and in pain. Like everybody else. I clutch the air-conditioning remote and stare into my eyelids, willing myself back to sleep, waiting for the tell-tale signs of hallucinations that signal my brain beginning to dream. I don't know if it's the migraine or the painkillers, but bizarre images spread and roil before me. I see an old platform game I played as a child. I try to walk myself through the levels, but they spin apart and break into nonsense.
Conclusion 3: Mad thoughts are part of the migraine experience.
The pain of the attack - the business part, we might call it - can pass provided I have taken Migraleve and can go to sleep. Sleep either carries me beyond the pain and nausea, or cures it. If I don't take Migraleve, though, I would be vomiting into a toilet with a force only norovirus can replicate, the kind of retching that makes you yell into the toilet bowl with every heave. It's extraordinary, the force of migraine-induced vomiting. Quite extraordinary. There would be a point of pain right behind my right eye and a little lower, as though at the top of my nasal cavity. It would feel like someone is chiselling the bone with a very fine ice-pick. A neural lobotomy. I'd vomit till I was weak, head throbbing, then pass out from low blood sugar and dehydration.
As it is, I pass out before all that thanks to heavy painkillers. But I still wake up with an unusual sore feeling in the right middle part of my brain. I imagine it as though the brain is an elastic silly-putty, and my skull as strong as an eggshell. The migraine makes that section of the brain expand. It fractures the skull, swells out, throbbing and agonised. After, it sinks back in, but it is sore, stretched. The pieces of skull-shell stick to it, grudgingly, but broken in a crazy-paving pattern. This is what it feels like. No matter whether I was awake to have the headache or not, afterwards, I feel the soreness. The expansion. My mouth is dry and I feel disembodied into multiple pieces. My blood has turned to thick gravy. I am doped up and dropping out.
Conclusion 4: I know a frighteningly large number of people are addicted to it, I thank science and big pharma that I have access to it... but man, balls to codeine. How do codeine addicts take this stuff every day?
I lie awake. The codeine has made me feel thick-mouthed and stupid. I need a comforting film, but all I have is Nightcrawler. It's very reminiscent of Network, especially with the dramatic 80s synth guitar sound effects. The characters in it are awfully familiar from my TV days. I watch it, weakly, through sunglasses in a darkened room. I let the movie happen to me, as I have to let the world happen to me. I feel weak as a sickly kitten. It's a good film about nasty characters in a nasty industry, by the way. The soaring synth soundtrack lifts me helplessly up in its choral dramatic tides. It's probably better to not watch this film if you've just had a migraine.
I get the full quote of night sleep. The next morning, I have the postdrome. This is what it is like these days. On one day, I get the migraine attack. For the next day, I get the postdrome. I feel...
...weak, tired, confused, sore, a little nauseated, and depressed. And horribly aware of it. I can see that these feelings are a consequence of the migraine. I can see that I am thinking in weird ways. And yet I can't make myself think any other ways. Someone has planted an old-fashioned egg beater in the middle of my thoughts, and spun the handles vigorously. I can't shake my sad feelings. I can't think quickly. I can barely think logically. Do I want to eat this breakfast, or not? Can I stand and walk back to my room, or can I lie facedown on the floor outside? I totter back to my room... and sleep... and sleep... and sleep. I sleep and wake up with my hair plastered sweatily to my face. I sleep and wake up from dreams about missed planes and visa runs and friends I never had. I sleep and wake up limp and confused and head aching and weak. I sleep and wake up to fresh sets of mosquito bites across all limbs. I have slept all day. I'm still tired.
There is nothing like feeling ill to make you appreciate how good it feels to simply feel nothing unusual at all, other than to feel normal. Nor, however, like being ill to remind you how fragile your self is. The part of my self I missed all day was my coherent mind. Bad memories, sad thoughts, disconnect, an overwhelming feeling of lethargy, how tedious. How inescapable. I have a gym membership here. The idea of lifting a single weight right now feels as likely as being able to jump to the Moon. But you know what I'd like more? The ability to write a story about lifting a weight or jumping to the Moon. I'd like my mind back, please.
Conclusion 5: The postdrome is now even worse than the migraine.
Migraleve can get me through a migraine attack without suffering like I used to. But I do not yet know what I can do about the postdrome. And if the migraine feels like an attack on my brain - messing electrical activity up, making my vision go strange, hurting my head, making me sick - the postdrome is a malady of the mind. I couldn't think my way to escape from a wet paper bag. I'm whipped. Well and truly.
Incidentally, I've always wanted to read Oliver Sacks's book Migraine, but I genuinely fear reading the word 'migraine' so many times on every page will inevitably cause one. So I haven't. Today I looked for it. I don't have a copy. I had to read Gratitude instead. It's short, sweet, and made me even sadder. If I wasn't so low in fluids, I'd have wept. Yay for being low in fluids?