Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Migraine

A migraine ate my weekend.

This might look like a complaint, but it’s not.

I’m not known to be a complainer—or at least, I don’t regard myself as one, and I doubt others would label me so. I’ve eaten my share of shit sandwiches in my life (some I’m still chewing, trust), but I like to cut through their fat by adding a dash of realistic perspective and a twist of self-deprecating humor until they don’t taste so... well?... shitty.

(How’s that for a metaphor?)

In regards to this migraine: I’m grateful.

Yes, grateful.

I’m one of the lucky ones (if any of us migraine sufferers can be classified as “lucky”) who receives a visual aura immediately before the migraine, and if I can manage to pop my blocker (good old over-the-counter Advil liqui-gels—honey of the gods, lemme tell you!) within the 20 minute window of warning provided, then I’m functional.

Functional meaning light-and-sound sensitive (read: squinty), tired, slow-of-thought, and generally enduring the sensation of a too-tight helmet squeezing the bejesus out of my head all. day. long.

The alternate choice is to not take my blocker and suffer the consequences. Suffer being the operative word here... migraine derails. It’s the definition of the lack of function.

Your head pounds. No, it doesn’t pound, it explodes. There is no room for thought, only pain. Every inch, crevice, and particle of your brain is stuffed with pain...

I’ve laid on the thinly carpeted basement floors of an empty house, with windows closed and blinds drawn, TV on but brightness down (it was only to show the inexorably slow progress of time, after all—when you’re suffering through the apocalypse inside your skull it’s helpful to know that time has not abandoned you...).

I’ve been too hot, too cold, alternately bundled in blankets and naked, in an attempt to still the misfiring flashes in my wiring...

I’ve twitched and cringed at the sound of the cats' footsteps. The CATS' footsteps. Hell, I’ve cringed at the sound of my own breathing...

I’ve laid, nauseous, panting, counting seconds with the pulse beating behind my eyes, begging the watery accumulation and the weight at the back of my throat to dissolve into nothing with the next relentless throb—because if writhing on the floor while your brain is attacked by an invisible aggressor sounds like a good time, well, the idea of fiery vomit ripping a torrent through your skull while you hug a porcelain bowl makes it a goddamn party...

Thankfully I’ve never actually vomited. (Knock on wood.)

And of course, through all this torment, I’ve prayed, prayed, prayed for it to stop.

It always goes on for hours. Hours. Six. Eight. Sometimes it continues until I crawl into bed and give up on the day. Food? Who cares. Water? I scoff at water—there’s no drinking. Drinking’s not for migraines... pffft.

And forget medication. Once it strikes, there’s no going back. You either manage to gulp down that blocker while the swirl of colourful aura takes a swipe out of your vision, or you suffer the consequences—there is no in between, and once the colours have faded, you’re fucked. Take anything else you want, hell, try voodoo for all I care—it won't help you.

And the longer you wait to take those meds? The worse the ordeal.

This was my downfall on Saturday. I walked out of a store and mistook the speck of my aura for sunshine glinting off a windshield in the parking lot. My auras track across my vision similar to an afterimage from bright light, and I often panic and mistake one for the other.

So I waited.

I shouldn’t have.

It was probably five minutes later when I realized my aura had grown to eat the left side of my vision, and if I hadn’t been on my own street, I would have pulled over and abandoned the thought of driving. I dug into my purse for my meds.

It was too late.

An hour later found me in the recliner, blinds drawn, blankets tucked, and cringing at the distant sound of my kids playing in the basement, while Mr Lannis tried valiantly not to clank utensils and dishes as he prepared a dinner I wasn’t going to eat.

Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could be. I was hit hard for the first hour or so, but the next four were better... I was functional, but barely. And then it was the blessed respite of bedtime.

I can’t remember the last time I’d come this close to a full blown migraine. Yeah—this was nothing next to the real thing.

Aura-migraine sufferers are paranoid by nature. We religiously carry our blockers (if we have them). We’re usually known for having pain meds on us at all times, but dole them out sparingly, lest we leave ourselves with nothing in the event we fear most: the cranial apocalypse that is the migraine.

Speaking for myself, I tend to pop my Advil liqui-gels at the teeniest speck invading my vision. I’ve probably consumed entire bottles of unnecessary medication, a single gel cap at a time, in the effort to stave off that avalanche onslaught of pain.

And I won’t stop. It’s terrifying, the idea of missing that vital medication. Yes, heart-stoppingly terrifying. Anyone who’s had a true migraine—not a headache they’ve blown into a migraine through hyperbole, but an actual migraine—understands.

The sources of my migraines? Plenty. Could be a weather system moving in, perhaps too much sodium, maybe hormones, or stress, dehydration, extreme bright light, exposure to perfume (my allergy), or any combination thereof...

In short: who knows?

So why am I grateful?

Well, this is the first almost-full-blown migraine I’ve had in years. In my blocker-pill-popping paranoia I’ve managed to dodge a lot, many, my fair share and more.

I’d forgotten the wear it has on the body, I’d forgotten the migraine hangover—which is exactly what it sounds like: a hangover. Sunday I lay on the same recliner feeling on and off energetic then exhausted, fine then nauseous, all. day. long.

I napped. A lot.

When I say it ate my weekend, it’s no lie. Two days gone. Poof!

Yet it made me realize: I am blessed.

I am blessed because it hit on a weekend, and I had nothing pressing to do.

I am blessed because my children are well behaved and if Mr Lannis whispers that they need to be quiet for Mom, they do so, without question or complaint.

I am blessed to have Mr Lannis, who lets me tag out and collapse on the recliner.

I am blessed that this catastrophic monster doesn’t hit every week, or every month, or even once or twice a year.

I am blessed that my blockers work—when I get to them fast enough.

I am blessed. Yes, my brain wanted to explode, and during that time I had difficulty piecing two words together to bear a coherent thought, but it served as a timely reminder...

I am blessed.

So yes, I’m grateful.

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