Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Life of a Migraineur

I love that the term for a sufferer of migraines is French. Unfortunately, that's the only exotic thing about migraines. Unlike my other disorder, this one has no silver lining.

My eyesight is 20/200 and I often read weighty tomes with words printed in 8 point type. I've always had headaches. Most of the time I forget I'm even having one because they're so common. I used to rarely even bother to take pain relievers for my headaches, unless I got one of those tension headaches that made my eyes throb in their sockets. In a perverse way, I thought of my frequent headaches as a badge of honor; a nerd badge from all the reading I did.

At Lipstick, one of our saleswomen suffered from migraines. She always seemed to get a migraine just when I needed her to meet with an important potential advertiser. I suspected her "migraines" were just a convenient excuse. As someone who experienced almost constant headaches, I considered her a lightweight. Not knowing anyone personally who suffered from migraines, I placed them on my list with allergy sufferers -- weak people who didn't spend enough time around germs while growing up.

One day I was sitting in my very loud, very bright office -- my office had three walls of glass, so there was no sound proofing at all against the tide of phones and chatter on our floor -- and I was overcome by the worst feeling I'd ever had. I felt more nauseated than I ever had before. The room seemed to be tilting, the walls melting. Voices that I could normally tune out were shrill and piercing. The light was oppressive -- I felt it would shatter my eyeballs. I had no idea what was going on, but the pressure in my skull was intense. I wanted to cry, to puke, to pass out. What the hell was happening to me? I couldn't speak, but I managed to inch my way down to the back elevator, feeling my way along the wall because my eyes were squeezed shut against the pain. The walk through the atrium was agony. The noise from all four floors of the building had coalesced into a spinning ball of cacophony that lodged in my brain, along with the horrible food smells that came from the cafeteria. Deadly shafts of sunlight streamed through the windows and I thought I would scream. I stumbled out onto the street, and somehow made it to the relative darkness of my car in the parking deck. I called Royal. "Come get me," I sobbed. "I don't know what's happening to me."

The ride home was hellish. Royal had to pull over twice so I could vomit, and the pain in my head was demonic now. I think I begged him to kill me. He didn't know if he should take me home or to the hospital. I just wanted to lie down and die. At home, he put me in bed with a cool cloth on my head and pulled the curtains tight. A handful of Advil later, I felt a bit better. I think I finally slept, although fitfully.

That was my first migraine, and it was certainly the worst. After seeing my doctor, who gave me a shockingly expensive prescription medicine (at the time, it was something like $25 a pill), I was told my migraines were probably hormonal. It seemed my migraines had been brought on by switching to the generic version of the birth control pills I had been taking for years.

Now I get a migraine once or twice a month, and they aren't so bad. I'm prepared for them now with a bottle of Coke (caffeine is a wonder drug) and four Excedrin Migraine tablets. But even when I can dispatch them quickly, migraines have changed my life. I no longer shrug off a headache, I worry that it will bloom across my skull like a bloodstain. I now keep pain relievers in my purse, in my car, on my desk, anywhere that I might need to grab them at a moment's notice. Social plans are often canceled at the first twinge of a migraine. If I'm working, I try to stumble through the pain, but I'm in such a fog that I might as well give in and go to bed.

A migraine can appear on a otherwise perfect day and ruin everything. Like today, when I woke up and actually had some energy. I worked out and was cleaning the kitchen when BAM. A migraine hit and I didn't have a Coke on hand. I swallowed some pills but they just weren't working this time. Two hours in bed helped, but even now I can feel the insistent pressure at the back of my skull.

The worst part of being a migraineur -- besides the debilitating pain, of course -- is that there are no outward symptoms. I don't get a fever, spasms, blotches, a hacking cough, fainting spells or any other outward manifestation that tells people, "This chick is sick." The worst part of getting migraines is that they're all in your head -- and you hope people believe you're not using them as a convenient excuse.


  1. You speak the truth, Sister! I can attest!!! Fortunately for me, I've only had two that I can remember and only one of those (the first one) was just as you described...also caused by a change in my BCP. I feel for anyone who complains of a migraine...they can be completely debilitating. At least you have a fancy title to add to the end of your name. :D I hate to hear they are a 'regular' issue for you...Excedrin Migraine is the bomb! Take care, Chica. Miss you!

  2. write something new!!!