The Neurological Rebellion

Click to see the migraine art show

The picture above is from an art collection by painters who suffer from migraines. When I first saw this picture, it sent a real chill through my body; it was the same sort of visual auras that I get preceding a migraine headache. It’s all the shimmering jagged lines that slowly make their way from a tiny point in my vision to a full crescent at the edges of my vision. As it advances out of my vision, I know what comes next. You can’t even close your eyes and make it go away; even in the darkness of closed eyelids, it is present, always shimmering as it changes shape.

As a male migraine sufferer with visual distortions, I fall into a double minority of the condition (and, as an aside, I am at a higher risk of stroke in a family that has a history of it). My headaches appeared in groups with years between them; my doctor friend has speculated that, due to their timing, they were appearing when my body was “switching life gears” (as in, beginning of puberty, end of puberty, mid 20’s, late 20’s, and now in my middle 30’s). There have been a few random headaches now and again, and I am hoping that the one I had today is just a blip on the radar.

In the past, I’ve had clusters of attacks to the point where I had to go on medication to prevent them. I traded being my emotional wellbeing for relief, for the drugs were also anti-depressants that numbed me to any large emotional variations. The headaches finally stopped, but it was a long time before I felt safe enough to stop taking the preventative. It only happened once, thankfully, but it lingers at the edge of my thoughts as I think about the headache I had today. The previous episodes were more spread out over months; hopefully that means I won’t be getting another for awhile. [crosses fingers]

This is the second time I’ve gotten a headache while I was at work. When you look at a computer screen and can’t see the words around the cursor, that’s when the trouble sets in. In years past, before the pain medications I have now, that would have been a moment of dread for I knew what would await me: nauseous, uncomfortable, and a magnitude of pain that has been likened to being second only to childbirth. As I will never rise to the top of that chart, it is nice to know that I have risen to the highest ranks of pain possible for a male human being to experience. (Take that, torture!)

So, I took my medication of consisting of a Percocet derivative combined with caffeine and drove home. My visual distortion was minor this time around, so I was able to see the road and my speedometer as I made my way back to a darkened bedroom. Even with the pain meds, I still get the light and noise sensitivity which can make the headache last longer. I got home without incident and hopped into bed to try to sleep away the headache. It’s a day gone, but not one in discomfort or pain.

In my migraine experiences, sleeping away the headache is a better alternative to just resting. Some of my bad headaches have given rise to confusion and the inability to shake a thought out of my head. It’s bad enough to be stuck in bed trying to shut out all the light in the room and not move; it is even worse when your mind can’t let go of something. From horrific to erotic and all the possible things between, it’s like having an earworm in your mind’s eye that just won’t go away. Sleep usually provides relief, although the dreams that come from it can be pretty intense and strange as well.

I know a good number of friends who suffer from migraines to one extent or another. Whether it is the occasional attack or a chronic condition, I really feel for them. Personally, if I was to put myself in the migraine spectrum, it would be on the “Pacific Rim volcano” level. Where it can be dormant for years, there is always a risk of explosion. I don’t know when it will go off, but I do know that it tends to be devastating when it does happen. I hope as I get older that I will have less headaches as my father did, but I can’t count on it.

On the other hand, it has taken all of the stress out of my presentation on Friday at the Northeastern chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association Spring Workshop. These headaches can sometimes remind me of the importance of now; that is, that worries of the future are nothing compared to living in the moment. I’ve been stressing over the presentation because I’m excited to give the talk and I want it to go well. I’m all set to go, it’s just a matter of doing it. (Ok, I’m not completely set, but everything about the talk is done. Just one last detail with the breakout sessions in the afternoon, but that’s it, I swear!)

In the past, I used to worry about getting headaches in the future and would plan accordingly; now, I’m going to try to press ahead. If it happens, well, nuts. If it doesn’t, then even better. It’s a hard thing, but I am trying my best.

6 thoughts on “The Neurological Rebellion

  1. Wow, this picture reflects my first migraine. In my field of vision, there was a perfect rectangle in which everything was swirling, not a crescent. I knew nothing of migraines. I was afraid, because I had no idea what was going on.

    I told my boss about it and she said, “Oh, you’re having a migraine.” When I told her that it didn’t hurt, she replied, “It will.” And it did.

    My episodes have been infrequent. Lots of tension headaches, some auras, but rarely anything like my first. I’ve learned, with a nod to your earlier post on Ranganathan, “every migraine sufferer, his or her trigger.” Mine are typically light, especially when I have a combination of bright sun and artificial light.

    Anyhoo, thanks for the post. I hope you’re feeling better.

  2. I have never had a migraine, but you do a superb job of drawing the reader in to your experience. It’s life-shaking. thanks for the reminder that what matters is the present moment–living in the moment is not an antidote to worry, exactly, but it can help us realize that there’s more to life than the focus of the worry. Good post!

  3. Sorry to hear about another migraine victim. Mine usually start with blurry vision and confusion (I once typed up a half page of gibberish before I realized the problem). Then, they turn into full blown migraines with paralysis and loss of vision. I’ve been lucky and haven’t had one on the job. They’re bad enough at home.

    You’re right about not worrying about them. I find that the less I worry about migraines, the fewer I end up having. Stress and tension can really screw you over. Lucky for us library work is a stress free career. 🙂

  4. Thanks for putting into words what plagues me with regularity. Those who don’t suffer from migraines find it hard it ‘get it’ and I’ve recommended your post to a few friends and family members. Loved the art.
    I’ve always had migraines, but never to the extent I’ve been suffering in the last 9 months. When you mention to folks that you actually have one right now and are still at work functioning, working, driving, etc they kinda look at me weird. Yep, life must go on, you can only take so many drugs, I will not be a Zombie, even though it’s the cool thing in teen lit right now!

    • I wish I could take something and go on. I just get hammered by mine to the extent that nothing else but rest is possible. I hope you have an neurologist taking a look at your migraines since they’ve changed up on you. And thank you for the compliments on the post; I really appreciate it.

  5. Hi im a women and mother of three, i am currently getting between 6-14 aura migraines a month as a mother with obligations i cant always go off and lay in a dark room. İ have suffered for seven years now and was wondering if anybody else has tinitus or vertigo to sccompany their migraines? İ alsp have a small constant blind spot which in told has nothing to do with my actual eyes as ive had them checked and they are perfect. İm at my wits ends have tried all the triptan med plus amitriptalyn (apologies for spelling!) and imitrex

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