Migraine sufferers: Napolean Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant. Lewis Carrol, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Signmund Freud, Nietzche, Whoopi Goldberg, Julius Caesar, Elvis, Me.
I have had a migraine for the past 2 days now. Unfortunately, these were the last 2 days of the college classes I teach. I drugged up and tried to go on. This is not always a good idea. The slurred speech, inability to concentrate or complete a full sentence – outward manifestations of my malady. On more than one occasion I have had employers, friends, family members , strangers and policemen suspect that I was under the influence. I was under the influence, all right, of dilated blood vessels in my head.
The unseen effects: nausea, often advancing to outright vomiting; photophobia – the inability to tolerate light; olfactory disturbances which often includes smelling disgusting things that are not there. Like burnt toast, cat feces, and diesel fumes. I can tolerate neither noise nor silence. Visual disturbances that begin before the pain – the aura. There are gray holes in my vision – that part of my sight is simply missing. The rest of my visual field is wavy, like looking through a falling sheet of water. Then in the throes of the migraine, colors appear brighter, sharper – almost too bright to tolerate and stationary objects appear to be moving. It’s a trip…
And a throbbing, stabbing unrelenting pain in my head – behind my eye and down toward the back of my neck. Once the pain has subsided – my scalp is tender and there is a “zinging” sensation with any movement of my head.
I know I will live when I start to feel ravenous; but I am not nearly well enough to forage for food. As a young mother, I kept the pizza menus near the phone. My boys would, upon being given the thumbs up, order a pizza (and take money to pay for it from the envelope marked for that purpose). I associate pizza to this day with headaches and illness – needless to say it is not one of my favorite foods.
My children spent an inordinate, guilt-producing amount of time taking care of me instead of the other way around. I often had 3 or 4 migraines a week – the kind that sent me directly to my bedroom, where the shades would be drawn, music played at just above a whisper, and no one moved around me because their motion would make me violently ill. Once when I neglected to keep the pizza envelope funded, my older son (7 or 8 years old at the time) rode his bike to a deli to get me a cup of soup after emptying his pockets, piggybank, and scavenging the change compartment of my car to scrape up enough change to feed me. I was filled with incredible admiration and abject horror that my firstborn was compelled to be the caregiver. I spent too many days and nights in bed, praying they would not kill each other or burn the house down while I was incapacitated.
Medication is usually helpful but I occasionally will have a migraine that laughs in the face of modern medicine, and more than one emergency room visit was necessitated by intractable migraine. There, unless there were visible manifestations (like puking my guts out) I would be treated like a drug-seeker. My doctor friends tell me that drug seekers often claim migraine symptoms and are exceedingly persistent in their pursuit of “relief”.
I am coming out of this migraine – which is a good thing, I was supposed to be packing for my trek north. Because I was planning on leaving – there are no groceries in the house. Why doesn’t anyone deliver pizza at 7:00 am?