What Debilitating Migraines Are Really Like
I have started writing this so many times. It’s so hard to put into words the debility of a migraine, without it sounding like a bad headache. So I thought long and hard about how I would explain migraines in this story. I really wanted you to be able to feel what I’m trying to say, so here goes.
It may start off fleeting, a small dot in your peripheral vision, a barely noticeable shadow that casts a darkness over tired eyes. Maybe it’s more aggressive with flashing lights, and in some cases temporary loss of vision. You might feel a sickening in the pit of your stomach, coming from nowhere and catching you unawares, making your mouth water. You may be struck down by overwhelming fatigue that leaves your body feeling laden as though immersed in treacle. Or maybe your jaw starts to hurt from clenching. Maybe you have a pain deep set behind your eye trailing up over your skull and down your neck. Maybe your period is due, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you ate cheese, forgetting it’s a possible trigger, or maybe you didn’t.
You take yourself off to bed with the view to recover within hours. Painkillers line your bedside table and you take each one in turn at the first sign of the migraine. You lie down, dizzy and unable to sleep from the pain, which has now gotten so bad that all light and noise must be eradicated immediately. An ice pack lies across your forehead not quite reaching the painful parts. A few hours pass and you wake up, rush to the loo to be sick, or sit up and are so dizzy you need to lay back down.
You’re shaking, you feel like you’re hungover from 10 JD and Cokes, except even a hangover from 10 JD and Cokes would be preferable to this shit show of pain you’re feeling.
You are unable to distract yourself. The only thing to do is lie there some more, phone in sick at work, cancel any plans you made by forcing yourself to pick up your phone, even though it hurts your eyes as much as looking at direct sunlight. Rattle off a text of apologies for having to cancel on your pals again, only to get one back saying “you wouldn’t be on your phone if you had a real migraine, it must just be a bad headache.”
The day passes in a blur; you cannot eat, you cannot sleep, you cannot watch TV or read, and you genuinely wonder how much more of this you can take. What if it never ends? What if today is the day you don’t recover from this pain and have to live with it indefinitely? You feel shaky, your skin is greasy, and your heart rate has sped up to a rapid crescendo.
Anxiety causing the pain in your head to worsen again. That hangover feeling leaves you exhausted, thirsty and drained, so drained. Your stomach feels as though you’re seasick and the thought of leaving the house is too much effort.
Your doctor advised preventative migraine treatment, so you take four pills every night of your life in hopes it will prevent the migraine occurring at all. You get a piercing that promises a quick fix and for a month or so your migraines reduce, but they are not gone. Oh no, they are never gone. When you’re tired, when your period is due, when you drink too much caffeine and also when you don’t drink enough. If you miss a dose of those sacred pills.
Just about anything can be a trigger to be honest, and you wish fleetingly that someone else would feel this pain so they could understand it. It’s impact. The catalogue of symptoms that are so debilitating, so soul crushing, so unpredictable and so much more than just a headache.
Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash