Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Classic Migraine With Aura

I can't stand the fact that I am a migraine sufferer, but I am and have been since my early 20's. You never forget your first migraine. Mine happened when I was in Montreal, shopping at Le Chateau with my sister and cousin. One minute I was dancing down the aisles to the beat of the pounding music, the next I was in a dressing room completely confused that I could only see half of myself in the full-length mirror.


I have what is referred to as Classic Migraine with Aura, which means crazy things happen before the headache arrives. Mostly, things half-disappear, like you're looking at a fractured mirror, unable to comprehend what exactly you're seeing. Sometimes spinning things appear, much like the spinning rainbow orb when something's wrong on your Apple computer, only the ones I see aren't colorful, just black and white. It is a terrible thing, this Classic Migraine with Aura, but it is also fascinating and surreal. It is said that Lewis Carroll suffered from Migraines and his novel Alice in Wonderland was born from that. I don't doubt it. 

These 'visual disturbances' last about twenty minutes and then, like clockwork, the headache appears, aggressive and relentless, usually on one side. It's almost as though they land, and stay a while, sometimes hours, sometimes days. After I was diagnosed, the doctor gave me medicine, but I have never taken it. I find a simple Advil or two or three takes the edge of the ache. I don't know why I'm resistant to anything stronger. And still, it is the aura that ruffles my feathers, not the headache. The aura often takes me by surprise, like the other day, when I was driving to the gym. I parked, checked a text that came through on my phone, and noticed that the letters looked funny - wobbly-like. Oh no, I thought, blinking the oddness away. Maybe I'm just tired? But soon it went from squiggly letters, to full-on fractured mirror. I didn't have sunglasses with me so I closed my eyes as a kaleidoscope of strange and trippy shapes invaded my vision.
My grandmother had headaches that were related to the weather, and although she was never diagnosed as having Migraines, I know she did. She was better than any Doppler Radar. She knew a storm was approaching long before the weatherman announced it. Having studied many a migraine book, I now know that barometric pressure is a big trigger. There are so many triggers: hormones, stress, nuts, bananas, soy, soda, cheese, dehydration, loud noise, smells, the list is endless and kind of humorous. It seems that everything and anything can cause migraine. There are also personality types that are prone to these headaches - perfectionists, people-pleasers, fear-prone...yeah, guilty as charged.

I know people who get these two, three, sometimes four times a week, and I can't fathom what that frequency might do to a person. I experience them four, sometimes five, times a year which already, in my opinion, is four or five times too many. There is not a lot of positivity to be extracted from the experience, but if I had to dig, I'd say that perhaps my headaches connect me to a larger universe of migraineurs, like my grandmother, for instance. Or maybe they are signs from above, or from deep within, saying stop, relax, drop what you're doing and just be. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I can tap into some expansive well of creativity the way Lewis Carroll did. Until then, I suppose I'll just have to roll with my own personal light show followed by my cap of pain, knowing that I am simply one of many who weather this electronic system glitch, this experience of being human.

2 comments:

Kerry White said...

Yep! I am an aura gal too ! Starts at the edges. You try to pretend it isn't happening as the field of vision gets smaller and smaller. Then my speech becomes more difficult. I race home and slam some ibuprofen and perhaps a cocktail. Headache next for about 5 hours. My triggers are light, usual half light, sheer light thru clouds and low blood sugar. Only 3 or 4 times a year luckily

Melissa Clark said...

comfort in numbers, huh! So sorry you experience them, too. But a cocktail? WOW. Im impressed!