Migraine has been a part of my life for almost forty years now in varying degrees. My Migraine history predates my marriage, my children, and my career. It predates the NBA careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the major milestones in the political careers of William Jefferson Clinton and George H.W. Bush, the Oscar win of The Deer Hunter, and the legal career of Sonia Sotomayor. It's older than the entire casts of movies anymore, and certainly older than the playlists of most radio stations.
My point here is--and I do have one--that like most people with any sort of Overarching Thing In Their Lives, I've simply Lived With It, and done so for a Very Long Time.
It is astonishing, however, how much of one's life can revolve around That One Thing.
Migraine has been a part of my life for thirty-nine years. It astonishes me to say that, but it's a Fact Undeniable. I got my first one while I was away at college, and it has been with me ever since, stealing entire days away from me, days that add up to more than a year of my life, and those are only the Headache Days. Sometimes there are Pre-Headache Days, and always, always, there are the Recovery Days. Migraine is the worst kind of thief.
Because along with stealing days, Migraine steals parts of Me, too. After fighting Migraine for so very, very long and losing, I feel at times like a Failure. Each headache feels like a Defeat, a Loss of the Battle to me. Like I'm not Trying Hard Enough. (And that nudges my old Catholic Guilt, which we all know I've railed against for ages.) Between my neurologist Dr. B. and me, we've tried so many things, and I've become so cagey in my strategies against Migraine. I study the isobars on the national weather map; I Never Go To Bed On A Red (wine); I only drink when I have something in my stomach and some water along with it; I gave up my treadmill for a recumbent bike; I manage what little stress I have; I get plenty of sleep; I avoid artificial sweeteners...the list is endless. But Migraine always defeats me in the end.
In my search for a magic cure for Migraine, I had to endure some frightening and awful side effects while my body became accustomed to what eventually became my Wonder Drug. Some of the effects are, unfortunately, long term, but they are not nearly as serious as the earliest ones. They pale in comparison to the more frequent and debilitating Migraines that I used to get before being on this medicine.
To call Migraine a headache is like calling Godzilla a lizard. During some episodes, I have lost all or part of my vision, vomited, sleepwalked, had vertigo and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. I have felt and heard my blood throbbing in my ears and temples. Even though I would run a low-grade fever, I would be freezing. I would be confused and unable to articulate what I needed or wanted. And on top of it all, always the excruciating pain.
Thankfully, because of my Wonder Drug, many of the most severe Migraine symptoms are rare now. Mostly, I get more manageable Migraine Episodes, and thanks to Dr. B., I can truly manage them. I think of Migraine now as a little more like a Caged Panther--still dark and wild and dangerous, but I have the whip and chair and bars to my advantage.
And, unlike some Migraineurs, I've met with nothing but kindness from other people, whether they were fellow sufferers or not. No one has ever said to me, "Take some Advil" or "After all, a headache is just a headache" as I've heard in some cases. Many people have offered remedies they've seen or heard in an effort to be helpful, a habit that can often irritate and frustrate other Migraineurs who have been on this journey for as long as I have, or longer. I am always appreciative of those who want to help, but I will say that the number of herbal supplements and junk remedies and homeopathic treatments claiming to relieve or cure Migraine is ridiculous and annoying. Kale and ginger smoothies will not cure a true Migraine. A cup of chamomile tea and a valerian root capsule will not stop a real Migraine.
I once begged my doctor to remove several vertebrae at the base of my skull if it would stop my Migraines. Do you think some cucumber-lime smoothies and a drop or lavender oil on each temple is really getting it done?
While Migraines are Part Of my life, they are Not My Life. And it is important to me that I always remember other people are dealing with far greater challenges, and dealing with them Every Single Day.
M is for Migraine. But it's also for Moving On.
Lynda Robinson's work featured here