A quarter of a century is a long time…25 years ago .com became a part of every day vernacular, I was just entering high school and like every young girl prone to hormonal changes. A late bloomer, my adolescent experiences included painful periods and headaches–an understatement of course, as we’re talking mind-numbing, splitting clusters of pressure.
Migraines, while not proven to be hereditary, often are a predisposition in a the family of sufferers. My mom was a sufferer, and so was my brother. I remember my mom disappearing in the middle of the day, or early in the evening, to be in a quiet, dark space. As children we were often warned she not be disturbed. Of all the traits I’ve inherited from my mom, migraines were the one thing I wish I hadn’t. How many times I’ve wished to inherit this part from my dad, he’s never had so much as a hangover headache let alone a migraine.
I can still remember my first migraine–half-wrapped in white sheets and a pink quilt, eyes closed, head pounding, curled up in fetal position, back against a cool stone wall. I felt stuck between a rock and a mammoth elephant, spatially sabotaged with no means of escape. I first started seeing floaters in my early 20s, I thought something was wrong with my vision. They took on the silhouette of Bullwinkle, saline lines of moose horns on my sight periphery. Occasionally accompanied by aura perceptions, the appearance of Bullwinkle brings on a weakness and exhaustion that only sleep can diffuse.
Stress, food, change in weather, behavior and/or habits are all common migraine triggers. I find that when I keep myself busy, engaging in exercise and activities, they happen less frequently. After awhile one learns how to live with and manage migraines, but it takes some time getting used to them. I once kept a diary, tracking their occurrences, treating them with the drugs like Imitrex and Treximet. The trouble with the meds is catching the migraine in time, if not caught within its earliest stages the prescription lags.
Lately they’ve become elusive, temperamental, in the last year sporadic. This may sound crazy, personifying a migraine but sometimes it feels as if they are strategically planning a sneak attack. I’ll be moody, impatient and curt with friends and family, with a short fuse. The day will end and I’ll go to bed, the black clouds of the day festering in my sleep, permeating my subconscious with dark dreams or nightmares. I wake up, tension pulsating from my temples, reaching for the bottle of water and Excedrin Migraine on my nightstand. Tigger always seems to know when the pain is especially unbearable, he’ll curl himself in the crook of my knees and the warmth of his body makes falling back asleep easier.
When accompanied by nightmares, I find myself more susceptible to panic attacks. They ignite the deepest and darkest of my fears into tangible semi-realities, and like monsters lurking in the darkness of a child’s closet, I feel trapped. Frozen in my own skin, mentally incapable of a clear thought. I imagine the magnification of this feeling 400x over is just a fraction of what mental illness feels like. Everything about it makes me sad…when you are alone, lost in your own thoughts and self-talk, fighting an invisible pain, your emotional sensitivity heightened–everything is out of sync, and seems so much larger and impossible than it really is.
An eternity seems to pass before my mind and body can relax. It takes a day or two for me to get back to normal. My body weak, my mind vulnerable, I feel subdued. I think back to the irrational thought and fears, and can’t help but feel foolish for being so afraid. The memory of the migraine leaves an indelible impression in my psyche; but that too, like the residuals, eventually fades and disappears.
I wish I had the luck of Lewis Carroll, the famous writer suffered through his migraines and found Alice in Wonderland. I keep chasing the Mad Hatter down the rabbit hole looking for a blessing beyond this curse.