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The other day I was talking to someone and they said their friend had a migraine. Having suffered that pain myself I sympathised with them. I said “Is your friend in bed?” and they replied, “Nah, they’re just watching some TV, just relaxing.”
I confess I was puzzled but I didn’t say more, just sympathised again and the conversation moved on. Why was I puzzled? As I say, I’ve suffered the appalling migraine experience before myself and the “Nah, they’re just watching some TV, just relaxing.” scenario was as far removed from my migraine experience as the earth is from Mars. I didn’t understand how anyone with a migraine could possibly be relaxing and watching TV.
I thought I’d try to find words to describe my migraine experience but the last one was, thankfully, some years ago and I didn’t think I could accurately describe the experience today. But I remembered that, not long after my migraine I had another headache but although it was bad it wasn’t as bad as the migraine. I remembered I had written down my thoughts (the writer in me knows stories can come from anywhere) so I went in search of those notes and, with a few minor revisions, I have reproduced them here. It happened when I was working in a bookstore some years ago and, having had no previous migraine experience, I had no idea what was happening, I just new it was terrifying. These were my thoughts at the time:
Headache, splitting headache, building and building, ripping through me.
Pain, nothing but pain, just to the right on my head, just above my right eye.
I don’t think it’s migraine bad, bad but not that bad, for which I’m grateful. I’ve had migraines several times in my life and I have every sympathy with anyone who gets them, suffers them more regularly.
I was behind the counter at the book store and I was began seeing silver stars before my eyes. These were causing silver spots in my vision that I literally couldn’t see through. That was very frightening as it gave me the sense I was gradually losing the sight in my eyes. I could sense a growing pain, a nip, a spark, piercing, like the needle point of a syringe being thrust into my eyes and forehead. But I’d never had a migraine before so didn’t know what it was.
I went to the staff room for a break. There was only me and the assistant manager there. I couldn’t hold a conversation, I kept slurring my words. I started to say something and lost the words mid sentence. It was as if my cognitive ability to continue the most basic of sentences simply shut off after the first few words. I kept telling him I couldn’t finish the sentence. I knew there was something weird going on but I didn’t know what and he must have thought I was a bit mad.
I went back to the shop floor then maybe ten minutes later went back upstairs to the staff room, found the assistant manager and told him my head was killing me, was getting worst, I couldn’t function, I could barely walk in a straight line and needed to go home. He took one look at me and told me to go. He told me afterwords I had looked clammy and pale and my face had a creased look like I was in constant pain.
I stood at the bus stop for thankfully no longer than five or ten minutes all the while struggling with increasing pain. Now it felt like someone taking the needle point of the syringe and jabbing it again and again into my forehead, relentlessly. I climbed to the top deck of the bus, bumping into the walls surrounding the spiral stairs as I climbed. I think I may have collapsed on the street if the bus hadn’t come when it did. I got home, head now feeling like it was literally splitting open. I went straight to bed but sleep was impossible. I just lay there, absolutely still. I tried pressing my hands to my head but that just increased the pain. Even moving my head just a little to the left or right caused the pain to spike. I couldn’t watch TV or listen to music as my sight and hearing were so sensitive I had to shut everything out.
My dad gave me strong painkillers but unfortunately now that the migraine was in full sway there was nothing I could do but lay still on the bed (any movement, any tiny movement, caused biting pain in my head). I was like that for two or three days and was then violently sick in the bathroom sink. It felt like the whole insides of my head were bursting out, the pressure on my forehead was so utterly intense. After that the migraine started to ease and a day or two later I began to feel normal again and I have rarely felt so relieved in my life.
That is the experience I had with my migraine headache. It is the worst physical pain I have ever had and even now, when I feel head pain that’s worse than a ‘normal’ headache, I get scared because I would run a mile from that pain now.
My own migraine experience is also why I never understand it when I hear that someone ‘has a migraine’ but are ‘watching the television’ or ‘just relaxing’.
I’ve not done a great deal of research into it but I believe there are different levels of migraine pain and there is also strong medication you can take as both a preventative measure when you feel a migraine coming on, and also when it is already in full flow, though I’m not quite sure how much even strong medication could help if the migraine is in full flight. That’s a scary thought for me, that when it’s in full flow, you ‘just’ have to wait it out till it passes of its own accord. Maybe you know of medicine that does actually speed it’s passing? For future reference.
Any thoughts, comments etc welcome.
Thanks for reading 🙂