Category Archives: migraines

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Ho, ho, bloody ho

OK – I am going to whinge now.

It takes more than one day to prepare for Christmas, though not much more.

My Christmas preparations are modest compared with many people’s (an evening each for the pudding, the cards and the tree, and an afternoon for buying presents if you pick your emporium well, and an evening to wrap them). They are also expressly designed to keep me out of shops and to avoid giving money to Amazon.

However, if done, ’tis best done early. And this year circumstance, exhaustion, commitments and illness have prevented me doing the things I enjoy (decorate the tree, go to midnight mass, make a pudding for next year) and have made the ones done out of duty stressful and late.

If I can’t do things I enjoy with people I love, then my ideal Christmas really is a cheque given to Shelter or Streetwork, (and these days to my local Foodbank) and a retreat with the Buddhists so I can rest, think, and re-calibrate myself for the year ahead.

Merry Christmas. Next year om mani padme hum.

Migraines 6 – five days and counting

I’ve posted elsewhere about migraines. In particular I have posted about the idea that we are a prey species, and migraines hunt us down and feast on our open brains, our pain dripping down from their bloodied jaws.

Well, now I’ve discovered that the migraine is not only a mighty hunter, it’s a mighty hunter with a grudge. It’s been months since I’ve had a migraine – the last time I posted on the topic was over a year ago.  Yes, at the end of last year I was burning the candle at both ends, and at the beginning of this year I just threw the bloody candle on the fire and admired the pretty flames. I was well aware that the only things keeping me going were beta-blockers and triptanes.

On Saturday the dam gave way. Today is Wednesday. You do the math.

In fairness there have been gaps (I’m in one now) and they have been Level 1 – 3 migraines. But even so.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I grade my migraines thusly:

Level 1 – pain on one side of the head, slight feeling of nausea, can think clearly
Level 2 – as above, but mental processes numbed
Level 3 – as above, but with moaning and occasional vomiting
Level 4 – it seems like a good idea to walk about because that way you may leave the pain behind
Level 5 – as above, but you try to knock the pain out of your head by banging it against a wall

Interestingly, triptanes will often relieve the pain but leave your mental processes haywire, so you feel ok but are very disengaged: an Aphra-shaped automaton-zombie-creature. Or whatever shape you actually take in the universe, of course.

I really do want to be free of this tomorrow.

And yes, I have been to see the doctor. Doh.

Migraines 5 – Aura

I am sure that everyone who has migraines experiences a different aura, but mine usually look something like this, or near enough.  Oddly enough, the auras come and go with no real connection to the headaches, nausea and vomiting of green slime. Thought I’d share.

Aphra Migraine

Migraines 4 – Headbanging

I can tell when one of them has scented me out and is tracking me. We are a prey species, however much men like to think of themselves as mighty hunters. Douglas Adams knew it when he defined “ely” (which is pronounced “eelee”) as “the first, tiniest inkling you get that something, somewhere has gone terribly wrong.” We can tell.

There’s a word he didn’t define though, for the first, tiniest inkling you get that a migraine has found you. That it has sniffed you out from the whole of the rest of migraine-suffering humanity. That it is hunting you down, waiting to stroke you and suffocate you. Waiting to turn you into pain, hallucinations and vomiting.

Then, like a victorian parent, the migraine will sit beside you on the bed smoothing your forehead and telling you kindly that it is for your own good. It is because you have been doing to much, driving too far, working too late. If you won’t take a rest, it says with benign sanctimony, then I will make you take a rest. You know you need a rest. You know you need me.

Triptanes help. If triptanes were not proof of the efficacy of science, they’d be proof of the beneficence of a god. But the only real defence, and the only real cure, is sleep.

I bargain with my migraines. “Look”, I say. “I’ll take this little tablet today, but tomorrow I’ll spend the whole day in bed. I know you are right,” I say slyly, “I do need to rest. But I am busy today. Spare me today. Please”.

Sometimes it works.

Migraines 3

You wouldn’t think lying in bed sleeping would be this exhausting.

I am not sure if it is the migraine itself, or if it is the triptane, which I took too late to be effective.

Either way, I have spent the last 36 hours dreaming great long complicated convoluted dreams, mostly about work. I guess it is a good sign that they are mostly about work, since it suggests that the rest of my ducks are in satisfactory rows. It’s odd when one dreams in Visiothough.

I wonder if Microsoft could sue me for running an unlicensed copy in my head?

Migraines 2

I’d love to write a piece of prose-poetry about migraines, famous sufferers, early diagnoses, traditional cures, but d’you know? – I don’t really want to. I’ve spent too much of my adult life dodging migraines. It is like dodging bullets but you move considerably more slowly.

Triptanes. For me triptanes are where it’s at. They have been life transforming. Yeah, yeah, I know about eating feverfew and not eating chocolate, I know about avoiding triggers, I know about keeping a migraine diary, I know about cold pads and hot pads. So please don’t go there, ok. Really. These are my migraines not your migraines so please back off. (Isn’t that possessive interesting? Do you think I can be bothered to explore that idea right now?)

It would be easier if they started with auras. Oddly, although I sometimes get get visual disturbances in the form of bright zig-zag lines across my vision, they are unconnected with pain or nausea and pass in about 20 minutes or so. They make it impossible to read road-signs or menus or do any work, but they are otherwise pretty and harmless.

The pain is an entirely separate thing and it starts very gently; it strokes me softly above the eyebrow and touches me lightly down one side of my neck, like a nineteenth century despoiler of virgins. And then sounds become too loud, light becomes too bright, and – if I am lucky – I throw up and throw up and throw up. Bile is interesting stuff. No really.

Triptanes, it seems, work on a different model from other anti-migraine medications. They are symptomatic: no pain, no sono- or photophobia, no nausea, but apparently they don’t change the electrical disturbances in the brain which are the true triggers of migraine. In other words, you still have a migraine, you just don’t know you are having one. Which explains why I feel either washed out or knocked sideways afterwards.

Triptanes. Life transforming. Discuss them with your doctor or your pharmacist.

Migraines 1 – Half a head is better than none

I had a migraine yesterday.

I’ve not had a migraine for two months, though I had a spate of them day after day at the end of March because of some new medication I was on. Not having migraines is wonderful, and the horse pills that I’ve been prescribed to take at the onset of a migraine have been life-transforming. I’d kinda forgotten how intrusive they are.

I had a headache across my eyes yesterday and around the back of my skull, but it wasn’t the familiar half-head (hemi-cranium) of the migraine, so I took a couple of ibuprofen and hoped for the best. A few hours later I had to admit that although the headache didn’t feel familiar, the sense of nausea and distance did, and I realised that if we didn’t get in the car and go to Morrisons right now we’d be foodless and milkless until some unpredicted time on Sunday.

The one I spend my weekends with did the shopping while I stood in the carpark wondering if I could face going to the loos in Morrisons to throw up and realising that I Could Hear Every Sound With Crystal Clarity. The sonophobia is the worst thing about having migraines in a public space. Throwing up on the street is as nothing compared with losing one’s ability to filter out extraneous noise.

When he’d finished doing the shopping we set off for home, only a couple of miles, but I’d made sure I’d located an old carrier bag just in case. About half way there I pulled over, got out the bag and sat in the driver’s seat throwing up. Breakfast isn’t improved by being seen again at six in the evening. All the while, there he was, sitting patiently in the passenger’s seat, reading a magazine. I didn’t dare laugh. Choking on breakfast would only have caused annoying and unnecessary delays.

We got home. I went to bed with the bin from the bathroom. He spent the evening on-line. We missed Doctor Who. I slept. Today I am in that washed out space I occupy after a migraine. They feel wonderful after the event. But it’ll be a long time before I forget the sheer Englishness of parking up at the side of the road, one person vomiting and the other person reading a magazine.