Since this is an issue I've been dealing with lately, I thought I'd write a quick post about migraines and what they mean in my life.
Migraines come in all different shapes and sizes, but they type I get are particularly weird -- they are often called Visual or Ocular Migraines, or "Migraine with Aura." When they hit, they hit hard and fast and pretty much ruin my entire day -- and oddly, the headache is the EASY part of the situation.
Plenty of people get multi-day headaches or intense headaches, and complain, "ZOMG, I have the worst MIGRAINE!" These claims drive me crazy -- you do not have a migraine, folks -- you have a HEADACHE.
When you are vomiting or slurring, then we'll talk.
I got my first migraine very young -- I think around age 12 -- my Dad gets them, and they are very hereditary, which explain why I was struck at such a young age. I will never forget it -- I was in the basement at our old old old house, looking at a picture on the wall, and suddenly, the picture had white spots on it -- whole chunks of the image that were suddenly missing. I had no idea what was happening. That is all I remember - I can't remember if during this instance I was sick to my stomach or had other symptoms. I just remember going to lie down in a dark room for the rest of the night.
The next one was in junior high school, and I had to be brought home from school early. It was a similar situation - suddenly one of my textbooks had white splotches where there used to be text.
I maybe had 1-2 more of these throughout my adolescence, and then they, oddly, went away all through college. I didn't get another one until my mid-20s, and since then I've gotten them a couple of times per year.
I had a migraine on Tuesday, and while it is still fresh in my mind, I'd like to take you through the experience. It is worth noting that I'm never exactly sure what my triggers are, and since I get them so infrequently, it is hard to pinpoint. But I can usually identify that they hit during a time that is sort of "the perfect storm" of triggers: weird food, changes in weather, hormonal changes / menstrual calendar, way too much processed food, red wine, sleep disturbance... oh, and stress; let's not forget that. Given all the stress of the past few weeks, somewhat weird eating, and weather that went from 95 to 66 and dry in a matter of days, it is no surprise that I've had TWO of these in the past ten days.
On Tuesday, I was volunteering in an exhibit booth at work, talking to lots of people passing by, about Target's social media initiatives, when suddenly two fingers on my left hand went totally numb, like when you lay on your arm wrong and it "goes to sleep."
"Crap," I thought. I knew -- right away -- what was happening. I'd had a mild headache and I texted The Hubs, "Uh, just a heads up that I think I feel a migraine coming on, and if I get one, I'm going to have to take a cab home or get picked up."
"Can you leave right now before it hits and work from home?"
I looked around in a panic, until I noted that the booth next to me had TWO volunteers from Target -- "Hey Eric -- I am so sorry to do this, but can you cover the booth for me? I'm getting sick, and I gotta go, right now."
"Of course" he said. "Go."
So I bolted. I did not go back to my desk to collect my things. I did not pass go. I did not collect $200. I had my purse with me, containing my keys, ID, and sunglasses, and I just walked across town, straight to my car. As I walked, I went through all the other usual markers: blurry vision, splotches, light sensitivity, nausea, looks like I'm viewing the world through jagged glass; confusion and disorientation; inability to recognize people... and then the truly horrible one, trying to call up a picture of my loved ones faces in my brain and not being able to imagine what they looked like.
THAT is the one that reduces me to tears, every single time.
By the time I got to my car, the aura was gone -- and now was time for the headache to set in.
I popped two Tylenol, got in the car, and drove home -- pulled into my driveway not a moment too soon... within 5 minutes, I was over the toilet, throwing up.
After about 15 minutes of that, I crawled into bed, exhausted -- completely and totally spent, as though I'd just done intense cardio-circuit training, or walked 10 miles or stayed awake for two days. My whole body was weak.
I collapsed into sleep, and didn't wake up for three hours.
And when I did, all I wanted was SUGAR -- coke, chocolate, anything to give me some energy, I assume. I made some soup and crackers and had a tall glass of lemonade (and a small container of frozen yogurt), and spent the rest of the day on the sofa. Despite my 3 hour nap, I still went to bed at 10 PM and slept straight through the night.
When I woke up on Wednesday, I had what I call the "hangover" from my migraine -- I didn't feel sick, I didn't feel horrible, I just didn't feel entirely RIGHT. Mild headache, and just weird feeling. I stayed at home long enough to be sure I wasn't going to have anymore visual disturbances, and then went into work. After a few hours, I felt perfectly fine, and have felt fine ever since.
The first time this ever happened to me, I was terrified -- and I am still a little bit scared every single time... but I hope that if you ever have an experience like this, you remember this post. Please talk to your doctor to rule out any other issues, but also don't completely freak yourself out. The first time it happened to be in adulthood, I thought I was having a stroke.
And please, the next time you have an annoying headache, don't refer to it as a migraine. ;-)
Off and running,