I’m going to detail one of my migraines for you. I’m in no way looking for sympathy, I’ve had them all my life and thankfully I only get them say, once every three or four months nowadays. There were times I would get one a fortnight. They’re absolutely awful and I appreciate people differ dramatically. I’m not trying to better anyone else or say I have things worse than them, this is what it’s like for me. If there’s anything I’d like people to take away from this, it’s this.
A migraine is not a headache. It’s not something you can man up to. You cannot just work through it. It is a debilitating condition that completely destroys your function to operate. Women are affected by migraines far more than men, 16% of women can expect to receive migraines, men only 5% (I’m a man). Please take this point on board.
Everyone is different. If we get a migraine the trigger is often different too. For me, it’s light. The trigger is always a change from dark to light, I’ll be walking down a corridor, there will be a flicker of light as I enter a brighter area. Bingo. We’re on.
I know it’s starting because my vision will blur. I can look at things and see them but the detail has gone. This is liveable but it’s essentially a warning sign. It’s telling me to start closing things down, I need to get home. I can stay in this state for up to one hour. I can’t read during this period or use a computer (these are both major aspects of my job).
The next stage then starts. this is a horrible part of the process. I will get a flickering at the outer edges of my vision. This is the sign that I am in for a shitty time and is absolutely the key indicator that I need to find a safe place. My vision will clear up but I will see coloured waves of light on the edge or one or both eyes. One eye usually means things will be worse. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m not on my way home at this point, I’m in serious trouble. I have started throwing up on my bike on the way home before now. Not fun.
OK, so I’m on my way home. Vision flickering. If I’m on my bike I have an hours journey. If I’ve been slow to react then driving may be a problem and I may consider stopping and calling for help (it’s happened a few times), if I’m cycling I’ll muddle along. But lets forget anecdotal stuff, if we assume I’m home for THE DEATH STAGE then we’ll get on just fine.
Right, I’m home. What I need to do now is prepare. I’ll mutter at anyone who is home what is happening, they’ve seen this many times. Anything that needs cancelling will happen, they get it. I drink a load of water, say 3-4 pints, I take too many Ibuprofen. Time to hole up. I head upstairs, put a bucket by the bed, put a pint glass of water by the bed. By this time my vision has grown dark. I can certainly still see things, but that is coming to an end. I grab a towel and soak it, curtains closed, get into bed. Here we go.
My vision will slowly fail. It’s like night falling only faster. It will cumulate in shadows and blobs of light. Now the pain starts. With the pain comes nausea, with nausea comes vomit. The pain is centred around the base of my skull but now it spreads. It spreads to my forehead and my neck and thence down my spine. If I’m going to throw up it will be now as things really begin. Luckily this need ends quickly, errm maybe. The pain spreads down my spine, explodes in my middle back. Now it’s time to shutdown. If I’ve not got myself in bed with a cold, wet towel over my face then tough, because it’s all over now.
A nuclear bomb, in my chest. With lines of communication into my head, bollocks and fingertips. It burns up from the inside, it destroys everything it touches. It is all-encompassing…
Wake up…. 8 hours later….
Imagine you’ve met Chuck Norris. Imagine Chuck was in a particularly vindictive mood and had just been on the lash immediately after a new martial arts technique course designed to inflict the most pain possible on a person without killing them and then he met you and took a dislike to you and beat you up. Now you know how I feel.
It is like you’ve been beaten up by someone who is really up for beating you up. And who really like giving punches to the body. And the head. And the arse. And everything else. Waking up from a migraine is like being born again, through a colander and then a sieve, and then a punching machine…and a kicking machine…. and one of those machines they use to de-lung cows.
This is what it’s like waking up after a migraine. It’s impossible to do anything during the migraine, it’s extremely difficult to do anything for 5-6 hours after waking up from a migraine. It’s not a headache, people don’t just get them, they either have the condition or they don’t and almost a fifth of women get them.
It is not a headache.