The Curse of the Migraine Strikes Again

It All Starts with the Eyes.

I’ve mostly been fortunate throughout my life to date in that I’ve yet to suffer from any serious illnesses or major mishaps. Other than a few concussions and one broken wrist, I can’t remember having to spend much time in the hospital; I’ve mostly been healthy, safe, and emotionally sound throughout my three and a bit decades on this Earth.

The one thing that I can complain about, and it’s not even that big of a complaint, really, is the migraines.

In fairness, my migraines are pretty bad, debilitatingly so when they occur. I’ve been getting them regularly since I was at least 13 (most probably younger, I honestly can’t recall), and they used to start with prolonged tingling sensations in my limbs. For whatever reason, that symptom seems to have mostly disappeared over the years.

Now they start with visual auras; big, unpleasant blurs or swirls in the middle of my eyesight, meaning I can’t see anything I look directly at clearly. I’d describe them further, but there’s a picture on the Wikipedia page for migraines that is unpleasantly accurate (I honestly start to feel sick just looking at it). I’ve included it below:

This is an unpleasantly accurate representation of what my auras are like

The auras last a good while before my head starts hurting. And both then continue together as the nausea slowly builds and the vomiting eventually begins.

The vomiting phase can last a long time. It comes in waves: huge, wrenching heaves between which it’s hard to breathe that tend to subside into feverish cold (the welcome respite, the eye of the storm). These cold patches break into uncomfortable warmth (hence the feverish) just before another round of vomiting, for want of a less vivid word, erupts.

The vomiting usually marks the end to the headache, and the auras for that matter, although my head still stabs with pain if I move it too quickly, like when I’m retching, for example. I tend to yearn for it to come. Not that the aforementioned dry heaving is pleasant or anything, but for some reason that I can’t quite explain, there’s something unbearable about those damn auras.

I usually feel low-level awful the next day. Imagine a mild hangover and you’re pretty close.

Migraines sometimes get called migraine headaches and I feel it gives people the wrong impression. It’s kinda like calling the flu an influenza sneeze. The headache is just one symptom out of many, and by focusing on it you’re apt to miss the others.

Honestly, for me (these things seem to be surprisingly personalised), the headache isn’t significantly worse than the rest of it. It’s a package. A horrible, seemingly unstoppable package tour to a day and a half of misery.

So why do I say it’s not even that big of a complaint (for me, that is)? Because, until this week, I’d get them roughly once a year.

I experienced one two months ago, and remember thinking, well, at least that’s me done for a while. But then I had another one this week. I’ve been suffering migraines for at least two decades and this is by far the shortest time I’ve ever had between any two. Honestly, it’s worrying me.

The one thing I keep thinking about when they’re happening is that it’ll be over after a few hours and a long day of recovery (made more bearable by my traditional insistence that pizza is recovery food) and then I’m free of this pain for another year, give or take a few months. They’ve been so regular over my life that I started to feel kind of safe in the knowledge that that’s how they would always be.

That’s why this one in particular is worrying me. It’s never happened like this before, and I don’t know if this is a one of, or if I’m going to have to get used to a new, significantly less dependable, norm.

On the plus side, it was probably the mildest migraine I’ve had to date, but that’s scant consolation if it means I can expect to suffer them more frequently from now on.

For now, I’m planning on seeing how things go, and if I suffer another one before, say, August, I’ll be heading to the doctor to see if there’s anything new that can be done about them. (I guess I forgot to mention, no one knows a great deal about why these things occur or how on Earth you stop them.)



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A blog about life, love, language, literature and lüyou in Shanghai, China and beyond. I’m a student, a translator, a husband, a human, or at least I try to be.