The beat goes on

Xarcadia on migraine:

I have spoken to a lot of people who have migraines and who have suffered from this illness for months or years. After having seen doctors who prescribe medications that don’t work on a consistent basis migraneurs begin to get disheartened. If you see the wrong doctor, or the wrong type of doctor, or just too many doctors who don’t know what they are talking about — eventually this begins to cause a feeling of despair to emerge. Your perspective changes from “Well one day I will get the right medication and this pain will finally end” to “Well, I suppose this is my life, so I had just better learn to deal with being in pain all the time”. The realization that you are probably going to be in pain for the rest of your life is staggering. You think of all the days ahead of you and wonder what the point is if you are just going to get up and be in pain every day. Why bother? May as well just stay in bed. You can’t really enjoy anything, food has no flavour and you worry that you will throw it up anyway. You can’t go out and socialize anymore and slowly your network of friends shrinks until there is no one left. If you have a really really bad day at work, you can’t just come home and have a glass of wine to unwind if you choose to, because now it may no longer be a choice. One glass (or even half of one) may be enough to trigger a migraine that could last for weeks. It is an extremely isolating feeling.

What’s scary is how close this is to traditional depression — except for the blinding pain. “And if all I have to look forward to is more of the same, then the best I can hope for is not having to live through it,” said I; add to that the incessant pound, pound, pound, and I’d be almost ready to look through the PDR to see if I had the right combination of ingredients on hand to put myself out of my misery.


  1. fillyjonk »

    6 February 2009 · 2:45 pm

    I get (rare) migraines. (Rare enough that I prefer not to take the pre-emptive medications as they can have some nasty side effects in rare cases).

    Part of the horror of a migraine is that it does, quite literally, mess with your head: I’ve read that many migraineurs experience a distinct feeling of dread as part of an attack – and it is a dread separate from the simple “Aw, hell, I’m in for a couple of hours of horrible pain again.” It’s more of an existential dread; something totally non-rational.

    I’ve noticed that myself. On one occasion, with a particularly bad attack, I honestly wondered if I might not be having an aneurysm instead, and whether I might have a stroke and die right there in bed, and no one would know I was missing until I didn’t show up for class. And whether I should call for an ambulance or if they’d just laugh at me. Or if I could (horror of horrors) manage to drive myself, migraine and all, to the ER. (I vomited shortly after and the migraine went away. One of the peculiar things of my migraine attacks is that when I throw up, I know it’s almost over. So in this one case, vomiting is actually a welcome symptom.)

    I will say I am tremendously grateful that in about 85% of recent attacks, taking one of the over-the-counter migraine-specific preparations seems to knock the migraine out, or at least reduce it to a tolerable level.

  2. xarcadia »

    6 February 2009 · 4:57 pm

    Wow filly, you took the words right out of my mouth. Its only after years of training that I have stopped suffering from that dread. I know exactly what you are talking about though. I remember earlier on when I was in my twenties I would get them and think that if I died of an aneurysm no one would know for at least a week. My brother has the same thing with the vomiting though. He actually used to make himself throw up when he was younger to make them go away. It was awful, poor kid. Unfortunately for me, mine have no tell tale “I’m leaving you” signs!

  3. Tatyana »

    6 February 2009 · 6:00 pm

    When I was pregnant with my son, somewhere in 2nd trimester, I had these dreadful (here’s that word again) episodes, caused, as I understand now, by anemia and/or low blood pressure: I would suddenly become very dizzy, the ceiling would fall on me, sounds change their cadence and became din from a distance, vision unfocused. Everything around me was flattened into one plane, and parallel to it there would be others, sometimes colored in violet-blue or metallic gray – as if I was looking in store window on a sunny day. All sense of grounding in the world disappeared; sometimes I was so terrified, I’d grab walls and grass around me, for safety.

    After some time experiencing these I learned to recognize the [joyous] signs of the end of the torment: a terrible headache, beating in my right temple, spreading quickly over back of my head. All I had to do was to wait through 2-3 minutes of it, and then it was over. I was myself and everything – in its rightful place again.

    But if your migraine is anything like that headache that I remember, and it lasted for more than 10 min, even without the preceding dizzying episode, I don’t think it would be bearable. A kind of torment that turns people into wailing animals.

  4. Charles Pergiel »

    6 February 2009 · 9:58 pm

    I just read in a blog somewhere about a guy who would get headaches triggered by chocolate. I have a friend with the same problem, though I don’t know if they were migraines.

    As for doctors, a psychiatrist once told me: it ain’t rocket science. Best you can do is make a stab at it and see what happens. If things are better, good. You did something right. If not, try something else. I don’t think they have a clue as to what causes them.

  5. CGHill »

    6 February 2009 · 10:03 pm

    Close as I get to chocolate-induced headaches comes from scarfing down a couple scoops of Rocky Road too fast for conditions.

    One of these days we need to codify exactly what is rocket science.

  6. fillyjonk »

    7 February 2009 · 9:46 am

    I’ve also gotten what are called ocular migraines. I personally find them scary, even though I now know what they are and that they are self-limiting. (The first time I had one, I had to have the eye doctor send his nurse out to drive me to the emergency appointment I made; I was afraid I was going to suddenly go blind).

    One of my colleagues gets them, too, but his response is different – he says he sits down, cracks open a beer, and “plays” with the strange visual sensations, seeing how much of his vision is blacked out.

    (Ocular migraines for me either amount to it looking like there is crumpled up cellophane in front of one of my eyes, or heavy dark zigzag lines through the top of my field of vision. It annoys me because almost everything I do requires vision, so I can’t just sit down and “relax” with a book or anything; reading is distinctly distressing when my eyes are that screwed up.)

  7. Tatyana »

    7 February 2009 · 9:54 am

    FJ: what an exceptional doctor! Nobody, but nobody in NY will send their nurse to DRIVE a patient to the office, emergency or not.

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