The Truth is Out There: Abducted by Migraines

I have experienced time-loss. You know, that thing that Mulder talks about when aliens do their wacky mojo on him and Scully, or on the guest star of the week. I might as well have been abducted by aliens yesterday. The effect on my life would be about the same.

Actually, come to think of it, alien abduction would likely be less excruciating, overall, than some of my migraines have been. Yesterday’s was a mid-grade attack. Fortunately, it’s been years since they’ve waged all-out war on me and kept me down for days.

If you’ve not experienced a migraine, you really can’t understand what it can do to a person. You can empathize, but you honestly have no clue. And if you have had them, you know what they can do to you,  but still may not comprehend another’s experience. Migraine seems to be quite individually expressed.

A headache is not a migraine. Don’t call them migraines.

No, not even if it’s a particularly bad headache. Sometimes I get really bad headaches, and they’re not migraines. Migraine involves headache, yes. The worst you can imagine, and then some. But it also involves the rest of the body.

Personally, my entire body aches with migraine. My digestion shuts down as well, so as soon as I realize a migraine is coming, I don’t eat. Less to throw up that way. Oh, yeah, by the way, I vomit during most migraines. Even if my stomach is empty. Sometimes it’s so bad that the slightest movement triggers the dry heaves. It teaches one to be still.

Sound hurts.

Light hurts.

And by hurts, I mean that someone pounding on my head with a blunt instrument would seem a kindness in comparison. Heavy curtains and some compassion from those living with you are very helpful. It also helps if they can remember to be quiet. If you can bear earplugs (I can’t) those can help. Oh, and being touched is sometimes excruciating, because everything just aches.

Some people get warning signs (referred to as an aura) so they know a migraine is coming. I used to be one of them.  The visual disturbances I experienced prior to my early migraines no longer gives me time to prepare – they are just suddenly upon me.

In the weeks leading up to my last big blow-out migraine a couple years ago, I had intermittent numbness and tingling on one side of my body, but I had no idea it was a warning sign of impending migraine until after the fact. It was like that pins-and-needles sensation you get when your leg “falls asleep.” Starting with my fingertips and my lips (just one side of my mouth) it would start slowly, the numbness and tingling pulsating on and off very slowly, then gradually spreading and getting closer together, until the entire right side of my body was painfully numb and tingling. The entire process would last about 15 minutes, including the gradual fading of the symptoms in the same manner they came. Slow and pulsing.

It was only when the episodes stopped, after three days of a migraine that kept me in bed, sweating profusely and vomiting ’round the clock, that it occurred to me that there might be a connection. Some internet searching confirmed that many people experience that exact warning sign. I’ve never had it again, and I hope I never do. My “usual” migraines are nowhere near that bad, and tend to last less than a day (although I always feel rather dreadful for an entire day after.)

The first time I had what was diagnosed (days after-the-fact) as a migraine occurred over 20 years ago. I was married, but had no children yet, and had gone back to my parent’s house in Ohio for a visit. I was driving my mom back home to North Perry, from the Cleveland hospital where dad was recovering from his second heart-bypass operation. Suddenly – and I really do mean SUDDENLY, the right side of my vision was gone. Just. Gone. Blacked out. I had previously done a stint as a receptionist at an eye clinic, so all I could think of was detached retina – I’m gonna go blind. But then I realized, my right eye wasn’t the problem. I’d lost vision on the right side in BOTH eyes, which I figured out after closing one eye at a time. Freaked. Me. Out. It was something in my brain.

At the same time, it felt like someone had plunged a knife an anvil into the back of my head, and that everything in my entire digestive tract was fighting its way back up to freedom. All of this happened in Cleveland’s evening rush-hour traffic, in an area with no place to pull over. Not that Mom could have taken over anyway, as she hadn’t driven in years due to Meniere’s Disease, which frequently caused her a sudden and total loss of balance. Not exactly great for Traffic Safety. Maneuvering into the slowest lane, I got us as far as my aunt’s house in Painesville. I dashed into the bathroom and revisited my lunch, thinking I was probably dying.

To make a long story short even longer, I did not die, and made an appointment to see my Very Nice Doctor ASAP about what happened. He said, “Classic migraine. When you can tell it’s coming, take 2 Tylenol AND 2 Advil AND hot coffee with sugar.”  Which I did. Well, I didn’t put sugar in my coffee, because that’s nasty, but I’d eat something sweet. This treatment sometimes helped them be Not So Dreadful, but never stopped them entirely. Another doctor, later on, gave me a couple different prescriptions, both of which Entirely Failed to do Anything. (To be honest, the coffee-sugar-Tylenol-and-Advil advice seemed more effective, and with fewer side effects.)

Eventually, the migraines became so frequent that another would begin before the previous one had entirely ended. At times, I’d be non-functional for days. Somehow, a book fell into my hands that gave me an idea: perhaps the 2 or 3 pots of coffee that I’d been consuming, each and every day, for years, might be a factor. This was difficult for me to grasp, as that Very Nice Doctor had told me to take coffee to stop the migraine. Hmmm.

I tried to go off coffee completely. Cold turkey. It gave me some empathy for what a junkie goes through in rehab. And, withdrawal from all that caffeine gave me more migraines. I decided it wasn’t worth it, and gave in. Had a cup or two. Or five. Then I made the more sensible decision to gradually wean myself from mainlining coffee to….not. I began replacing some of my daily cups of brew with Dandy Blend (made from dandelion roots. Roasted dandelion roots. I know, right?)  or Celestial Seasonings Roast-aroma, both of which were recommended to me by friends as Good Coffee Substitutes.


Ha. Ha. Ha.

Maybe they were Good Coffee Substitutes to someone who didn’t care much for coffee, after all, but for someone who’s motto was “Life’s too short to drink bad coffee” these were not even close to coffee. Not even bad coffee.

However, I found I could manage to psych myself out and drink them, sometimes, if I made myself look at them as strongly flavored herbal teas, instead of Good Coffee Substitutes. Gradually, I completely got off coffee, though not entirely off caffeine. I did have some black tea every day.

The migraines became fewer and farther between.

I did not stay completely off coffee, but now I severely limit myself, and I am very strict about it. I allow myself 16 ounces of regular coffee per day. Once in a great while, I’ll make a cup or two of decaf, later in the day, if I’m feeling a particular need that tea won’t fill. No, it’s not the same, and yes, I can taste a difference.

But even I can give up some taste if it keeps away the aliens.

Favorite word of the post: abduction
Least favorite word of the post: substitute

About Bobbie Laughman

May vanish if startled. Professional Advice Dispenser. Amateur Human Being. Scam Detector. Christian. Grandma. Writer-ish. Artistic leanings. Anti-social. Old School Trekkie. Contains Nuts.
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3 Responses to The Truth is Out There: Abducted by Migraines

  1. Mrs M says:

    Yes, I know those migraine headaches, the ones where you cannot think light, sound or movement (not just from yourself) are agonising, and those where you vomit within an inch of your life … only at that stage can you gain the relief and sleep for hours on end.. I understand your frustration about others who call what I would refer to as an inconvenient ache in my head a head ache!) a migraine – there is a signigicant difference. Aghhh! Why on earth do they do that!? There is no comparison!!!

  2. Kallie Waiki says:

    Muscle tension can cause headaches and by relaxing muscles, especially in the neck, it is possible to relieve migraine headaches. Once the technique is learned there is no longer any need for the biofeedback equipment. The patient with migraine headaches can now produce the desired effect any time they wish. Sometimes too much salt can cause headaches. And by simply lessening the salt intake headaches can sometimes be prevented. Some migraine headaches are caused by food sensitivities. Certain foods can cause migraines and eliminating these foods can prevent migraine pain. Some common foods that can trigger migraine headaches are cheese, alcohol, monosodium glutamate (a food additive), nuts, beans, caffeine, chocolate, onions and others.”

    Up to date blog post on our blog site

  3. Pingback: Don’t Let Up « Mindful Lifestyle – Devoted to Healing & Being

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