Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Damaged Goods

I get migraines.

I've had them since I was a little girl. I have this very clear memory of being in 4th grade and asking my teacher to let me call home because of one, and she kept saying, "You just need to relaaaax. You'll be fiiiiine."
"You don't understand..." I tried to explain.
I had to wait until the Spanish teacher came in to the class and my regular teacher left so I could go to the office and call home.
I hated my fourth grade teacher forever.

I've always felt like it's something I have to explain, like I have this pre-existing condition that can pop up at any time, sometimes without warning, and completely knock me out, make me totally incompetent, paralyzed, useless, helpless.

It's inevitable that if you've known me for any given period of time, you know I get these headaches with some regularity. So my husband had been "forewarned" when we started dating. My very first migraine with him was memorable: sudden, acute, and accompanied by vomiting. Sexy.

"Teach me how to help you," he had said. (It's easy to see why I fell so hard, huh?)

After 10 years, he doesn't need to ask. He knows the routine, even for the most severe ones: ice pack for the head, Tiger Balm for the temples, bucket of hot water for the feet (according to my Chinese medicine doctor), prescription medication, neck rub, dark room, and assurances that I'll be okay.

He has never complained, but I have always felt guilty. I can't help but wonder how much he dreads those words: "I'm getting a headache." My migraines can't be helped, but still, they're an imposition. They make me an imposition. They make life come to a screeching last weekend when our Friday date night plans were replaced with the aforementioned routine. He must think it: "Here we go again." I know I do.

And I so resent that in this world of tension headaches and computer neck strain and general stress, the word "migraine" has become almost like a catch phrase. People throw it around to signify a "bad headache." How often I've heard, when I'm in the throes of one, no less: "Oh yeah, I know how you feel. I get the woooorst headaches..." or "Ugh, I had such a migraine the other day, I went home and had to have a glass of wine."


No, you do not have "the worst headaches," and no, you did not have a migraine if you went home and cured yourself with alcohol. Lord knows, this girl likes herself a cocktail almost more than anyone, but when I have even the slightest hint of a headache, alcohol is the last thing on my mind. And I'm certainly not saying other people around are not entitled to their aches and pains, but those of us who suffer from actual, real migraines sorta know those around us who suffer from actual, real migraines, too. It's like a twisted, sad, sympathetic, resigned private club.

I've tried it all: meds/no meds, more exercise/less exercise, identifying triggers, keeping my sugar balanced, stress-relief, meditation, chiropractors, acupuncture, neurologists.... Some of it helps. Sometimes. Other times, like the last 2 weeks, nothing seems to help. I feel like I'm walking around, waiting (which, I know, probably makes it all worse), praying, hoping, and literally being aware of the absence of pain.

I realize that along the spectrum of chronic medical "issues," I can not complain. Most of the time, I manage. But pain really has a way of seeping in to your soul, tearing up your spirit and your resolve a bit, sucking the joy out of your everyday. And, not to mention, it can really piss you off.


  1. I started getting migraines about ten years ago. They mostly came and went with my cycle, so they were fairly predictable. Then they started coming when I would get stressed out (less predictable). When I got married, they came a lot more often. When my husband's kids moved in the migraine roosted permanently. That was January 2003. They were coming out of an abusive household and I was determined to "save" them and my husband was determined to do nothing b/c it was outside his comfort zone. My goal then became to just hang in long enough to provide stabilitiy. I was convinced that when we divorced, my migraine would leave. Not so. The chronic stress severely damaged my adrenal gland and messed up my hormones and I am now stuck in this pain cycle. So, I am filing for SSD and I have a migraine EVERY day. Every day since January 2003. It is just a question of severity. Yeah, people with headaches tick me off. I live on pain pills. Take away my pain pills and I become a vomiting mess that requires hospitilization. So, I feel your pain. I resent my migraine too. It is a life stealer.

  2. I know. I understand. Here for you, whenever you need me...

  3. Those who have never experienced migraines have never experienced the full spectrum of pain, as far as headaches go. I get 'em all; sinus headaches, stress headaches, headaches related to colds, flu, fever and many other kinds of headaches. But like you, I have known the depths of agony that is... a migraine... many times. In fact, I spent almost two years without a life because of a migraine brought on by medications. I had reached a point where I was afraid I would die. Then, because of so much pain, I was afraid I wouldn't... die.

    'Course, I'm thankful that I survived such an ordeal, but you can be sure that you have found a place in my heart an' my prayers, forever. Hang in there. If there is ever any way I can help, please call on me.

    ~ Hugs from Yaya

  4. :-( I'm so sorry. I hope it gets better. A medication I was taking gave me migraines and man, I cannot imagine what it must be like to manage it over a lifetime. For what it's worth it helps when you're feeling like a burden to remember that you would do it for him if he needed it and it would just be part of life.

  5. Migraines really suck. You're lucky your husband is so supportive. My BF does not understand what happens, when I tell him, "I guess I'll be having a migraine", he mostly ignores it. (Which is fine, I can lie in the dark without his help, but he tends to come into the room, switch on the lights, make noise...)

    At least I'm off better than some people I know. The migraines started three years ago and have only slowly increased in frequency - from 2 per year to one every 1-2 months at the moment, and I am hoping to reduce them again in time... although I have no idea how to do that. If I happen to find a miraculous cure, I'll share! (^v^)

  6. I've never thrown the term migraine around in a cavalier way and I definitely won't now. I'm so sorry you suffer this way!

  7. I've never had a migraine - so I can't imagine how you must feel. Pain does have a way of sucking the joy out of life and I certainly can't imagine walking around waiting for it to pounce.

  8. My mom and I both suffer from serious migraines, so feel the pain here! Mine are now less frequent, but more severe, my favorite was when I was visiting friends and got sick right on the side of the road... and then stayed in bed for a few days. I'm wondering if that Botox cure would actually work... I can only imagine a pain free life. Your man is incredible to have asked how he could help you!

  9. I've only had one headache bad enough to warrant vomiting, and I have to say, it was completely debilitating. I had a complete shift of reality there--I don't know how people live with those things. :(

    I have a friend who swears by Botox. Really.

  10. Pain is almost more debilitating emotionally than it is physically. It can make you anxious or depressed. And losing sleep over it just exacerbates it. I'm so sorry. It sounds awful. Hope you are feeling better soon.

  11. I remember when I first got a migraine in school. It was eighth grade and I couldn't get to the nurse's office quickly enough. When Sweetie and I were first dating one came on full force and I went immediately to bed. He went immediately to get a cold cloth for my forehead and sat by my side explaining to me all the intricacies of baseball. There have been many, many migraines since, and he has never complained. And I have always felt inconvenienced. Sister, I hear you.

  12. I've never had a migraine (thank God), but I feel similarly about my anxiety. I've had anxiety since I was a little kid--thankfully it's under control now--but when people say "I had a panic attack" it sometimes makes me want to scream. A panic attack is not when you break down crying and struggle to breathe for a minute! A panic attack is when you LITERALLY think you are dying! Makes me crazy.

    Hoping hard that your two weeks of migraines subside. I imagine that it's horrible, especially when you have two little ones to take care of.


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