I’ve always had headaches. Seriously, ever since I can remember I’ve had them. In high school, the doctors thought it was because I needed glasses. So I got glasses. Still got headaches. The older I got, the more severe they got until I had the classic migraine – flashing lights, nausea, photophobia – the whole nine yards. These necessitated trips to the emergency department and 3 different (massive) shots. They’d give me anti-nausea meds, anti-dilation meds, and pain meds. On those trips, all I wanted was to be back in my own bed with a waste paper basket next to me.
Between my 2 kids, they changed to visual disturbances. The first one made me think I was having a stroke. These start as a pinpoint in the center of my eye (usually only 1). The pinpoint gets bigger and bigger until it moves out of my vision altogether. The thing sort of looks like a backwards, vibrating C, shot through with metallic colors (green, blue, red, and silver). There’s usually no pain, but it feels like someone closed all the windows in my head and started smoking cigars in there. Disorienting, but I can function.
About 3 years ago, the classic migraines came back. I went to the doctor and asked for some of those new triptan drugs. And they work – with a couple of caveats:
- You have to KNOW you’re having a migraine and get the meds on board within a few minutes or the vessels dilate and there’s no stopping them. Then you just take giant pain meds and hope for the best (which for me is a pretty intense headache that lasts for about 3 days).
- If you’re NOT having a migraine, you get a giant rebound headache from the meds. So you end up taking milder pain meds and it goes away after a couple of hours (or a day at the most).
Here’s what I know about my migraines:
- They’re cyclical, so they’re tied to my hormone levels. Since I no longer have the equipment that tells me my hormones levels are fluctuating, I forget about them. Which sometimes leaves me without my meds nearby.
- Sometimes, food tastes funny. Not bad, just “off” somehow. A couple of months ago, nothing tasted right about 2 days before the headache started. I knew it was coming, so I was ready for it, but it doesn’t always happen this way.
- About 1 in every 6 headaches is going to throw me right on my ass. I am literally in bed with an eye mask and a clear path to the bathroom because all I’ll be doing for 3 days is sleeping and vomiting.
- Wine can sometimes trigger them if I drink without also drinking a glass of water for each glass of wine.
- They mostly occur on the left side of my head, but will occasionally swing to the right.
Is it time for me to have another talk with my doctor about these? I don’t know. I can usually cope. During the epic ones, I swear I’m going to talk to her. Then it passes and I’m fine again for a while. The thing is, there isn’t really a hard and fast pattern – no way of knowing the classic ones from the visual ones until they hit.
I also have to say, those of you who don’t get them don’t understand. I work with people who say they’ve never had a headache (lucky). Then there are those people who think you’re shirking when you’ve moving slow because there’s a vise crushing your head. They can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist.
I’m on day 3 of the cycle today. Didn’t have the meds on Monday, so I suffered. When I get home, I’m going to lie down in a dark room, keep flipping my pillow over to the cool side, and be happy that I escaped with a mild one this time.