LIVING WITH MIGRAINES
I Can’t See Clearly Now Migraine’s Come On
That no one dies of migraine seems to someone deep in an attack as an ambiguous blessing.― Joan Didion, The White Album: Essays
How do you describe the aura of a migraine to someone who hasn’t experienced one?
There may be sparks, zigzags, blind spots. Your vision may blur, flash, or ripple. Sometimes for me is when it is like a computer screen saver kicked in and the picture I view has gotten cut into random shapes. Tthose shapes are floating and rotating nearish to their original position but not quite locking into place.
Or I will look at things and realize I’m not seeing everything. The missing bits aren’t black or blank they just don’t exist. I can’t quite explain this one because there is no physical way to represent it. It is very disorienting.
For me, it usually starts at the edges of my vision and then moves to the center as things become more intense. There is a brief moment of questioning, “is this a migraine aura,” and then it is clear. Well, not clear as far as vision goes. So very not clear vision, but clearly, it is a migraine.
“Uh oh, my eyes have gone wonky again. Must be a migraine coming on,” is what I usually say to loved ones. This prompts a mad scramble to find and ingest ibuprofen and lie down in a quiet dark room with an icepack as soon as possible.
The whole family knows the drill. The aura is the first sign. If I can get ahead of it there is a chance the coming headache will be mild. Quick action can be the difference between an hour or two of mom out of commission or a day of excruciating pain followed by a day of recovery. In other words, act fast people and there is a chance mom’s headache doesn’t derail all family plans for the foreseeable future.
My migraines started with puberty. The pattern was clear. Wonky eyes→nausea and vomiting→blinding pain on one side of my head→sleep→mild headache→a day of feeling sluggish and generally crappy.
Back in those days, an aura was certain to be followed by a full-blown painful headache. I would ask to be picked up from school at the first sign of funky vision hoping one of…