It's scary when your head hurts so badly that you can literally FEEL that a vein IN YOUR BRAIN is swelling up, causing clusters of neurons to cry out in agony. It makes your stomach turn inside out. It totally exhausts you so that taking a single step requires an act of will. You lie there helpless for hours, for days maybe, and hopefully your special pills from the doctor will work. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes the headache takes on a life of its own, and it won't be controlled, it won't be reigned in, and your only choice is to huddle your poor head between two pillows, pressing an ice pack to your temple, and just pray for time to go by quicker.
I had a headache like this on Sunday. It really started Friday night, but it was late when I felt the first pulls inside my skull, so I took a prescription pill and went right to bed to sleep it off. Or so I thought. The next morning I woke up and, since it was Saturday I had time to myself while my husband played with my kids, so I ignored the slight ache in my head, and took myself to breakfast, and then took my dogs for a nice stroll in the woods, thinking a little food and nature would be restorative. But by the time I got back home, I felt shaky, so I decided I better lie down and take it easy. I figured I wasn't dealing with a migraine, I was dealing with a migraine hangover. And in most cases, I would have been right. I've never had a migraine last for longer than a day. That night I endured a headache while I put the kids to bed. (Hubby got to go out with friends, only fair after he took care of the kids all day, and I was glad he had the chance for some fun of his own.) I watched a little trashy TV before I finally went to bed myself.
The next morning I woke up, made breakfast for the kids, and realized by the shaking of my hands and the spike in my head: I had a full on migraine. I took a pill, which is usually enough to make it better, and lie down. Hubby took the kids out for some fun. And I waited for it to get better.
And I waited.
It didn't get better. And I had taken my last pill. And my husband was gone.
At some point, with a migraine like this, when you've run out of pills, you begin to cry. For about an hour, I let the tears come as I pressed an ice pack to my head. I called in a refill for my pills, and texted my husband to please go get them. He did, but I had to wait, and that was not an easy wait.
The second pill took the edge off. I was able to kiss my kids goodnight before going right back to bed. I slept through the night, and then had a weird migraine hangover that lasted another twenty four hours, which included foggy thinking, poor muscle coordination, and knock-you-down dizziness. But the worst was over.
There are supposed to be four stages of a migraine: the Prodrome, where you don't feel quite right; the Aura, where you might see things or have ringing ears; the Attack; where you lie helpless in all encompassing pain; and finally the Postdrome, or hangover, where you feel foggy, confused, and SORE. But I submit there should be a fifth and final phase, which is the Aftermath. Every migraine is so painful and scary and isolating that when you finally come out of it, the world looks different. You feel unbelievably lucky to be able to walk across the room without leaning on the wall. You can look out the window at a sunny day without feeling like someone with long fingernails is pinching your optic nerves. You feel grateful it's over, and incredibly relieved, and yet. And yet.
You will get another one. Sometime in your future another headache is lurking. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. It's impossible not to feel afraid.
If you have a friend who suffers from migraine, or a family member, you can help, but just a little. Make the room dark and quiet. Bring them ice packs. Bring them cups of cool water to sip. Don't touch them. Don't speak. Above all don't make them talk.
If you suffer from migraines like me, I'm here, buddy. I know.