Thursday, October 7, 2010

When Migraines Attack


When I get a migraine, it feels precisely like a bird of prey has attached itself, not only to my left temple, but to the underlying muscles of my cranium as well.

The talons sink in deep and I am forced to deal with the bird attached firmly to my head. The weight of it causes me to walk at a slight angle, the flapping feathers cause my left eye to squint, and I continually rub my hand over the side of my head, hoping to loosen the grip of those razor-like claws, but to no avail.

My only hope lies in some small white pills that come packaged with seven pages of scary pharmaceutical language. The pills lesson the pain and, I believe, under normal circumstance would cause me to walk at an exaggerated angle to the right. However, the weight of the bird on my left evens out that effect, allowing me to walk somewhat normally.

Now, sometimes I am fortunate in that a mere kestrel, osprey or a medium-sized falcon comes. They stay only for a day or so and are skittish around the medicine. Occasionally a large barn owl comes, heavy and predicable, extracting his heavy claws after about two days. However, I am not always that lucky. Monday evening, for instance. That was when the Black-Chested Snake Eagle descended from the sky and dug his sharp claws into my head without warning.

Well…OK, there may have been warning, but it came disguised as a good time.

Here’s the way it works:

It started on Monday afternoon in my Intermediate Composition class. During that period of time I believed I might just have been the best teacher on earth. I hoisted that dry-erase marker and began to twirl it around the board, writing out brilliant examples, intricate sentences that I was sure would unlock the secrets of English Composition.

I felt that I had at that moment invented a method that would increase my students’ abilities to learn at an exponential rate. With my proven system, schools could shorten semesters to four weeks each, thereby covering all classes in the English spectrum in approximately one year. I beamed as I looked out at my students who sat, staring at me, apparently stunned by my genius. That text-messaging student in the back row was probably getting in touch with the Nobel folks to say, “Hey! Wait just one darn minute! I’ve got a winner for you!”

I was happy, happy, happy, as I walked back to my office. Did I mention I had also gotten better looking and my stomach had shrunk by about five inches? I went into my office wing and had some incredibly witty banter with my colleagues. Then I went home.

About ten minutes later, I felt the tips of the claws upon my temple.

Damn. Taken in again.

Here’s how it works: I get a feeling of euphoria a few hours before the migraine. Now, you would think that this might be a bit of a bonus and might serve as an early warning system. However, the insidiousness of the migraine is that at the very moment it express ships this little gift of euphoria, it inserts a fun house mirror between the synapses of my brain, so that at no time to do I suspect that there is a migraine on the way.

It blocks all warnings, all thoughts of dread of the approaching bird of prey. Instead, the roses, the champagne delivered at my door, distract me. I sit, still and naïve, playing with the jewels I have found strewn in my path as the bird flaps above, preparing the attack on me, the unsuspecting victim.

The irony is that there are times in my life when I just feel good. Things are going well. I feel unusually witty. My writing is flowing. I look at my pictures and think “Wow! That’s great” and then all the sudden I wonder. Oh no! Is there a migraine on the way? Is this feeling real?

Like the slightly insane man who sits outside the liquor store, I start scanning the skies for imagined winged creatures in the sky. Are they approaching? Is this just another trick? I know that if it were a real migraine, I would not recognize the euphoria for what it is and still I twitch as I search the skies…waiting, watching and listening for the flapping of those terrible wings.

70 comments:

Copyboy said...

Wow, no one has described a migraine quite like that. Ouch.

Daisy said...

I've felt them and you've described them perfectly. I haven't had any for quite a long while, fortunately. When they did hit, though, all I could do was crawl to my bedroom, darken out all light, and try to block out noise, any and every noise, and lie in a fetal position on my bed, and wait for it to go away. The pain is searing and brutal. Horrible. I'm so sorry to hear you suffer from these attacks. You're a brilliant writer and have captured the awfulness of them, but I'm sorry you had to know them in order to do it.

I hope today has been better for you. Hugs from Daisy.

Parsley said...

My daughter has been having migraines since age 9. It's terrible. She sometimes gets a sick stomach as her PRE-migraine aura.

Headaches that last for days and don't respond to Advil...if those are migraines I have them too.

Mamma has spoken said...

Up until tonight, I was unsure if I have ever had a migraine. Thanks to your graphic description, I now know that I haven't. Thank you God!!!!

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm so sorry you suffer from these. My mother in law and sister in law have been bothered by these two. But my friends swears hers have all but disappeared since she cut out red wine and chocolate. I don't know if I could be that good.

faye said...

Great post. Wish my migraines were
preceded by euphoria instead of
tuna melts... that brings one on
everytime.. you would think I would
just give up on tuna...but whats
the fun in that.!

Georgina Dollface said...

I think next to the pain of a migraine, the way it sneaks up on you is the worst part. The day could start out magically, everything is going well, I am on fire, I'm rockin' it. Little do I know that by lunchtime I'll be at home curled up on my bed with the lights out and a barf bucket by my bed. (And those are the 'normal' migraines) Hope you are feeling better soon. Take care. - G

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Such a gripping description of an attack of migraine. It sure feels too tightening and painful.

Joyful said...

I feel for you. Hugs xx

middle child said...

Excellent description. Sorry you have to know that though. It is hard to explain a migraine to someone who's never experience one. Hope you feel better. Peace.

Joe Cap said...

I am so sorry you have to go through these...do they last long? How often do you get them? Great description...your writing has NOT suffered...

Eyegirl said...

I hope you feel better soon!

Jimmy said...

Oh my goodness I can relate so much to this Betty, the only relief I get is by taking a couple of the red ones then one every hour until it's gone, yes there is a limit they make you stop at six but in the meantime I am in a dark room head buried in and covered by pillows blocking out all the light and sound possible.

Sorry you have to deal with this I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Sarah said...

I'm really glad my sinus headaches don't migrate. I don't think I want to experience your kind of headache.

Baby Sister said...

Aww Betty. I'm sorry. I hate migraines. And I hate the evil birds that cause them. I hope they leave you alone in the future.

Feel better!!

Old Kitty said...

Oh BB!! I am so sorry to hear that you suffer migraines!! But I have to say that this is one of the best descriptions of what it means to be a migraine sufferer - it's just beautiful! I never knew about the euphoric moments just before the attack - that's so cruel!! Oh please take those white pills, stay somewhere dark and tell those birds of prey to go roost somewhere far away please thank you very much!!!

Take care BB!!!!!!!!! x

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A very clever way of describing Migrainne, I hope you don't suffer too much with it,

Yvonne.

slommler said...

You hit it perfectly!! I hate it when they start building a nest!! Then I know we are in this one for the long haul! Sucks!!!!
In just got over a nest builder and I am glad it is gone!!!
I always feel shell shocked after the pain has subsided. And very tired from all the medication.
I hate migraines!
Sorry you have to deal with them as well.
Hugs
SueAnn

Peggy K said...

Whoa!! I've never read a more precise description of a migraine!! That in itself is worthy of a Nobel! So that kid that was texting...he was on the right track!
Sorry you're a migraine sufferer. Here's hoping they are few and far between!

Jane said...

I am very sorry that you have to suffer the ills of migraines. I hope that you seldom get them and at some point, you are completely free of them!

Jane

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That really sucks!
Vivid description. I don't get migraines, but sinus headaches can feel like that sometimes.

Madi and Mom said...

BB
I'm so sorry you had such a rude and mean house guest. Today's blog post is the classic revelation (evil bird from the sky) falling from the sky right into your head. I've known several folks who suffer from them but I have never heard them detail them quite as artistically as you!!!
Have a great weekend and I hope you are talon free this weekend,
Hugs,
Madi and Mom

Catherine said...

Oh you poor girl! I get allergy headaches which are bad enough ~ I can not imagine a migraine headache ~ though you have described it so well in your post that it is a bit clearer.

I hope you have a happy healthy weekend friend!
xo Catherine

Cool Gal said...

I am so sorry you suffer from migraines. My best friend does, too, and I always feel so bad for her when one hits. It knocks her out for a while. Not even her medication helps.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Jules said...

I have something for you on my blog. :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Leah J. Utas said...

What a wonderful description of a horrible thing. I used to get migraines. Never got the warning like you, though.

Brian said...

Those sound awful to me, but hey, we're cats, maybe we just need to take care of that mean old bird for you! If only we could!!!

Out on the prairie said...

Very nicely written. I had a roomate that I would have to take to the ER when it got bad.There is a lot of new remedies to help now.Glad you are better, nd like that you enjoyed the pics.

Mellisa Rock said...

My step-dad used to get migraines all the time - he was wiped out by them - thankfully I only get headaches. I was going to say that I couldn't begin to imagine what it feels like - but you described it so wonderfully that I think I can. Hope that you are feeling better.

Jennifer said...

What a great and interesting description. I am so glad I don't get migraines like that. Nobody can really know how bad it is unless they have the same problem. Kind of like my back pain. Everyone THINKS they know, but they really don't unless they have a bad back themselves.

DrSoosie said...

Oh Betty how I feel for you and your aviary description of pain. My poor daughter Katie suffers with migraines and I know secondhand the pain and debilitating nature of this affliction. It is the one time in life you don't want light shining down ion you...instead appreciating and clinging to the quiet stillness of a dark place. Of course....thank goodness for the little white pills...they help a lot too.

KLZ said...

Is one of the side effects of those little pills "headaches"?

Because when my husband was admitted to the hospital with a skull crushing headache, the pain medication they gave him did indeed, cause head aches.

Awesome.

Hilary said...

Oh poor you. I haven't had an honest to goodness aura-predicting, severe migraine in a very long time. Aging has its benefits. And I certainly never had that euphoric episode as a precursor nor have I ever heard of that before. Leave it to you to have creative headaches. ;)

Lately my much more manageable migraines make me smell ozone for a few hours. Our brains are weird.

I hope your migraines ease up on you before too long. They're miserable.

Michelle Faith said...

Do you think that one of the side effects of migraines is being brilliant? Because this is brilliant!
I had a mingraine once and I'll never forget it, it made me through up. I'm sorry you suffer from them.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

Euphoria is a crappy thing really. It doesn't seem to show up for normal life. It usually means you're about to take a trip on the crazy train, or in this case get a nasty headache.

If only we could be that happy without consequence.

blueviolet said...

I can't even imagine how one feels, but I do get stress headaches which plague me all day long for about a week at a time every month. I know migraines are far worse than that, so I am just sorry!

Lydia Kang said...

Wow, I have never heard of an aura before a migraine like that. I get them too, but my aura is that classic scintillating curve of light and loss of vision. It sucks. I feel for you!

Brian Miller said...

dang my head hurts just thinking about it...sorry...hope it goes away...

Marlene said...

Sounds painfully AWFUL! I don't suffer from migraines.... (I'm sure I'd know it if I did)......just bad headaches every now and then. Here's to hoping you're feeling your bright sunny self by the time you read this bright sunny comment from this bright sunny commentator....commenter....twit. Whatever.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

So sorry, Betty. Only you could write about this miserable experience in a fun way. May those wicked birds never return.
xoRobyn

Sonora said...

That doesn't sound very pleasant. I'm sorry you have to deal with that. I have lucked out in not having that problem, but I have watched my sister struggle with it. Great description.

Flartus said...

How odd...is that a typical pre-migraine sympton? I often get the same euphoria prior to a more predictable pain-in-the-whoozit. And I also rarely recognize it for what it is. Of course, my impending visitation isn't quite as bad as your raptors...perhaps I'll keep that in mind this month.

Ann said...

That is the best description for a migraine that I have ever read. My niece gets them frequently and I'm sure that she could relate to your post perfectly.
Sure hope you're feeling better now.

Debbie said...

I used to get them and I think you described them so well. Sorry you suffer from them.

ds said...

Well, you have unlocked the secrets of English composition! Birds of prey as metaphor for migraine is marvelous. I just wish you didn't have to suffer them (interesting about the feeling of euphoria).
Hope you are feeling better now.

CherylK said...

I'm so sorry for you...I used to have migraines like that (no euphoria, tho) so I can sympathize. Lately, mine have been much milder (I don't throw up and can function) and they last exactly three days. It's bizarre.

Sure do hope you're feeling better, my friend. Wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.

A Tale of Two Cities said...

I'm thankful that migraines have passed me by so far in my life, but I sure commiserate with those of you who have them. Hope the birds fly by less often and leave you with some peace.

Debi

Cheeseboy said...

That is very strange about the feeling of euphoria before. I had never heard that before. Clearly not worth the migraine though.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Betty, Thanks for coming to my blog. I hope you come back often. I am enjoying yours...

I have never had a migraine. After your explanation, I hope I never have one. I did have knee surgery this past June --and that about killed me since I am an active hiker ---and had to sit on my butt for a couple of months. NOT FUN!!!!! (Felt like a migraine)

So -you are a teacher. I used to teach high school for about 7 years right out of college (in the '60's)... I taught high school Choral Music , and also taught Algebra (majored in Music and minored in Math)... And --one year, I even taught an English class....

Thanks again for coming to my blog. Hope you don't get those migraines very often.
Hugs,
Betsy

Jenn said...

Amazing writing, again. Hope you are feeling better.

Jami said...

I know several people who suffer from them, but I am luck that I have never had one. Excellent metaphor.

Ami said...

Sounds like my migraines.
Which of course hit me once a month.
Argh.

I've described mine like a big bird and talons in the eye sockets etc... and also like a monster who walks everywhere with me with his filthy nails digging into my shoulder and face....

Grateful for Imitrex... but hate taking it.

Rómulo Vela Cervantes said...

Hi BB! Happy weekend! :D

Liz said...

You poor thing!

I have no doubt you could invent a method of teaching that would increase learning exponentially!

And I'm sure you can twirl that dry erase marker like it's nobody's business.

Madi and Mom said...

BB we hope you are back on top of your game w/o a migraine!!!
Happy Weekend,
Madi and Mom

HulaBuns said...

Oh, BB - I'm so sorry you have migraines! I also get them and they feel just as you described. I started taking New Chapter's - Headache Take Care when I think one is coming on (so, during the euphoric feeling for you it might work). It's all natural.

Soooo glad you're feeling better. Love the descriptions and details in this post! :)

Gigi said...

Having never had a migraine I couldn't imagine how it might feel until I read your vivid description. Hope you are feeling better soon!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Oh, Betty...I'm so so sorry that you suffer from migraines...they are horrendous!!!!!! You have described them perfectly...but I wish you didn't have to experience them!!!! My thoughts are with you!! ~Janine XO

Susan Deborah said...

Dear BB:

Hope you're feeling better now. Even the migraine seems artistic when you describe it.

Have a glowing weekend.

Joy and peace,
Susan

Nat said...

Hi Betty
As a migraine sufferer (luckily few and far between these days but frequent as a teenager) you've hit the nail on the head with your description....and it feels like nails getting hammered into your head! The exhaustion afterwards is flooring.
Hope you are better now :(

Poetic Shutterbug said...

Well, I thought I had migraines in the past but after your description I can honestly say all I had were headaches. They sound terribly horrible to say the least. I know with my bad headaches the only way I dealt with them was to sleep for a while. I don't like taking any medications. However, I nice stiff drink could solve the problem.

Jessica said...

Ohh hon, sorry about the birds. :(
Myself; I have worms on the brain; they eat all my senses until I am rendered legally insane.
I feel your pain.
Maybe your birds can come eat my worms and go off and have a good life elsewhere.

pamelahutchins said...

As a fellow migraine sufferer and a writer, hats off to you for such a great post on the issue. I had to pop a little immitrex at a writers' conference yesterday. Bane of my existence.
Found you on the SITS "best kept secret" post today -- somebody likes you :)
Glad I found you!

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A girl needs 2 Talk said...

I'm sorry about the migraine. :( :( I really hope this one was a very very short visit.

notesfromnadir said...

You must like birds! All kidding aside, you do describe this so poetically. Too bad you have to go from one extreme to another & so quickly.

Lisa said...

I do hope your better now! You described them perfectly!

Love your blog! I'm signing up and I can't wait to see how my life changes for the better! COOL!!!!!!! WOOO!!! HOOO!! :)

Pat said...

Unless you are a migraine sufferer, you don't know how painful they really are. You described it pretty well and with a great sense of humor, I might add.

I take a daily dose of Topamax (2 x day) as a prophylactic and it has helped me tremendously. In the rare occurrence of a migraine, I then take Amerge (on the onset of one) and it goes away usually within 20 minutes.

The Empress said...

I know. I know. The only good thing about a migraine is how good you felt when it's gone.

Makes you appreciate just the every day.

Thank God I haven't had one for a week now. knock on wood.

Shan said...

Not sure how I missed this post. Egad! Migraines are awful... at least you aren't thinking of them during the euphoria. Too bad the ecstasy can't come after the migraine, like a reward.