“Hi. I’m Melissa and I have migraines.”
Not as dramatic as if I admitted I’m an ex-alcoholic or a drug addict, but hey….we all work with what we have.
Early this morning, about a quarter to five, my REM sleep was insidiously invaded by a strobe light show that was beginning in my visual cortex.
It’s funny (although, not really) how something physically occuring in the body can insinuate its way into your dream state and even become part of the action. I’m not sure just how I was incorporating the brilliant zig-zag moving lights of my incipient migraine into whatever it was I was dreaming, but I do remember trying to do that, perhaps in a vain attempt to dissuade myself from the realization that, no, this wasn’t a wild part of my dream but, indeed, another f*****g migraine.
I groped for the Ibuprofen I keep in the nightstand and decided to take just one instead of the usual two that I pop at the first sign of the migraine aura. My stomach was empty since it was close to morning and I know what NSAIDS can do to the stomach lining, and it ain’t pretty. It takes about a half hour for the psychedelia to work its way out of my vision, so I patiently endured that and tried to go back to sleep.
Silly me. At a quarter to seven the same light show decided to do an encore performance and once again wedged its way into my dreams, bringing me to an irritable awakening. “Shit. Not again.” This time I decided not to take anything because I already had the first Ibuprofen circulating in there and hadn’t gotten a headache from the first migraine-go-round. Maybe I’d get lucky with this one too.
Wrong. After the performance of “Migraine—The Sequel” and about an hour more of sleep, I awoke to mild to moderate throbbing of the left side of my head. I could see again, but my brain function after one of these babies is often on the fuzzy side for the remainder of the day. What a glorious way to start the morning!
In case you aren’t familiar with the fun that is a migraine aura, here is an explanation complete with diagrams. Imagine the clock pictured below is your field of vision, and this is how the aura would begin and work its way through:
Migraine headaches may be preceded by a visual “aura”, lasting for 20 to 30 minutes, and then proceeding to the headache. Some people, however, experience the aura but do not have a headache. This visual aura can be very dramatic. Classically, a small blind spot appears in the central vision with a shimmering, zig-zag light inside of it. This enlarges, and moves to one side or the other of the vision, over a 20 to 30 minute period. When it is large, this crescent shaped blind spot containing this brightly flashing light can be difficult to ignore, and some people fear that they are having a stroke. In reality, it is generally a harmless phenomenon, except in people who subsequently get the headache of migraine. Since migraine originates in the brain, the visual effect typically involves the same side of vision in each eye, although it may seem more prominent in one eye or the other.
Some people get different variations of this phenomenon, with the central vision being involved, or with the visual effect similar to “heat rising off of a car”. Some people describe a “kaleidoscope” effect, with pieces of the vision being missing. All of these variations are consistent with ophthalmic migraine.
I have to say here that I’m luckier than a lot of folks who get horrible migraines and have to take to their beds for days at a time. Fortunately, mine have been more of an irritation than a crippling malady. But you never know when it’s going to strike, leaving one unable to see much or function very well for at least a half hour to forty-five minutes.
My husband tells me it’s all part of my wonderful, creative brain, and that I might not have the artistic bent that I possess if I’d been blessed with “normal” gray matter. I have to laugh because that just reminds me of Marty Feldman’s big blunder in “Young Frankenstein” when he accidentally destroys the brain of the brilliant scientist, Hans Delbruck, and instead hastily grabs the first brain he can find.
That’s me—“Abby Normal.”