I have an imaginary gun. I keep it in a drawer next to my bed. Sometimes I put it in the freezer next to my ice bags. Every time I hear the weather report I think about my imaginary gun, and get ready to take it out. Where is the next storm coming from? How long will it stay? Is there another storm behind it? Or two? When will the weather change? Will it be very warm, and then very cold? And warm again?
Weather changes are the first identifiable sign that a bad migraine is on the way. Remember when the weather person never knew when it was going to rain? There could be thunder and lightning outside, and the forecast showed sunny skies with a cheery weather person on the evening TV report saying no rain predicted for the week. My migraine has been the best indicator of weather changes. If I was sick with a migraine, we were either in the middle of a bad storm, or one was on the way. Who needed to hear the weather report when I had one in my head? I was infallible. My friends counted on me. I considered applying for a weather person job.
When I hit 50 my migraines were supposed to stop, according to one migraine specialist with whom I was working. He was very sure of this. He was so, so wrong. Instead, they became worse, more frequent, more intense. I never had auras with my migraines, only a lot of nausea, and later retching trying to keep the medication down, looking for any pain relief I could get before I had to wait 6 more hours before I could take another dose. Auras became the new warning sign. First the typical jagged edges of black and white that covered my vision. That changed to flashing lights like little meteors dancing across my visual field. Sometimes 4” paint brush swipes of bright light would come and occlude my vision.
Time went on. Medications that used to take away the pain and let me go on with my life, stopped working. My doctors changed regimens, and with that came weeks of nothing but migraines while I was ramping up and down and up on some new treatment that might, or might not work. I was sure my docs were sadists in collusion to make me miserable. I had a medicine cabinet, which then became a box, which then became several boxes, all full of green and orange bottles of various sizes, half filled with this or that med that worked once or twice, or sometimes longer. When that bad migraine overcame all else, and left me banging my head against the wall, hoping another pain would distract me from the one in my head. I had a wooden back roller with two peaks in the middle – like a camel’s hump in wood. I would press the peaks against the two points on either side of my neck where my spine entered my skull. That too helped stop the pain for as long as I could hold the pressure. Eventually bruises would form at those pressure points, making this self-created treatment too painful.
I wanted a new head. I wanted to take a buzz saw and take half of my head off, and transplant another one on. Migraines were my enemy, my life, my frustration, my life’s isolation, interrupter of my dreams and plans.
Later, as more and more medications stopped working, my body slowly became oversensitive to food, and that could bring on a migraine as surely as wine did in my early 20’s. I could no longer drink coffee, eat chocolate or anything with caffeine, including my favorite PG Tips cup of tea at 4:00pm on a grey afternoon. Along with that went dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt, pudding, ice cream. No more soothing foods to help my caustic stomach that rejected everything in my diet, making me eat strange odd combinations of foods just to keep another migraine from coming my way. I rebel and take the consequences.
So, “just shoot me now.” I am weary of trying new treatments. I am tired.” My imaginary gun at my side, this is a private litany.
It is the litany of the pain. After sometimes 60 hours with no let up, it is hard to make rational decisions. I know when the pain stops, and that moment of relief comes, when the pounding finally subsides and I can look more clearly at the road ahead, I will find a way to manage this, and have a normal life. Maybe tomorrow, next week or next month, but I got through this episode, and will surely get through the next one. I am no longer as fearful, it is just part of life. So I fill out my diary, and look at the day, picking up the pieces as I go and move on. My imaginary gun gets put in a drawer, and I wish fervently never to have to take it out again.