Saturday, April 18, 2015

About MY Migraines

I'm mildly shocked you're not feeling sick yet from this ride.. 

This week I had a migraine. These are relatively common place for me - I'll have 2-3 attacks a month each crippling me for anything between 4 and 72 hours, and I had my first migraine (that I remember) when I was 10. Over the years, it's come to me as a surprise how few know what it's like and why I can't do much when I am in the middle of these attacks, and this is why I decided to write a description of what a typical migraine for me looks like.

First of all, it's important to know that there are multiple types of migraines and that I am by no means suggesting that every migraine on every person is the same and has the same triggers. I have basilar-type migraines (or BTM) in which the symptoms are caused (as far as I know! I'm not a doctor, this is just how they explained it to me) by a brainstem dysfunction. Basilar-type migraines file under the subcategory of "Migraine with aura", meaning that before the headache phase there is the aura phase that involves (you guessed it) auras - For me, typically, these include visual symptoms typically on one side of my field of vision from flickering lights and razor like patterns to loss of vision, one-sided numbness, difficulty speaking, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus.. the list goes on! Some of the symptoms last for a short period of time (5-10 minutes), others last the entire aura phase which for me is up to 60 minutes.

After experiencing these attacks for a few years, I learned that there also exists a prodrome phase, which I didn't know I had but do. It's onset can range between 2 hours and 2 days before the pain or aura, but for me it's been about two days prior to the auras. This phase can be hard to spot, because of the variety of symptoms that can be seen as perfectly normal it involves. The days prior to the attack, I'm moody. I'll snap at people or start crying really easily. I also crave sweets, which is why I thought chocolate was a trigger ( = something that I encountered that induced the attack, can be encountered up to 24 hours before the start of the attack, beyond the ending of stress, I don't know what mine are but intend to work harder on finding out) food for me - The chocolate lover that I am, I was devastated, but swore off chocolate for 6 months. Needless to say, this did nothing to lessen the amount of migraines I had. About 2 hours before the auras set in, my sensitivity to different kinds of smells is heightened considerably (though, I will point out that it's already heightened prior to this; This is just when I start really paying attention to it) and I start feeling really, really sick from the smell of things I typically love (curry, mint, chili.. You name it). I've been known to throw up at this point when confronted by a strong smell, or to swiftly turn around and walk away because the food doesn't really smell like food to me. Once, I asked my friends if we were being served dog food at school due to this.

And then there's the headache phase, which is by far the phase I hate the most. I don't like thinking about this phase. It's crippling. It hurts like hell. The pain is typically on one side but it has also switched sides, or spread from the initial starting point to a larger area. During the headache phase, I'm extra sensitive to noises and light, simply hiding in a room as far away from people and light as possible. Typically I'll be lying in bed, attempting to sleep and rest. I'd mostly describe the pain as severe, though I have had a couple that I've kinda just shrugged off by putting on a pair of sunglasses and working on my own in my room in silence - These latter ones I'd call moderate. Now, imagine 4 to 72 hours of this severe pain. Incapability to do anything because moving makes one side of your head feel like it's going to tear open. The pain's actually kind of throbbing, so maybe "tear open" isn't the best explanation for how it feels.. Not only are you in pain, but you'll have all these other nice things to go with it. Mostly, I'm confused, if I open my eyes everything I see is blurry and if I was to do the brave trick of standing up or sitting up (I might, if it was to be just moderate pain), the world kind of feels like it's spinning.

Lastly, there are the after effects. The phase is called "postdrome", simply meaning that there are left behind effects from the migraine. I'll mostly feel a little hungover (which, oddly enough I've never been) and nauseous - Like someone had sucked all the energy out of me. Not surprising, though, because typically at this stage I've spent the last 3 days battling a very persistent asshole of a headache that just won't leave me alone nor let me really sleep that well.

I cannot stress enough that these are just MY experiences with a very specific type of migraine - Not everyone has it like this. Some people have a migraine without the aura, others have different types of auras, some just have moderate pain, others only severe pain.. The list of possible differences goes on and on! Different medication works for different people and different migraines are caused by different things.

I'll see you at the next stop, hopefully pain free


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