Migraine Day: Stream of Consciousness
(My apologies for any typos or nonsense, I really am writing this during a migraine hangover, so I don’t forget the details, and my brain is really foggy)
I’m dreaming that I have a migraine. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realize this means that I really do have a migraine. But I struggle to stay asleep, hoping to keep the migraine in dreamworld, and not wake up to the reality of it.
But I can’t. The pain beckons, insistent that I wake up and pay attention.
When I wake, there are tears on my face. This is a bad one. I lay still for a few minutes, willing myself to go back to sleep. The clock says 4:30am. Way too early.
I gingerly roll over, hoping to find a more comfortable position, to maybe get back to sleep. But I’m becoming more and more aware of the pain. I need to deal with it. But the idea of crawling out of bed is overwhelming.
I force myself up, and creep quietly downstairs, reluctant to catch my husband’s attention as he’s getting ready for work in the other room.
Luckily, he’s in the bathroom, so I grab my icepack from the fridge and medicine from the cabinet and sneak back to bed quietly, without turning on any additional lights.
I take the medicine quickly, feeling the nausea setting in and hoping the medicine will stay down long enough to work.
It’s two very mild meds. If there’s any hope of going to work today, I can’t take anything stronger. But it may dull the pain and make me drowsy enough to get back to sleep for another hour or two. Which is what I desperately need.
As I ease myself back into bed, I can’t get comfortable. The sinuses on the left side of my face are beginning to swell, it’s impossible to breathe on that side, and my face is so tender I can’t lay on it.
The back of my neck is aching also. Too much to ignore. I’m going to need a second icepack. Damn it.
This time, I’m less cautious as I go down to the kitchen. Pure desperation is setting in. I HAVE to numb some of this pain. It’s too much. I grab a second ice pack, one of the skinny ones I know will melt too quickly. I really need to invest in another good one. Or three.
The throbbing in my sinuses is awful now that I’m upright. Maybe a decongestant will shrink that down and give me some relief. But the decongestant is still in my toiletry bag from my trip a few weekends ago. I head to the bathroom and drag out the bag. Where are those pills?
I can’t bear to turn on the light, so I open the blinds. Oh, right. It’s still dark.
The streetlight across the street doesn’t illuminate the bag enough to find what I”m looking for so I take the whole damn thing back to the bedroom and turn on the little light.
It’s enough, but not too much. I find the Sudafed and toss it back gratefully, and squirt some nasal spray for good measure. Toss the bag on the floor, I don’t care about mess right now.
Crawl into bed and pack the two icepacks around my head which now feels it’s on fire. The temperature is all wrong. With the covers, I’m too hot, but I need the pressure of the blankets around me, anchoring me. They’re my cocoon.
The crack of light under the door tells me my husband still hasn’t left for work. But I know he will soon. And then what? What if this doesn’t get better? What if it get’s worse? The thought overwhelms me. I couldn’t drive like this. Who will take me to the clinic if I need to go?
I run through a list of names in my head. Most of them have responsibilities during the day. I am alone.
I realize this is the migraine talking to me. Telling me that I’m alone. Telling me that there’s nothing for me but pain. But I don’t have the energy to fight the traitorous thoughts.
I succumb to the fear, pain and loneliness. Tears roll down my face, and I can’t hold in the sobs that build with pressure in my chest and head. I have to sit up, the tears are pooling under me, soaking the pillow. I clutch one icepack to my head.
The opening of the bedroom door startles me. My husband comes in and asks if I’m okay. I choke out a no, and he comes to my side, wrapping his arms around me. Head? he asks. Of course. He knows. He strokes my hair and rubs gentle circles on my back.
He asks the standard questions, have I taken anything, is there anything he can get for me. Making sure that my migraine-fogged brain hasn’t forgotten something that he might be able to take care of.
I know he hates these. There’s nothing he can do but watch me suffer.
He tells me he’s staying home from work. He’s not feeling great either, and he’s staying home to rest, so he can be in top form for his bike race this weekend. Lucky duck has way more personal days than I do, and his company doesn’t care how they’re used – sick, vacation, whatever.
At least I know he’ll be there for me, if I need it. That helps. A lot. He eases me back to the pillow and tries to help arrange the blankets. He offers to come wake me at 6:30. It’s now 5:00, and I’m skeptical that I’ll get any sleep, but I agree with him anyway.
If nothing else, I can relax a little, knowing that he won’t let me oversleep and miss my call-in window. If I have to call in sick, it needs to be before 7:00.
Whether it was the Sudafed and nose spray or the crying, my sinuses are clearing, and now my nose is running. I feel bad to mess up the little nest he arranged for me, but I have to get up and get some tissues. Laying in a puddle of tears is one thing. Snot is something else entirely.
I don’t know where the tissues are in the dark, so I grab the roll of toilet paper from the bathroom and take it back to bed. The cleared sinuses make it easier to find a position that allows both icepacks to rest where I need them, without having to hold them there.
I clutch my small pillow, and try to relax, thinking of the morning so far, and narrating to myself how I would write it as a stream of consciousness. The self-narration calms my frantic mind and I drift off.
I’m only partially aware when my husband come back in. I feel like I was already awake, but the fog has become very thick, and I’m not really sure. I have no idea if he speaks to me. I just lay there, trying to feel out how I’m doing. Will I be able to go to work?
The blinding, fiery, pulsating pain is gone. And I’m not feeling too nauseated. At least, not while I”m lying in bed. Getting up will be a completely different story, and I’m afraid to try. But time is ticking, and through my haze I realize that I have to make a decision soon.
At 6:45, I slide gingerly out of bed. My head feels thick and numb, and my limbs feel heavy and sore. But I think I’ll be able to drive.
Whether I’ll get any work done is still questionable, but being present is the first step.
I wrap myself in my fluffy robe, and decide I might be able to have some liquid breakfast. My body probably needs the carbs and protein. As I leave the room, my husband greets me from his desk in the office, and encourages me to eat something if I can.
I ease my way down the stairs, still feeling very disconnected and weird. Migraine hangover is what I call it. That blurry, foggy, achey stage that remains after the worst of the pain is gone.
I can’t even consider drinking the fruit smoothie I prepared last night. The idea of banana turns my stomach. So I grab a chocolate protein shake. Even if I can’t keep it down, it’s not too bad coming back up (I have experience), and if it does stay down, it’s got everything I need to begin recovering.
I take it to my desk in the office and drink it slowly, while my husband talks to me about… something. I look at a few emails. But I don’t do much on the computer. The glowing monitor isn’t looking so friendly right now.
I finish my shake and work up my courage to take a shower. There’s no point trying to get the water to the right temperature. It’s too cold and my muscles tense, or it’s too hot and I feel my blood pressure going up. My body’s hyper-sensitive right now. So I grit my teeth and get through it.
The vanilla body wash is surprisingly soothing. And massaging shampoo through my hair feels pretty good. But even my new razor feels too harsh on my tingling skin. I do the bare essentials, and get out quickly, afraid of the time that I know I’m running out of.
Everything takes too long. My mind is a muddled mess, and my fingers don’t work right. I find the most comfortable work clothes I own. Looks like I’ll be in all grey today. An elephant. The shoes feel wrong.
There’s no way I can dry my hair – too loud, too hot, too much effort. A bun or twist is going to be too heavy for my tender scalp today, so I braid my hair down the back. It looks crappy, because my fingers are stupid, but I can always redo it later.
My skin feels tight, so I drench it in lotion. The cocoa butter doesn’t smell as appealing as usual, but it’s not making me retch, so that’s a plus.
I find the lightest earrings, though I don’t know for sure I won’t have to take them off. At least I can try. Try to look human, even if I feel like a zombie.
I put on a cardigan. Then take it off. Then put it back on. My temperature is messed up. Since the vanilla body wash was so soothing, I decide to spritz a bit of vanilla body spray. Ick. Not what I had hoped. Too late now. I’ll just have to deal with it.
I visit my husband in the office, and exchange some small talk. But I’m still worried about the time. If I leave now, I might have time to stop at Walgreens and get some crackers.
I have no idea what, if anything, I’ll be able to eat today. It might be crackers and soup. Or I might get some oddball craving. Or maybe by afternoon, I’ll be ravenous and stuffing everything in my face I can find. There’s no telling where the migraine hangover will take me.
But right now, I’m thinking crackers sound okay. The salt is especially appealing, and I wonder if maybe an electrolyte imbalance from last night’s soccer game is to blame for the whole bloody mess.
I chastise myself for not taking better care after the game. I know every time I play, I’m challenging my body not to freak out. My system is so fragile, anything can throw it out of whack.
Yet I love the game, and I love being able to defy my “sickness” by taking to the field every week. I just have to be more vigilant about things like proper hydration and recovery. It was humid as hell last night in the arena and I probably sweated more than I realized.
I grab a packet of dry soup mix as I head out the door. And that nasty banana smoothie. Just in case.
My purse is too heavy, and the knot in the strap presses into my shoulder painfully. As I walk out the door, the brilliant sunshine and blue sky mock me.
Usually, my worst migraines happen on cloudy days – spurred on by the dropping barometric pressure. So it’s just rude of the sun to be so blinding today.
I slide my sunglasses on reluctantly. Can’t do without them, for sure. But the frames feel uncomfortable on my face and ears.
I’m driving in a haze, and I keep reminding myself to pay attention. There’s a speedtrap in the area, and I know if I get pulled over I’m likely to have to take a sobriety test. No, officer, I imagine myself saying. It’s a migraine hangover. No alcohol involved, I swear.
Traffic isn’t bad, and I make it downtown with enough time to run to Walgreens. I peruse the snack aisle, trying to predict what I might want or be able to eat. With my saltines, ramen noodles, and Chex Mix, I check out and continue on to work.
Pulling in to the parking lot, I collect my jumbled wits and try to put on an air of normalcy.
I greet coworkers cheerily as I walk in and get my cup of morning tea. Straight black, brewed mild. That’s about all I can handle today.
Luckily, my desk isn’t overwhelmed with urgent things, and I’m able to ease into the day on some menial tasks. And the phone isn’t insane. So no one suspects a thing. I even make small talk and laugh at a coworker’s kid story.
It’s all totally an act. I’m still heavy and achy. My stomach is turning inside out. And my thoughts are still running around like wobbly calves in my brain. But I’m good at playing the role of competence, even if I feel totally offline.
On one hand, I’m frustrated that I can’t be normal. That I have to have all these stupid mechanisms for dealing with this crap. But I also realize how lucky I am.
I was able to go to work today. Many migraineurs have that incapacitating pain for days at a time. I was able to get over the worst of it, and I can power through the hangover. I know that’s a better deal than many people get.
Granted, the monster could return at any minute. But that’s not something I can dwell on.
I survived the air-raid this morning. I refuse to worry about when the next one’s coming. When it does, I’ll head to the shelter. But until then, life goes on. A little stupidly today. But it goes on.