Steven Wright did have a point. I have had a migraine weekend. One of those headsplitting, sanity thieving, nightmarish headaches that makes me feel as if I want to jump off a roof, bang my head against a wall or do anything, really anything just to make the hurting stop. People talk about pain as either a memory or a bothersome companion, the way Chris talks about the time he broke his leg or arm or the way he walks with a slight stiff limp on days that are cold and wet. Doctors talk about pain as part of the medical package. It comes with a diagnosis, it’s a symptom, it or whatever causes it if possible, requires treatment. Doctors talk about pain with words like ‘severity’ and ‘frequency’, ‘chronic’ or ‘intractable’. By the time I am rocking on the floor with my knees pulled up against my chest, crying uncontrollably, I no longer care about the facts. Pain is an emotional experience that sometimes feels very much like insanity.
It doesn’t help that I get weird migraine headaches that makes me a little unstable. I get basilar-type migraines and the aura that lasts for up to an hour is really quite terrifying. It includes a different cocktail of symptoms that affects my eyes, hearing, balance and I get dizzy and may loose consciousness or have a seizure. The headache that follows tend to make me wish the aura never ended. I hate headaches.
Migraine headaches that persists for up to 72 hours are a regular occurance, but migraine headaches that arrive, lounge for a few hours then leave only to come knocking again a few hours later are worse. Once you’re in the pain zone, it’s intolerable, unbearable, unimaginable, but you get through it, usually second by second. The disorienting shifting of one headache followed by another in short succesion means my weekends looked like this: Prodrome-Aura-Headache-Postdrome-Sleep-Prodrome-Aura-Headache-Postdrome.
I start feeling irritable and have mood swings ranging from crying spells to shouting matches moving into ‘I feel really odd’ that rapidly progress to I can’t see properly, hear properly, talk properly, move properly and have trouble staying conscious. I may see, hear or smell things that aren’t there. The smell of something burning is a common one, as is hallucinating spiders or something that my arachnophobic brain thinks may be a spider. Fifteen -fifty nine minutes of that and we race past the pain tolerance threshold with throbbing that has made me do stupid things, anything really that I think might make the pain stop or me stop, whichever happens first is not vitally important. All that matters is that the pain really is intolerable. People don’t get it when you say pain is intolerable as well, you’re tolerating it aren’t you? Nothing in the world comes close to the agony that is a very bad headache. Moving hurts, light hurts, sound hurts and then there’s the muscles aches, nausea, vomiting, hot flushes, chills, all compounded by more dizziness and confusion and the inescapable throbbing of pain that is an unstoppable pounding that feels like a ticking clock underneath my skin. And then, mercifully, at some point, I fall asleep from sheer exhaustion and usually wake up with a sensation that has to be worse than the worst hangover in the world. Tired doesn’t begin to describe it. I still can’t think clearly or concentrate on anything, I feel washed out, depressed and tired. All used up. And then it starts again. Irritability, moodiness, tears that roll into a semi-conscious mess of disorted senses that leave me disoriented with only the pain again and the hours spent sucking on ice-cubes or sipping water wishing it would just end.
Round and round it goes and as the current moody spell now fades into an ocean of blurred vision, ringing ears and spinning rooms, I’m going back to my cool wet cloth and dark quiet room to watch the kaleidoscope spin and wait for the pounding to start again the hours and hours of pergutory I’m not sure I deserve. It’s a private prison that I don’t usually share. Chris is downstairs raiding with his guild and although he checks on me every thirty minutes I wouldn’t subject him to more than a few minutes of this. Living through headaches like these sometimes feel almost impossible, but I think watching someone suffer and being unable to make it better has got to be worse, so I don’t let him watch. I do find being in pain and alone a difficult place to be and reflexively shut people out, until I remember how it felt when someone let me hold their hair back whilst they threw up in a fancy bathroom on their twenty-first birthday and then threw themselves into my arms and cried on my lap because a silly boy broke their heart. It was one the nicest things anybody has ever done for me. Being there is the easy part, letting someone be there, that’s the difficult part.
I don’t like asking for help. In fact, I rarely ask for help. Asking feels too much like begging. Also, there is a very small number of people I trust to have around me when I’m slipping in and out of consciousness, dazed and confused. Help is most appreciated at times when I can’t ask, when it hurts too much to try and think of how to ask and what to ask and when it would be polite and socially acceptable. It’s been a truly horrible weekend with only the briefest of respites and although the bank holiday is almost over, the headache is showing no signs of letting go any time soon. Life is on hold and as Chris is home for two days to feed me water and toast, it doesn’t seem like the end of the world. Not that that’s a good thing when there is a certain appeal to the end of the world as the end of world, I can’t help thinking would also mean the end of pain. But that’s another logical fallacy, a symptom of an exhausted and disoriented mind. Time to go back to watching the room spin whilst the clock ticks every second closer to the end, whenever that may be. Everything ends and crying alone in a dark and silent room is not the end, its just something else to live through or try and get around. I hate headaches.