The subject of migraine headaches comes up semi-frequently since I know several people who suffer from them. I also get these debilitating day-stoppers, and sometimes it's good to pass around a few tips to see if they help others who get kneecapped by their brain now and again. One such conversation was about how awful they can get. One of my coworkers gets ocular migraines from time to time, and he was describing how they affect his vision, and other senses, including motion and sound. That reminded me of the very worst migraine I can ever remember having. And, of course, in typical Ephemily style, I managed to bungle my own self-care.
I want to say it was 1999 when this story happened. I was living in my first apartment with my then-boyfriend. I'd come home from my college job at the on-campus computer store with a migraine attack already in progress. I was seeing little gold flecks in my vision, unsteady on my feet, and any noise above a whisper was like the sound of silverware raking across your teeth. I needed it cold, I needed it dark, and I needed to slip away from consciousness for about the next 4 hours. That was my only hope to regain any sense of being human.
I set the air conditioning to "meat locker", covered the windows in the bedroom with a heavy tablecloth, pulled my eye mask over my eyes, and tucked the blankets snugly under my chin in preparation for my torpor. It was about then when my boyfriend got home from work. He'd not seen me have on of these headaches before, so he was confused, and rightly so. After all, you don't expect to find a red-headed Bela Lugosy in your bed on a random Thursday, after all.
He asked me what was wrong, and I managed to croak out that I had a migraine, and needed it to be cold, dark, and quiet at least until I fell asleep. I'd already taken my prescription, so I should be fine as soon as that started to work. Till then, I wanted to be dead to the world.
I wish I could say he was sweet enough to oblige, gave me a peck on the forehead, and found ways to amuse himself in the living room that evening out of the kindness of his heart. In reality, I think he was just really excited to have a chance to play EverQuest without my nagging at him that eventually, I'd like to get online too. (Remember, this was 1999, the age before broadband. We had a 56k modem, and 1 phone line.)
As I lay there, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to fall asleep as quickly as I wanted. What felt like an hour, but was more like 20 minutes went by, and the pain my body seemed to have lessened. Well, at least enough to shuffle to the kitchen for something to eat. I had suddenly discovered that I was starving!
I peeled the eye mask off of one eye and sat up in bed. Fireworks exploded in the eye that was uncovered, and I realized it was only when I was motionless that the pain was in remission. My eyes began to swim and well up at the sudden sensation of my own breathing being too loud. Gingerly, I laid back down and pulled the mask back over my eye. Tears were involuntarily streaming over my cheeks the entire time. As soon as the dizziness subsided, I tried to call out to my boyfriend. What came out of my mouth sounded like the bastard lovechild of a bullfrog and Gollum from Lord of the Rings. "Sweeeeeeeetie? Hey Sweeeeeeetie. 'm huuuuuuungry." Crickets. I think I heard crickets.
As I lay there, hands shaking from hunger, eyes leaking from pain, and feeling sensations in my stomach that would make any H.R. Giger alien queen gooey with maternal glee, I got this wild hair. I'm a can-do kind of girl, right? I should just go grab something out of the fridge. Sometimes eating helped make the medication work faster. I could do it! I mean, now that I knew motion brought the pain back, I could make an effort to move slowly and quietly. On cat's feet, so to speak.
I rolled over onto my right hip, keeping my head as still as possible. As I swung my feet over the side of the bed, I more oozed out from under the covers than anything. Think of what an octopus slithering off the side of a boat back into the water would look like, and that's a pretty accurate mental image of how I ended up on my feet.
I stood there, swaying for a moment or two so the pain echos wouldn't cause me to black out. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, I skulked out into the hall. Through my one open eye, I could see my boyfriend sitting at his computer desk, rocking out with his headphones on. He was trying to be quiet for me! That's why he couldn't hear me moan earlier. Well, ok. That gets a free pass. Head down, eyes squinted, I gritted my teeth for the walk to the fridge. Those 10 feet felt like a mile, my feet were anvils, and the fridge door was Fort Knox. My bouillon was the half-eaten bag of baby carrots I found in the crisper. With my prize, I slunk back to the depths of darkness in the bedroom. All the while, my boyfriend remained blissfully unaware of my having reached Everest's summit and found my reward to be vegetables.
As soon as I was under the covers and still long enough to have the pain ripples stop bouncing off the insides of my skull, I gingerly unzipped the bag of carrots to keep the crinkle of the plastic from setting off the aural claymores in my head. Ravenously, I lifted my shaky hand to my mouth and took a bite out of that sweet, sweet sustenance. And it was with that mastication that I learned how stupid my choice had been.
Not only was the barely-audible crunch of the carrot too loud for my noggin, but the rapid fire tense and release of my jaw muscles turned the backs of my eyes into summer sparklers. Involuntary tears turned into real ones as I realized I had in my hands a solution to my hunger, but an inability to use it. With the nibblet of carrot still in my mouth, I curled up into a fetal position, surrounding the plastic bag, and cried myself into a dreamless sleep.
Several hours later, I woke up still snuggled around my carrots, to find the pain had cleared, the sun had set, and my boyfriend had made dinner. Dinner for one, as was evidenced by the dishes in the sink. Revenge is a dish best served by a man in a delivery uniform, in 30 minutes or less.
If there was an epilogue to my story, it would be this. Migraines have triggers. Everybody has different ones. Mine were, at the time, red wine, MSG, not getting enough sleep, and stress. Mr. EverQuest and I were having some difficulties in our relationship at the time, and not long after this happened, he moved out. Amazingly, I didn't have another migraine that memorable for years after that. So, you could say, that relationship was a literal headache.