When it arrives, the air thickens. Lumbering and heavy, Winter Migraine moves slowly, blocking out light and siphoning oxygen from the room. Once in the darkness, Winter Migraine envelopes me, luring me with promises of sweet relief if only I will do its bidding. For days, even weeks, I become its tortured slave. It feeds off the excitement and joy of holidays, leaving only pain and darkness in its wake. The happy noises of loved ones barely pierce the lifeless fog permeating into every corner of my room. They sound so far away and so oblivious to the beast that, by all appearances, is sucking the life out of me. Winter Migraine has a terrible weapon at its disposal. That weapon is isolation. It knows that the love of family and friends can break its death grip on me. So it poisons sight and sound, forcing my retreat into a cocoon of silent darkness.
Helpless to obtain my release, loved ones cannot bear to watch. They turn away to get on with living, shaking their heads in pity. Some wonder aloud what I did to invite the monster in. Others whisper in scorn, convinced that they would be strong enough to break the grip of Winter Migraine. Yet they do not know its power or the hunger that drives it to consume all that is good and light.
It will be months before Winter Migraine gets bored enough to release me and move on. For weeks I am its hostage. Exposed to searing lights and sounds, deprived of sleep, unable to eat or drink without getting sick, I long desperately for relief. At my weakest moments the pain is unbearable, blinding me with throbbing, pounding, searing agony that moves from side to side and front to back. Sometimes I can beat it back with powerful drugs that induce a dreamless sleep. When I wake, I move slowly and quietly so as not to reveal my existence once again. Yet it always finds me. Some days it is waiting by my bed, just waiting for me to wake up. Other days it latches on and won’t let go. Unable to dislodge it, I must drag its dead weight for days. The worst are the days when I think I’ve escaped. If I am not careful, I may act too healthy or say something too positive. That is like a homing beacon for the beast who barrels through the streets, slamming into my head like a concrete cinder block.
For over a decade, I could count on a visit from Winter Migraine from Thanksgiving Day until early March. It happened year after year, becoming more predictable than the first snow. The colder the temperature, the worse I felt. Nothing I tried helped as much as the warmth of those first sunny days of spring. Those long, dark, cold days only increased the pain and the depression that followed. If help was available, I couldn’t see it. The darkness clouded my vision.
Then one year, Winter Migraine didn’t arrive. I held my breath in anticipation, expecting it to strike any moment. Week after week passed without weekly trips to the emergency room. Each morning I woke, surprised by the clarity in my head. I still had chronic migraine, but the daily onslaught of Winter Migraine didn’t happen. There was no explanation for the change. I still didn’t have a very good preventive plan. Why I didn’t get sick that winter is still a mystery. I haven’t had a bad winter in six years. Every year I hold my breath, expecting Winter Migraine to make its appearance. Only when I get past New Year’s Day do I breathe a sigh of relief.
I will not be lulled into complacency by its long absence. Winter Migraine is a patient beast. It could return someday. Even after all these years, I still fear Winter Migraine.
My dark room: