When Migraine Forces Me Into a No-Screen Day

I sat down at my computer after dropping the kids off and was devastated to discover it’s a no-screen day. In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Alexander’s mother says, “Some days are like that.” The problem is, I don’t want today to be like that. I have a to-do list. I have work that requires the computer. I have deadlines and people expecting things from me.

How does migraine get in the way of working on the computer?

Unfortunately, when it’s a no-screen day, there’s nothing I can do but comply. For me, I know it’s a no-screen day when I look at the blinking cursor on a blank document and see moving black spots or a dark smudge creeping in from the corner. If I try to power through or medicate and hope for the best, the words stop making sense. “Brain can’t brain,” I say to myself. Then the words and shapes begin to imprint on my eyeballs and when I look at the blank wall above my computer, a purposefully understimulating space, I see the black remnants of text. An aura is coming for me in earnest.

How do I spend my day with an oncoming attack?

No-screen days are BORING and I hate them. I can sometimes watch TV from the couch on a no-screen day so long as there aren’t any strobing lights and I take frequent breaks to stare at the back of the couch. More likely I grab my trusty headache hat and try to chill my head down. I climb under a cozy blanket and try to keep my hands and feet warm so the blood keeps flowing. My unofficial therapy dog comes and cuddles me. If I can find a podcast I like in my current cranky state, I turn it on and either close my eyes or stare out the window at the trees. Sometimes I’ll put on a familiar audiobook if I think it’ll be soothing. Since almost all my audiobooks are read by pleasant-sounding British people, most of them keep me calm.

If I’m not too queasy or in pain, and if my rescue medication has kicked in, sometimes I take the dog for a walk. Walking helps me think no matter what and I take frequent short breaks to exercise the dog and myself and to help my thoughts flow. Taking screen breaks at regular intervals helps prevent no-screen days.

How does it remind me I live with chronic illness?

The most annoying no-screen day is the second one in a row. Sometimes if I’m in postdrome or having lingering neurological symptoms the day after a no-screen day, I have to forgo or greatly limit my screens for a second day in a row. This is highly inconvenient. This is chronic illness. This is disability. I dislike my disability. I’d give anyone in my position grace and accommodations but I hate that I have to give myself the same adjustments in expectations. I want to be a successful robot, unphased by hormones, air pressure changes, loud noises, visual stimuli, and other triggers. I want to keep my disability not only invisible, but indetectable. Since I am not a robot, I have to treat myself like I would my child or a friend. I tuck myself in, close my eyes, and wait for a new day.

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