Happy, happy, joy, joy: Migraine Free for 30 Days and Feeling Off Balance
After writing last December about a month-long migraine, I am happy to report that I have had a month migraine free. Yup, I’m going all Ren and Stimpy on you. “Happy, happy, joy, joy. Happy, happy, joy, joy.”
The Urban Dictionary mentions the underlying message of that Ren and Stimpy song: “…when the world expects you to put on this happy and joyful face when what you really want to do is shriek at the top of your lungs and rip your hair out in anger/frustration/misery.”1
All the emotions
Reflecting on last year’s month-long migraine episode and now my month-long respite, I realize I’m both genuinely joyful and, frankly, fearful.
Last fall’s month-long migraine was uncomfortable but familiar. This migraine-free stretch I feel comfortable…but this also feels unfamiliar. Real Lewis and Clarke stuff.
So, while I currently feel grateful and hopeful, I wonder which is more difficult. I am finding this unfamiliar, migraine-free territory as uncomfortable as the painful familiarity of daily migraines.
Recalling the misdiagnosis
While I have experienced migraines all my life, they were for decades diagnosed as sinus headaches and treated as such. I cannot tell you how many unilateral headaches I have had were my mother worked tirelessly to clear my sinuses with some combination of Neo Synephrine, antihistamines, steamy showers, and hot compresses. Ironically, Mom’s smoking was probably my worst trigger. Mom giveth, and Mom tried to taketh away.
Those headaches were uncomfortable, but familiar. Looking back, my mother’s efforts to comfort me were very meaningful. So, I might say the headaches and my mothers’ interventions were somehow comforting and familiar.
Migraine taking over
About 10 years ago, just before I was officially diagnosed with migraines, I developed the worst headache of my life. It came on suddenly and slowly intensified. My neck was especially stiff. After two days of increasingly intense headache pain centered at the back of my head, I went to urgent care. The doctor there sent me straight to the emergency room, suspecting I had meningitis. I did.
My meningitis kicked off 10 years of particularly intense headaches, vertigo, twitchy eyes, tinnitus, nausea… My migraines jumped into the driver's seat and floored it. I was a passenger on that ride. And I felt like the car stayed on the highway only by scraping along the guard rails at times. It felt more often like the car would veer off a cliff.
Taking a back seat
Now I feel like I may never have another migraine again. Woot, woot! I feel a little daring, like I can re-take the wheel and floor it myself—like I can taunt my migraines.
I’m free! I’m gonna eat carbs, drink high fructose corn syrup (straight), lay in the sun, stay up late, dance around a smoky campfire, play music really loudly, wear cologne… All of those things are things I’d do except wear cologne, but I’m trying to make a point here. I’m tempted to start sparring with my triggers.
Hey, I miss all of that stuff. I am in bed by 9 most nights, sound asleep by 10, and strive to get a solid 8. My migraine life has gotten a little boring and tedious. Unfettered, I can now return to the devil-may-care lifestyle of your average 55-year-old, married man.
I might even try skipping my daily meds. Oh, yeah. Just think about it. No more swallowing a bazillion capsules and pills and smelly herbs the names of which I cannot pronounce and the efficacy of which I was never sure.
On the other hand…
I am really flapping in the breeze of the uncertain certainty that my migraines will return, and when they do, they will return with a vengeance. That feeling of the unknown for me can lead to some fear.
It’s not just a fear that the other shoe will drop, but that when it does drop it will explode on top of my head. I imagine a Batman cartoon strip with the sound effects added in for visual and imaginary effect. “Ka-Blam-O!!!” HEADACHE! VERTIGO! DOUBLE-VISION! NAUSEA!
So, while I am grateful, relieved, hopeful, and excited about every migraine-free day, I am also a little frightened. Well, more than a little.
I have this sense of impending calamity…not so much that it occupies my every waking thought and sleep-time dream. But that somehow this is too good to be true.
The lifelong companion
That’s a little what life with migraines is like. Any given day can be a cause for celebration…or cause deep depression. As odd as this sounds, I feel a little less comfortable not knowing. Which suggests that I take some comfort in knowing migraines are a regular and reliable companion.
It doesn’t matter if I embrace the uncomfortable uncertainty or the comfortable certainty, my migraines keep me off balance and have for a long time.
One of my favorite all-time comedians is Steven Wright. And my favorite all-time joke he tells is this: “You know when you're sitting on a chair and you lean back so you're just on two legs and you lean too far so you almost fall over but at the last second you catch yourself? I feel like that all the time…”.
That’s a little what having migraines is like. I usually feel off balance. For me, that has a literal meaning as well as a figurative one as vertigo and double vision are common symptoms. What I have learned recently is that is more true than I prefer to acknowledge. It applies when I am having migraines and when I am not…
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?