My Silent Migraines
Last updated: May 2022
As an adolescent, my migraines were anything but silent. They were loud, pounding on the inside of my head, forcing me to my bed, and hurting for days afterward. I’d jumble words, tingle all over, and sometimes puke. Sometimes I’d feel like maybe this was the one that would kill me. Somehow, miraculously, these extremely debilitating, full-day episodes got better in adulthood. I thought I was free. Not so. Enter silent migraines.
My migraine as a kid
The silent migraines I started getting as an adult really snuck up on me. As a kid, I lived in fear of the aura. If I thought I might be getting one, I’d look into a sunny patch of sky or a blank part of the wall and will the aura away, tell myself it was imagined, that I could overcome it from sheer will. If I could not get the swirling darkness to stop, though, I felt a horrible sense of doom, knowing my life would be ruined for the next two days. Aura always meant pain.
My auras now
Now, I get auras too frequently. However, they rarely result in what I would call a “full migraine,” which is a mercy. Usually, they come on after too much screen time, especially on the computer. Anything with a black background and white writing will cause one. So will too much fluorescent light, some patterns, and big temperature swings.
My silent attacks
Sometimes turning down the brightness on my screens helps. If I can’t get them to go away by taking a rest, closing my eyes, and putting away screens, they move into a classic silent migraine. My silent migraines come with nausea, light sensitivity, and sometimes hand, limb, or mouth tingling. Occasionally, they come with limb pain or tight muscles. But, rarely, even without medication, do they result in a headache.
Brain fog during prodrome
Often in retrospect, I notice an uptick in “spaciness” before one of these silent migraines, which I think is what people call “brain fog.” I find mistakes on work projects or have slight aphasia. My depression is worse around these migraines, both before and after. Fatigue surrounds them.
A delay in realization
At first, it would take me hours or even a full day to realize I was having a migraine. I’d suffer, unsure what was wrong with me, until finally, I’d try taking migraine meds only to find my symptoms alleviated or disappear within the hour. I felt kind of dumb for not realizing, but we can also blame the extreme fogginess that comes in my prodromal stage.
A break from my past attacks
I hate them, don’t get me wrong, but I’m thankful my brain has given me a break from the migraines of my past. I cannot stop anymore and take to my bed for the day. I’m a parent. A single parent, at that. I don’t have a backup at the ready if I go offline. Even though these silent migraines are anything but fun, I’m glad I have spotted the signs and have plans in place to stop them before they mess up my day.
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?