Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Migraine as Tornado
Just like a barometric pressure drop foretells a tornado, a heaviness in my head tips me off to your impending arrival. I know you are on your way. I sense your danger as you come spinning toward me. I have no control as to when you come, or how long you will stay. You give little notice so there’s not much I can do to protect myself against you, but I do everything I can.
Duck and cover
I anxiously trace my fingers over my limited arsenal, the choices in my medicine cabinet, hoping something new will have magically appeared since the last time you were here. Is there anything that might actually save me from your wrath? My hands come up empty. No one, after all, has found an effective way to stop you. I rest and eat well to prepare for the battle. But ultimately, the best I can do is to duck and cover, brace myself, and hope for the best.
I close my eyes and listen. They say a tornado sounds like a train coming through your house. A migraine has the power to make anything sound as loud as a train.
Inevitably, you strike. I am pinned to my bed writhing in pain. I am terrorized and unable to speak. My body shakes and heaves as you circle above. Everything is dark as night except for the bright bolts of any light which blind me. I hold on tight, waiting for your storm to pass. Hours go by, or maybe days. Time becomes meaningless, except that it feels like an eternity before the intensity lifts.
Eventually, an eerie silence replaces the constant roar. Emerging from your direct hit leaves me disoriented and groggy. I am thrown far off course and I am not quite sure where I am. Any little noise makes me fear your return. So, I continue hiding until I’m sure the coast is clear. Only then do I finally feel brave enough to peek outside to survey the destruction.
Once again, you have caused widespread damage to my life. Much like facing the grim reality of cleaning up after a tornado, I don’t know where to start. Amazing the disorder that can occur in the blink of an eye. Like mobile homes tossed asunder in strong winds, you took my important plans and threw them aside. You wreaked havoc on my life and left an absolute mess in your wake. My laundry, bills, and work projects were left unattended. They piled up and were tossed in the air until they landed in total disarray.
I’m exhausted, filthy and shell-shocked. And although you have finally dissipated, I continue to feel your aftershocks and lightning strikes. I’m left still struggling to see straight, while picking up the pieces of what’s left of my life.
A sense of desperation begins to drive me. I realize I am hurrying; racing, in fact. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m in a rush to restore order.
And then I remember why. I live in the equivalent of Tornado Alley. I have chronic migraine. I must regain my footing before the next storm hits.
“I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”
There is an upside to being repeatedly hit by these storms; of having life torn apart over and over again. Life lessons and gifts are earned in the process. Not unlike the characters from the Wizard of Oz.
I picture survivors of real tornados, who speak of being grateful for having survived and ultimately realizing that while belongings can be replaced, people cannot. For those of us who survive repeated migraines, we also feel a deep gratitude for that which matters most. We’d have heart to spare for the Tin Man from learning that moments of wellness are golden. And so are our loved ones who stand by us as we weather each storm. These people can’t be replaced, and neither can we.
And while people with migraines might join the Scarecrow in wishing we could have a (new) brain, we could teach the Cowardly Lion a thing or two about courage, as migraines certainly do make us dig deep to brave each storm.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?