Person in foreground is reading out loud while the person sitting in a chair is focusing on their voice to try to reduce pain.

Little Comforts During a Migraine

I was eating lunch in the break room with a coworker when his face disappeared. One second he was telling me about his side gig as a waiter (we were teachers and needed side gigs), the next, his face was a gaping hole of blackness.

I left work because of migraine

I’m getting a migraine,” I said and, almost in a trance, took myself to the school nurse. She was, fortunately, hanging out with another of my other coworker friends who had a prep the next period and could sub my class for me (teachers are the best and deserve all the money). I got a ride home and had a terrible night.

I have empathetic students

The next day, wearing sunglasses inside and explaining to my middle schoolers that, no, I didn’t think I was looking cool, I’d had a migraine, and was pleasantly surprised by their empathy. We were doing a poetry unit and writing our own poems. I wrote an example describing my aura, and they responded well to my telling them about my life and struggles.

I was struggling through postdrome

Speaking of struggles, my postdrome was particularly bad this time. I really couldn’t stand the bright, fluorescent lights at school and the pitter-patter of children stomping in the halls, along with the slamming of locker doors and loud bells and announcements was making me feel like the world was tilting.

My coworker was there

Queasy and exhausted, I propped myself up in a chair in the break room. My same coworker whose face had gone was there, reading something to himself out loud.

“You look like a rock star.” He said, kidding. I nodded. “Is this bothering you?” He said, indicating the cards he was reading off of.

“No. What is it?”

“I’m memorizing the menu for the restaurant. Will you quiz me in a little bit?”

“Sure.” I closed my eyes, and he continued to read off the cards.

I felt at ease

“Arugula salad with goat cheese and fresh pomegranate seeds,” he said to himself, not in a whisper, but not in full voice either. He spoke under his voice, and his low, quiet drone was insanely soothing to me. I didn’t hear the fluorescent lights buzzing or see their searing brightness with my eyes closed behind my sunglasses. The kids were in the lunchroom, if not with their friends right outside. I meditated on the sound of his voice, the atonal rumble.

I was feeling better

By the time he was ready for me to quiz him, I felt so much better. My stomach had settled, and I didn’t feel like I was constantly bracing for an attack on my senses. I took the cards in hand and was happy to see that reading off of them, paper cards and not a screen, didn’t hurt my eyes. I quizzed him for the rest of lunch and then taught the rest of the day.

This attack came with support

Migraines are painful and, for me, sometimes embarrassing. I don’t like to have to ask for help and have someone cover for me, to appear weak or sickly, or like I’m trying to act out for attention. But this particular migraine came with a few little gifts: friends who could help me get where I needed to be so I could rest when the migraine came on, friends who could help me cover my work, so I didn’t have to power through a middle school English class with a full-blown migraine with aura, very cool sunglasses, sweet students who treated me like a person and not just a grownup who serves their needs, and, weirdly, the soothing sound of a friendly voice, not asking me for anything I wasn’t able to give.

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