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The Difficulty of Conversing During a Migraine Attack

Though personality assessments have me riding the line between introvert and extrovert, most people who know me will tell you that, without a doubt, I am a poster child for extroversion. I am calmer than I used to be, less likely to draw attention to myself, and less likely to be the entertainer at get-togethers, but I do love people and draw energy from talking to others. (The introversion does come along frequently, though, as I also need lots of time at home with my partner, my cat, and my delicious library in order to rejuvenate.)

The point is: I am a people person, and I love talking with people. I am not shy in the least, and it's fun to work at a business where most people want to talk about a handful of my very favorite things in the world: books, reading, and Athens, Georgia.

How do migraine attacks change me?

All that changes when I am suffering from a serious migraine at work. Gone is the witty banter. Gone is my ability to remember customers' grandkids' names so I can ask how they enjoyed their last book purchases from Avid. Gone is my very basic ability to look people in the eye; gone is my talent for listening.

It's not as if I'm distracted by the pain of the migraine. It's more like there's another Janet who has left my body altogether. Janet, with an excellent memory for names and interest in chatting up total strangers, has seemingly left the building. I feel like a shell of myself, trying to act the way "Real Janet" would act, trying to think of things "Migraine-Free Janet" would say.

How have others responded when I'm not present?

I remember staring into a customer's face many months ago and willing myself to understand what in the world he was talking about. Something about a book he'd just read and the friend he'd recommended it to. Something very basic that a so-called regular person, even halfway paying attention, could have followed. But I just couldn't do it. My brain wasn’t there.

The next time I saw my customer-friend, I told him, "I'm so sorry — I was in the midst of a terrible migraine last time I saw you, so I wasn't really present. I apologize." He appreciated being told and, in fact, ended up apologizing to me for talking so much about his book (which was utterly unnecessary, as I opened a bookstore in order to talk about books).

What do you do when you feel your healthy brain slipping away? How do you function — or do you function at all — when you can't think straight and can't speak with people as your "regular" self can? I'd love to hear what you have to say. I promise to read your responses when I'm migraine-free and able to understand them. ;)

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