A drum set with cymbals has the picture of a brain on front and drum sticks in the back.

What A Migraine Feels Like to Me

My four year old daughter got a wooden music set for her birthday this spring and it haunts me. The way her tiny delicate hands pound away at the drum and the cymbals reverberate deeply in the back of my mind. We've had to create some rules so it's mostly a daddy toy, one my daughter and husband play with when I'm on another floor of the house or out of the house completely.

It made me think about how I would describe a migraine to someone who hasn't experienced before.

How would I describe the head pain of migraine?

First, there's the cymbals. Often I feel like my head has been clanked in the middle of cymbals, and rather than a high pitched reverberation sounding as they pull away, its a consistently painful, deep thudding sound that I can't make disappear.

Sometimes, there's the drum. The thump thump thumping coming out of nowhere that somehow, nobody but me hears, and no matter how many pillows I put over my head or how much ice I apply to the back of my neck, nothing drowns out of the sound.

Other times theres the sirens - the ringing in my ears that make me think there must be a parade of police, ambulance, and fire trucks driving by, but alas, it's just me, in my bed suffering.

How does my temperature change during an attack?

Then, there's the thermostat woes. The hot and cold that comes with the migraine. I struggle to make this one out - because sometimes dramatic changes in temperature mean I have a fever, and other-times it's just a magic migraine, doing it's "job." It's really quite confusing and honestly very frustrating. With this, often comes the sweating or the shivering, the need for extra clothes/blankets or the need to shed layers. Trying to get comfortable, even in bed, is impossible.

Is it just head pain or pressure?

There's feeling like an elephant is sitting on my head, with pressure so intense I can't even call out for help. There's no way to turn from side to side, to open my eyes, or even to open my mouth. The elephant is in control of all of the pain in those moments, and man, elephants are powerful.

How does light sensitivity get in the way?

And forget turning on the light. I might as well be at an arena with spotlights blaring in every part of the ceiling. When it comes to migraine, I'm so light-sensitive that I immediately put on a sleep mask. The only problem - when I'm home alone, or have to take care of myself, I need some vision to be able to accomplish this. The darkness doesn't necessarily make my migraine better, but it's one thing that makes it more tolerable.

Another thing that I've found to help in small doses - ice. Regardless of my body temperature, using ice at the base of my skull provides some migraine relief.

I've used a lot of metaphors and figurative language to describe my experiences with migraines - I'd love to know if any of the above resonated with you, or if there's anything you'd like to add. Please, feel free to comment below!

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