First real Migraine; A terrifying array of new experiences
I am a 30 year old with no known history of migraines. I say ‘known’ because I don’t think I’ve ever had one, and I think if I had, I would have known. Although, I think maybe I’ve had auras without headaches before.
My wife and I spent this past weekend in Lake Tahoe. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It was a quick weekend trip though. Only one full day without travel. On that day, 4 miles out into a 10 mile hike, my wife sprained her ankle pretty badly and we had to hobble back to the car.
We had Monday off of work to travel back. On Tuesday, due to my wife’s ankle, I drove her to the train station so she wouldn’t have to walk. On the way back, the morning sun was low on the horizon and pointed directly into my face. I squinted and cursed the whole 20 minute drive home.
By the time I got out of my car, I felt a bit funny. A bit lightheaded. I also noticed a spot in the middle of my vision, that was shimmering and I couldn’t really see anything behind it. I thought maybe it was from the bright sun. But, I also had a bit of a headache. I sat down, still lightheaded, and paid attention to the visual anomaly I was experiencing. It was like a long, looping string with ripples moving across it. It was visible in both eyes. It was slowly expanding across the left side of my vision. Although I don’t have a migraine history, I have had alot of curiosity about them, so I thought I might be experiencing an aura. Just a couple of focused searches later and I realized that I was dealing with a ‘fortification spectrum’, a well-known and quite common pattern for those who experience migraine auras.
By this point, the headache was up to about a 5/10 on the pain level. It felt like it was centered directly in the inside of the exact top of my head. I took a couple of Ibuprofen and thought I’d wait it out and head to work (I am a physicist and have flexible hours). After an hour it wasn’t really better. I tried a cold compress and just closed my eyes for a while. I felt better pretty quickly, over the course of an hour. I went to work hoping it was gone.
I was fine the rest of the day (still Tuesday here). Later in the evening, I did have a dull ache, but only a 1/10 or less. Another Ibuprofen before bed and I slept pretty well, thinking I was good to go. All day Wednesday at work, no problems.
In the middle of the night Wednesday, I woke up to use the restroom (one side note: I’ve been incredibly thirsty for ICE COLD water these last few days). I had a headache behind my left eye and towards the back of my head, about a 3/10. Enough to trouble me and keep me awake. An Ibuprofen got me back to sleep, and I woke up with a 2/10. I went to work and pretty quickly went down to a 0/10.
Then, I had the most terrifying sensory experience I’ve ever had. I was eating lunch, and reading something on the internet. One of my eyes felt like it twitched and I started to feel lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous, with pretty extreme vertigo. I backed away from my desk a little bit, getting quite nervous. The visual anomaly got worse; the only way I can describe it is that it felt like I couldn’t control my eyes, and they were moving in different directions. Things I tried to look at would blur and streak across my vision. I got really flushed and I can’t completely remember, but I think my ears were ringing. All this time, pain was still a 0/10. The whole episode lasted about 20 seconds or less, but my hands were shaking with fear. I was very, very close to asking someone to call an ambulance.
I went to the University health clinic, but due to a technicality, they couldn’t let me see a doctor. I talked to a nurse who talked to the doctor and advised me to go to the ER. I couldn’t get ahold of my insurance to make sure I could find an in-network hospital. After talking it over with my wife, I decided that it was still very, very likely that I’m suffering from a migraine (and not, for instance, a stroke or something requiring an immediate emergency visit). I have contacted a doctor and am trying to schedule a visit ASAP, but it was too late in the day by the time I settled on one (I have a strong fear of doctors and dentists).
Throughout the evening, (this is Thursday evening; recall that everything started on Tuesday morning), pain has been about a 1/10, back to the top of my head and slightly to the right side this time. It’s a dull, nagging ache. I have had tinnitus several times throughout the day, and still feel a very slight sense of vertigo and nausea.
One last note: I am almost completely certain that my wife affects my hormonal cycle. I have long been able to predict when she is about to start menstruating because occasionally I sink into a deep depression 3-4 days prior. My migraine started –> 4 days prior to when she is expecting to start. Finding a real link for this type of phenomenon out there is harder than matching up my symptoms (all of which are relatively common in different types of migraines, from what I can tell). However, I am not ruling it out.
I am scared that I will start a long-term cycle of migraine activity. I am quite scared of the experience I had today, as it could be a major hazard if it ever happens while driving or doing other activities, and it came so completely out of nowhere. I have been lucky with the pain, but will it get worse? When will it stop? How will I know when it has stopped? How will I know when it’s safe to drive by myself? Will I live in constant anxiety of when or even if another migraine is coming?
I hope that by sharing my first major migraine experience, some other person experiencing these things for the first time can be helped through the process of discovering that you’re not really in control of your own brain. Sometimes, it will do what it wants. It will threaten to make you feel like all of your senses are being taken away from you. I am helped through this discovery by the large community of migraine sufferers who are able to overcome it. I don’t know where this is going. And so far, it’s been terrifying at times. Thanks for reading. I hope this helps someone. Writing it has helped me.