Let’s Talk About Pain – Part I


It’s hard to describe a migraine.  There’s pain, excruciating pain, it throbs and makes your skull feel like it is going to explode.  However, there is more to it than that.

The best way to experience it, if you’ve never had one, is have someone surgically implant small explosive charges in your head and then detonate them every time your heart constricts.  That’s the pain part.

I haven’t had nausea with mine in a long time.  I rarely have to kneel down for hours in front of the toilet.  I used to.  I used to vomit until I passed out on the cold bathroom floor and woke up some hours later to crawl to my bed.  If I was really lucky, there was someone there with a cold rag to put on my forehead.

Because being hot is part of it.  For me, when I have a migraine, I feel like I’m on fire.  I tend to run a fever and my blood pressure usually skyrockets to dangerous levels (it is the only time I have trouble with my blood pressure).  Then if you take migraine medication, specifically a triptan (like I prefer), you become deathly cold.  You just can’t get warm enough.  This is easily explained: triptans constrict your blood vessels; less blood flow to the brain to ease the throbbing, but also less blood flow to the extremities and organs, making you feel cold.  They can actually make you feel so cold that you begin shivering.

As I age, vertigo becomes a more common companion.  Vertigo sucks.  Vertigo with a migraine really sucks.  Vertigo, even if the migraine is painless (and those do exist) really sucks.  Here’s the thing, with vertigo, the room tends to spin unless you are lying in a certain position.  With a migraine, the way you are lying can make it worse.  Sometimes, these two necessary positions do not overlap.  With my migraines, I need to lie on my right side.  However, I have a microscopic hole in my left eardrum.  It isn’t a big deal 99.9% of the time.  However, when I have vertigo with my migraine, I have to lie on my left side to make the room stop spinning.  I’ve had reconstructive surgery on my left shoulder.  Lying on it for long periods of time, can cause a tension migraine on top of a regular migraine.  So, do I deal with the room spinning or do I deal with the extra pain of lying on my left side?  Decisions, decisions.

Then there are the strange symptoms that no one really talks about:

1.  My hair annoys me when I have a migraine.  If I could stand the sound of clippers, I would probably end up with my hair in a buzz cut.  Putting it up, leaving it down, it doesn’t matter… it’s like my hair has something to do with the pain.

2.  The Wanderings – I’m sure there is a real name for this symptom, I don’t know what it is.  I used to think it was a medication side-effect, but it happens regardless of whether I take migraine meds or not.  This symptom can happen before, during or after the pain of a migraine.  Essentially, you wander around like a zombie.  You can’t get interested in anything.  You can’t sleep.  You move from task to task because you can’t focus and room to room because you can’t decide if there is something you could be doing or not.

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