|Rather than the
of writing collected in other pages, I've tried to organize this
to be as informative as possible about migraines. Hopefully those
searching for help with theirs will happen across this page. If
know anyone who suffers from migraines, please feel free to forward
link to them.
hard to neatly
sum up my experience with migraines without going into the symptoms as
well. I'll discuss those in more detail later.
I was lucky in
that my migraines
didn't come on until later in life (they didn't start until around
increased in frequency over the course of a year and a half later, then
disappeared shortly after, right as I began grad school. After
I only had them very infrequently. The most I had was four in one
semester, but it was rare if I had one normally, although I've already
had three this year.
working with statistics programs I ran some tests on the frequency of
headaches (I kept a record of them during that year and a half when
were the most intense). They occurred more on the weekend than
the week, and, curiously, they increased in frequency right up till the
end, then just stopped.
I kept a
in which kept track of the date, day of the week, and the time of
The only pattern that was obvious was that I had a lot more on the
and I have no explanation for that. As I mentioned above, they
after I stopped teaching to go to grad school, but I was still living
the same place at the time. Also, they didn't seem to be related
to stress since I was more stressed out at the beginning of my teaching
career than roughly six months into it when the migraines started.
I never figured
the trigger was for mine in all that time. For many people it's
they eat. I presently have a hypothesis that Skittles trigger
although I'm not sure how seriously I want to test this out if it means
actually triggering a migraine and having to deal with it in the
of medication (I don't have anything other than Excedrin handy right
The reason I suspect Skittles is because I tended to be a candy junky
the time when I had the most frequent/intense migraines and I was
them last week when I had two migraines in a row. It's still a
at this point though.
I would experience was a distortion of my vision (sections just
it is difficult to describe anything more than that). That would
last from 20 minutes to an hour, usually about 40 minutes. Within
an hour of that I would begin to experience some pain. Prior to
a successful medication (more on that later), I could be in constant
for the rest of the day. The pain was aggravated by any activity
that would increase blood pressure in my head (leaning over, picking up
something heavy). The constant pain was over (usually) after a
but the blood pressure symptoms remained for another day.
amount of pain
I experienced with the migraines varied. Actually, I've had worse
"normal" headaches than most of the migraines I've had. The more
debilitating thing was the "auras" and the vasosensivity that lasted
another 24 hours after the full day of the original migraine.
The pain could
also be on
just one side of my head or all over the place at once. The
is usually the case in other people, from what I understand.
for most people is what most people call the "aura." I think this is
because it sounds like maybe a haze that you can see through. It
isn't anything like that at all though, but it's almost impossible to
appreciably unless you've experienced it yourself.
For me, the
first thing that
happens is that there is an isolated little "sparkly" area in my
usually off to the side. It looks like the "snow" between tv
where there's no definite form to it at all. The area with this
it gradually grows ever larger and multiplies. There are usually
several small spots within a couple minutes. By ten minutes from
the start, the spots are large enough to start to touch one another and
gradually fill in the majority of my visual field. I've never
*completely* blinded by this, but it typically will cover more than 50%
of the field before it begins to abate.
this is harder to convey. These areas are not only "sparkly,"
also tend to disappear. It is as though that part of the visual
doesn't exist. Imagine you draw a picture on a page, then you
in on the paper and have the middle fold inward while the sides of the
picture are still there, only the sides are closer together now.
It's kind of like that, only it's something you would never experience
phenomenon I've only experienced once (but I have heard anecdotally
other migraine sufferers) is that, rather than (or perhaps in addition
to?) the auras, some people get a "blackness" or tunnel-vision before
get a migraine. I had this happen once when I was teaching, and
was a lot like I was wearing a big cardboard box over my head with a
narrow slit to see out of. I had to look all over the place to
in the larger view I could otherwise have captured at a glance.
that was a one-time experience.
Getting back to
I had my first one about a year before I had an actual migraine.
It happened in a night class and I couldn't figure out what was going
ended up borrowing a pair of sunglasses from another student.
probably thought I was just being silly but I was seriously
I had forgotten about the whole thing until a year later when I was
one day and found that I couldn't read the board. I tried to
nothing was wrong, but I couldn't tell what I had written. The
caught on that something was up because I was probably acting really
I mean, 90% of what was going through my mind translated as "WTF?" I
told them to just work on the material they needed to cover, and I
for the nurse's area. She realized it was a migraine and told me
to lay down while they had someone else watch my class for a
Eventually it passed and I just had the headache, which, relatively
was a relief.
As I said
above, this was
the most debilitating component of them for me because it meant that,
temporarily, I was blinded. If I was driving (especially on a
trip), it was always annoying since that meant I had to get someone
to drive or I was just stranded wherever until the symptoms had
which could be as much as an hour later. I'm not the type of
who likes to slow down either, so this was really frustrating.
Usually I had
to just lie
on the couch and try to find something on tv that I could listen to
having to watch it. I certainly couldn't read a book or use the
In fact, I also couldn't read even when I could see, technically
The words were there, but my brain was still "numb" to the meaning of
text. Every word took a full second to comprehend. I was
sounding them out in my head since I could only pick up a small portion
at a time. I finally had to resort to the text-to-speech program
to read a joke my dad sent me by email.
I'm not sure
preferentially target the visual system or even what is happening in
but it is one of the most salient elements of the experience of having
one. Actually, some people experience this symptom exclusively
never have any of the other components associated with a migraine,
the pain. Some people call these "silent migraines."
an aversion to light and sound occasionally. Those symptoms were
far less consistent than any of the others. I only dealt with
a very few times, but it was very unpleasant. I've never had a
but it is apparently what people experience with them. The worst
time I had one of these, I literally went to bed at 7pm because I
do anything else. I was completely nonfunctional. It was
to listen to anything because it was always too loud. I couldn't
read since the light was always too intense, no matter how dim I tried
to make things (I had a dimmer on my bedside lamp since it was
to an x10 controller).
I recall being
insane by a bird chirping outside. I had a tree right near my
window in which a bird was chirping normally. It wasn't any louder than
birds normally chirp, but it was incredibly powerful to me at that
I couldn't shut it out. It was as loud as a baby screaming/crying
right into my ear.
than any of the above, I sometimes experienced nausea, but only on the
most severe migraines. This was fairly debilitating as well since
it meant that I couldn't eat or move about. Usually this mean
on the couch and flipping through the channels, which is sort of prison
sentence as far as I'm concerned. I never actually threw up, but
it was a pretty intense feeling that never seemed to go away for hours
at a time.
there are three approaches to dealing with a migraine.
management - You
have a migraine, you treat the pain. (e.g., Excedrin, etc.)
therapy - You
have a migraine, but you stop it before it gets started. (e.g.,
- You never
have a migraine because you're keeping them from occurring. (e.g.,
One thing the
I was seeing when I first had my migraines was that I should try to
them from happening as soon as possible. He pointed out
brains tend to get into habits, so the best thing is to keep them from
"practicing," so to speak. As such, he advised that I go the
approach. I took propanolol for a while and that prevented them
coming on. However, I'm not a big fan of taking meds constantly,
so I just took Imitrex, which meant I had to deal with the visual
when they came on, and the drug would abort the headache before it
start. Of course, if I didn't take the medication almost
then it was too late. I was usually paranoid enough to keep some
on-hand in a number of places (my car, my ex's car, my shaving kit in
I was traveling, the medicine cabinet, my desk at school, and so on).
migraines, then it is worth it to be checked out and to find out, first
of all, if they are being caused by something else.
the cost of medication is certainly worth it to restore function to
life when the alternative is being out of commission (or at least
only in a limited capacity) for as much as a couple days at a time.