Hanging out with my broken brain


Image courtesy of Scott1723. Licensed under CC 2.0.

I was 15 when I had my first migraine. My family was at a moderately-fancy movie theatre, and it was a bright grey day, and I looked over into the parking lot and noticed that it appeared to be moving, which seemed unusual. I poked my dad and asked him to confirm whether the parking lot was moving or whether I was having an aneurism.

On the downside, the parking lot wasn’t really moving. On the upside, not an aneurism!

The migraines, a legacy inherited from my dad’s side of the family, didn’t make much of an additional appearance until I was in college. Either I was a remarkably low-stress high school student, or something about routinely eating fruits and vegetables staved them off until I started feeding myself a diet consisting of store brand boxed wine and Amy’s microwaveable meals.

Eventually, during senior year of college, the twice-a-year ritual of losing vision in my left eye (followed by flop-sweating, nausea, and a wish to die) upped its frequency to twice a week. Given that I hated school, my mother was sick, and I spent a lot of time crying in my car, this was perhaps not surprising. It turns out that student health employees will give you whatever you’d like if you open with “my mom’s dying and also sometimes I can’t see out of one of my eyes,” so I was immediately given a script for 2 cases of Maxalt.

Maxalt is a magical space drug given to us by a benevolent god. The actual pill looks like an altoid, and when a migraine starts you place it under your tongue and let it dissolve. I assume it absorbs through your tongue, but have literally no idea. For me, within 15 minutes the magical space drug restores my vision and stops the headache, nausea, and flop sweating in its tracks.

I learned last week, after using the drug for 2 years, that one of the potential side effects is lockjaw. So, you know, that’s an issue for some people.

Until last week, I had only had one migraine in the last four or five months. I may have a deep and committed core of general anger at the unfairness of the world, but apparently my ambient stress level is much lower than it used to be. I haven’t cried in my car once in 2014, even when my feelings had been hurt, and Paul Baribeau came on shuffle, and I was tired.

Last week, I had two migraines, one day after the other. I had used the last of the Maxalt in my purse for the first one, and forgotten to replace it. So, on the second day, I was out of my medication. And I was legitimately scared of my stupid head and its stupid, vomitous headaches. Because the thing about the migraines (unlike my nearsightedness or my flat feet or the moles I have to have cut out of me every so often) is that they come out of nowhere and they render me completely incapacitated. The main way that I know that a migraine is coming is that I quit being able to see.

And I hate it. On principle, my main reaction to fear is some degree of fury, and I get mad at my stupid malfunctioning head that’s making me scared of when it might just decide that I can’t see or drive or be comfortable at all. Which is the dumbest reaction in the world, but is sort of the only bit of control I can have over the entire, irritating situation.

So, should you be picking through my purse in the future and wonder why I have backup doses on backup doses of Maxalt, that’d be why. Because I don’t care if my head doesn’t want me to see–I have shit to do.

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