After seeing Sideways on Saturday, Alissa and I ate and made the horrible decision to brave Costco on a Saturday as we needed bread and they’re the only store that we can find that carries the brand we want. Within moments of walking into the very crowded Costco I experienced one of the most unusual phenomena as it happened. A small, slow-walking family spread out in front of us, keeping me from moving us and our shopping cart forward. As I grew frustrated, it felt as if a “snap” happened inside my head and suddenly it seemed as if the world filled with dark, menacing clouds. In the space of just a few seconds, I went from simply being inconvenienced to being unbelievably irritated and cranky, complete with a headache bigger than the store itself. What’s more, I felt confused and fuzzy but oddly “sharp” – everything had an edge to it. Sounds were too loud, lights were too bright – everything was experienced in extremes. The time we spent in Costco is now a blur of confusion – I know it happened, but it seems dreamlike and weird in retrospect. Finding what we needed, we paid and I took us quickly home, having lost any desire to do much of anything, and shortly after arriving home wound up on the bed. Ninety minutes later I woke up feeling much the same – exhausted and irritable and pretty much unable to muster up any energy with which to do anything. I thought maybe, just maybe I was coming down with a cold. But how could a cold come on so quickly like that?
When I woke up Sunday morning I felt pretty much the same. Certainly not refreshed and awake like one should after 8 hours of sleeping. A headache hung on most of the morning until I both took some non-brand ibuprofen and had lunch. For most of the rest of the afternoon I was okay – I had hints of a headache and the general malaise I’d had earlier, but it didn’t affect me too badly. Going to bed, however, is when I noticed the problem – tired as I was, there was a general feeling of “franticness,” like my mind was on edge and I couldn’t concentrate for long. I eventually fell asleep after a couple hours of that weird pre-sleep awakeness where you’re fully aware of everything around you but somehow lack the ability to react to it.
When I awoke this morning I just knew something was off – I didn’t feel so headachy as I had, but I just didn’t feel right. After being at work a couple of hours and having a couple of small jobs that I managed to screw up relatively minor but really annoying things on, and feeling quite irritated that I was being asked to fix them, that I was being inconvenienced, I realized something was going on here that I hadn’t been aware of – I’m deep in the middle of a migraine. My mom gets migraines, or got them quite frequently, and I too have had them on occasion – usually the screaming, searing knife-in-brain kind of pain associated with them – and when the idea occured to me I started doing some research. It turns out that I likely do indeed have a migraine, but it’s likely a “painless migraine” – I suffer many of the symptoms, but don’t get the main one, the horrible pain. When I started seeing lists of symptoms come up, I realized I’ve been having these for a long, long time. What I’ve taken for “just being down” type of feelings have likely been migraines of varying severity. It’s a rather shocking and saddening discovery because it means I’ll likely never get away from these awful things. Days like a few weeks back when the vision in my left eye was taken over by a series of snaking lines of flashing lights are obvious – I know that’s a migraine symptom and it only surprises me in how disorienting it is. But feeling . . . weird . . . ? It’s hard to make it sound serious, but it is – I simply do not feel like myself, feel helplessly confused at times, and can unfortunately be more than a little impatient and easily angered. I liken it to a wounded animal: left alone, the animal will suffer in silence and let the wound heal, but when approached and/or prodded, the animal’s going to snap at whoever dares bother it. What I hate more than anything is that there’s little I can do to prevent it – I have so far been unable to catch on that what’s happening is a migraine, so I can’t jump on it quick enough with medication (a coworker who also works weekends at a hospital got me some Imitrex to try out, but they can only be taken the moment symptoms are recognized. I, so far, have only realized what’s going on many hours, or days in this case, into the suffering.) I also hate that my temper gets short when I’m suffering, and try as I might I always end up responding very defensively to people bothering me. However, maybe now that I’m starting to see what’s going on here, I can be more aware of my moods.
As inexplicable as this sounds, for those of you who’ve fortunately never experienced migraines of any sort, you can get an idea of what it feels like by listening to the 10 minute noisescape that ends Wilco’s “Less Than You Think,” from their amazing A ghost is born album. Wilco is centered around the eccentric genius of Jeff Tweedy, a frequent migraine sufferer (who had to check himself into rehab after getting hooked on painkillers he used to ward off their attacks) and I am convinced that the churning, scraping, squealing sounds of the extended leadout of “Less Than You Think” is his aural description of the pain one experiences during a severe attack. The discomfort you feel in listening closely to that is what migraine sufferers experience. Pretty harrowing, isn’t it?