Known Johnson

April 16, 2006


Filed under: General,Movies — Tom @ 11:07 pm

I awoke in the very early hours Saturday with sickening stomach pains and a general confusion and achiness. My first thought was food poisoning. I rolled around and around in bed for hours, jerking in and out of sleep violently as one position proved more uncomfortable than another, or one became suddenly very uncomfortable. Strange smells filled my head at times – pungent, sickening, vomit-like – and, in my sleepy stupor, I blamed my pillow for harboring odors that I’d somehow never noticed before. It wasn’t until I woke up the next morning when, squinting and wincing at the the post-dawn lowlight filling the living room, I asked Alissa to close the blinds, that it hit me: I was having a full-blown migraine. And it was the first time in many, many years that I’ve had such a thing.

As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve had visual migraines on and off for quite some time and seem to get them every couple of months. Sometimes they’re accompanied by a migraine headache of varying severity, sometimes not, but they’re always paired with a common element of confusion, crankiness, touchiness, and loss of appetite, among other things. But yesterday I got the Big One, and it knocked me out good.

Now, a full day later, yesterday is a bit of a blur – a lot of pain, but not a lot of details. I spent a good deal of the day in bed trying, in vain, to get some sleep, and a lot of time in the shower – not getting clean, but simply sitting under a hot spray of water that pounded my head and, for a short time, alleviated some of the agony. The rest of the time . . . I just sat, doing nothing. It was a long, long day.

Somehow, out of curiosity, I had the sense to weigh myself shortly after getting up, having felt so bloated and painful overnight. I had lucked out and weighed myself the day before and was shocked to see that, somehow, I was 3.5 pounds heavier in the course of one day. This is important because, as the day wore on, I found myself entirely unable to eat and even unable to drink for the most part, save for a part of one cup of water and a cup of Diet Coke. When I finally went to bed – suprisingly late, given how little sleep I’d gotten the night before (but remember that state of confusion I mentioned – anything can make sense in times of extreme pain) – I ate one piece of bread. The migraine was slowly making its way out of my body and some sense of hunger had returned in the form of extreme stomach pain. Eating that one piece of bread was a mighty undertaking for fear that it would simply be vomited back up almost immediately. It wasn’t, and I slept fitfully for a second night, but somehow still much more restfully.

When I awoke this Easter Sunday morning, I felt refreshed and alive – the light was brighter and more beautiful, the air cleaner, everything, in general, better than it had been even before the migraine, not to metion nearly 6 pounds lighter than I’d been just 24 hours before. I’ve been reading Dr. Oliver Sacks’ Migraine and was amazed at how accurately he portrayed the reports of his patients, how they awoke after a migraine with the same near-euphoric feelings that I had. You have to wonder, is it simply making it past the migraine that feels so good, or was the migraine a kind of cleansing that makes the sufferer more aware to the rich beauty of life? I ask because, in days leading up to the migraine, I had been really, unpleasantly unhappy, a general unprovoked kind of dissatisfaction and a feeling of aimlessness – I felt like I was being ground down by life. And then this horrific event took place – due to some combination of triggers like stress, food, overexertion, need for sleep, you name it – a sudden attack that threw me off guard, and afterward I’m left thinking only about the good while marvelling at the time I wasted on the negative. Was the migraine a kind of flood gate that functioned to cap off something that was simply going to drown me otherwise? I’ll never know, thankfully.

Maybe it can be looked the way women describe childbirth: it was horrible at the time, but what resulted from it was wonderful. You never quite forget the pain, but you also never quite remember exactly what the pain was like. The human brain is amazing like that. It can allow something so severe and unrelenting to occur, yet leaves you afterward with only enough memory to know that it happened and that it hurt, but not enough memory of the pain that you don’t prevent it from happening again. Otherwise, like childbirth, who would willingly go through it again? If you awoke from a migraine feeling as if life was as crappy as it had been the day before the migraine, would anyone willingly suffer through the next one?

1 Comment »

  1. Boy can I relate to this agony. and with high blood pressure, i am not a candidate for otc migraine maintenance. Almost always wind up in the emergency room (for pain and uncontrollable vomiting) for them to medicate me there and monitor my pressure. Regarding the next-day euphoria. I have given this much thought over the years. i think we take for granted that most days we feel good. when a migraine is finished, it DOES feel euphoric. But I think this is also like the first warm, spring day after a cold, hard winter. Eventually you start taking those subsequent spring days for granted.

    Comment by Lenore — December 26, 2006 @ 10:19 am | Reply

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