Usually, the first thing I notice is this fog that starts to roll in; they call it the ‘aura’. Thinking is difficult and muddy, and my visual field looks distorted, almost like the heat waves rising from summer pavement, but more splattered and less linear. A indescribable film that muddles my vision, just slightly. Or, it might start with a twinge near my temple. A pulse. It’s kind of like electricity — painful electricity, but not too painful. Not yet, anyway.
Sometimes I try to ignore it and it goes away. I’m always grateful when it does.
If I can’t ignore it, I try to head it off with deep breaths, drinking lots of water, cold showers, yoga, or painkillers. Sometimes these help. Sometimes the clouds part before the storm even begins.
I’m learning not to clench. Not to contract the muscles in my face or tense my head in pain when the pulses twinge, or the fog builds and begins to pressurize into storm clouds. When I relax my face, my head, my mind, and allow the fog and painful sparks to be as they are, sometimes that helps, but it’s not easy.
The storm will start to get dense and completely invade the top half of my face — behind my eyes, temples, and above my forehead, it feels like the nerves are tangled in tight knots. It concentrates behind one of my temples. My head feels heavy. The clouds start to throb. A slow, irregular heartbeat of deep, dull pain. Rising and falling like a tide. The electrical pulses haven’t stopped either. They strike like lightning bolts through the twisty knotted nerves.
A head is a small place for a thunderstorm.
My eyes water and I try to act normal. Saying “I have a migraine”, if I have something I need to do, is usually pointless — nobody can help, even if they want to — and I can’t always quit life for the day.
I tend to squint a lot, and my eyes water. Light doesn’t hurt — not exactly — but it is unpleasant. It’s like the clouds feed on it. Direct sunlight or a bright flash can trigger a lightning bolt. Sharp, loud, or high noises also feed the thunderstorm and tighten the knots. Especially when abrupt or unexpected. They call it ‘sensitivity’ to light and sound. I can actually deal with either pretty well — as long as it’s not sudden — but when I find some quite darkness, the relief is palpable. I lay in bed a lot. I try to keep something comfortable and cool against my forehead. Rotating pillows and shifting the blankets works well. The softness on my skin is especially soothing.
The only problem with a dark, quite, soft bedroom is that even in the absence of any painful stimuli, the storm still rages. Only now there are no distractions.
Sometimes, I’ll remember again to release the tension in my head and in my body, and consciously relax, and it’s a relief. And then the knotty nerves throb or a lightning bolt strikes and I forget about anything but the pain. I want to cry, and often do. Time for a pity party! Why me!?? What did I do to deserve this??!?
If I can fall asleep, I am grateful. If not, I have to get up and distract myself because lying there awake becomes its own torture.
By this time, it’s been maybe four to seven hours since the fog first started rolling in. I haven’t eaten much because my stomach is tight and nauseous and frankly, the prospect disgusts me. Sometimes making myself eat something helps with the pain. I’ll try the cold shower, the yoga, an orgasm, or the painkillers again. Sometimes these work.
Eventually, it happens. The lightning gets a little less intense. The rhythmic tide gets a little more distant. My mind is slightly clearer. I get really stoked.
Sometimes, the storm takes pity and breaks apart rapidly, but usually it’s a slow process. The fog lazily clears out and the nerves untie themselves. The lightning bolts weaken back into static pulses. This can take an hour, or six hours. I never really know.
Once the clouds have fully parted my head feels open and light. I’m incredibly happy but incredibly tired. Even if I just laid around in bed all day, I’m fucking drained. I feel like I just spent the day hiking in the sun.
These storms take a lot out of me.
I always promise myself to never take this painless state for granted again. It’s such a gift.