When your mind fights against you: The mind on migraines

As someone who spends a stupid amount of time dealing with migraines, I have also done an amazing amount of reading and study on the subject. Most of it has to help get rid of the problem, to prevent triggers and so on. But ever curious, I have also looked at the notable stories around the problem. One such story is that Lewis Carroll was plagued with migraines. In the end, he used the post dormal or 4th stage of the migraine to write. He used that confusion and feeling of weakness and oddity to create. One such work is rumoured to be Alice in Wonderland. So instead of allowing stress, pain and frustration infuse with my chaotic mind, I took a leaf from Lewis Carroll’s book.

This is without edit what my mind felt and looked like on a day of migraines.  While it may not be a literary classic in the making, it certainly charts the confusion I often feel. 

mind on migraines

Photo: Toa Heftiba

Two things really have me by the shirt-coat. They make my life far more miserable than the physical pains. They are in my head, which is most galling of all.

They are my anxiety, which I can fight. And the migraines, which I cannot.

I take off my glasses and wipe them again. Nope, that shimmering aura is still there. The sweet tang of disappointment starts to bubble up within. I had such plans for today. Today was going to be the day where I got a lot of work done and cleaned up the mess in the house. It was going to be the day that I caught up on case studies and started working on wonderful things.

Instead, I can feel the disconnection between me and my vision so keenly. I can feel that rising fear of my eyes failing to work start to bring the fear. I stretch. I swallow pain killers to ward off the worst of the pain. I always drink water. I shove what I can down my gullet to make sure it isn’t my gut microbiology.

I do what I can to stem the rising tide of annoyance, acceptance and pain.

I know the drill. I oscillate between throwing the day away under the covers or hoping prevention actually works. Whether I go with it or I fight it, it has won. It sucks out the joy, the productivity and the hope. It tells me that it is firmly in charge.

Migraines don’t seem like such a big deal. They aren’t cancer or a life long struggle against illness or injury. But if you live in a faraway fog for days at a time, life becomes quite difficult.

But it isn’t the pain. Or the threat of violent nausea. Or even the ever present “you are here but your eyes are not” feeling that accompanies it all that bothers me the most. It’s the confusion. It’s that mixed up electricity that makes me forgot the name of TV characters in favourite shows yet reminds me of this fact as I lay prone. It is that words are so swirling and distended, my sentences are nonsensical when I go back to read them. That it takes me six attempts to find the word bloat and even though the spell check agrees, it still looks alien and unfriendly.

The difficulty of course is that my brain wants to tell stories at the same time. The writer in my can’t string a sentence together and relies completely on auto-pilot is fascinated with this foreign landscape. The disconnection from reality creates a playground for my imagination. It hates being here but it loves it at the very same time. Can I connect rabbits to glue and make a working analogy? Can I make the sound of the keyboard as it clacks become something worthwhile? Will I read this in a day and despair at my obviously scrambled mind or will it be that moment so incredibly pure it emulates my writing heroes?

Or would, if only I could remember who they are.

This is like a small trip to madness in an unplanned, unmeasured dose. It is not on my times. There is no drug or alcohol to blame. It is dopamine and serotonin cascading into the wrong places and starving the rest. It’s fuzzy and it’s ordinary.

And it’s robbing me of time and patience.

As well as the lines of TS Eliot that might somehow explain where the words have gone, if only I could confirm with my memory that was indeed the poet and it was indeed poetry I sought.

Migraines sit in the head. It grabs hold of the shoulders, the neck and scalp. And it squeezes tight. So tight my eyes threaten to pop and my head threatens to allow my brain to escape. This focus on escape over excape, threatens over theatene, is doing wonders for my deleted (or is that depleted?) confidence.

Am I etherised upon a table? I might be… something is becoming clear…ish.

Twist, crack, thank you back. Now take this misery with you.

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