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I know, it sounds like an amazing acrobatic feat, doesn’t it?  Well, it is.

I have been getting minor migraines for a few years now.  Not too often, and not as bad as some friends I know who’ve had them. In fact, I’d say I’m pretty lucky. Usually, I will feel one coming on and can stave it off with caffeine, Celebrex, or other tricks. But not this time.

I’m learning more about migraines. I guess I should say, I’m teaching myself more about migraines, as they seem to be more and more a part of my life in my present perimenopausal condition. And may I say that I hope the whole perimenopausal thing just switches over to menopausal sooner rather than later. I’d much prefer “falling off the roof” to this current state of clinging to the gutter.

So what are migraines? Well, migraines are pain. Nuff said.

No, just kidding. Hey, I’m a migraineur. That’s how we roll. But seriously, let me tell you a little bit about migraines.

Many people find that weather patterns serve as a trigger for migraines. Extremes in heat or cold – or extreme changes in temperature – can bring a migraine on.  So when the barometer drops, you’d better get ready.

Certain foods can bring on migraines, as can dieting and lack of sleep. Migraines contrarily come after a stressful event concludes, and so they can show up at the beginning of a long weekend after a tough work week, or at the start of a honeymoon (everybody knows how stressful it can be to get married), all putting a damper on your post-stress festivities.

About 29.5 million people suffer from migraines, and three times more women than men get them. Maybe that’s from the hormone fluctuations – I’m not sure.  If you, like I, am one of those 29.5 million, rest assured that we’re in good company. Other migraine sufferers include Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Virginia Wolfe, Lewis Carroll, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Elvis Presley. As you can see, it’s a list of charismatic, creative people – a group that you’d love to join, if the requirement for joining weren’t having a pain in your head that makes you want to rip off your own skull.

Speaking of artistic endeavors, two creative researchers have put together a book/exhibition entitled Migraine Art: The Migraine Experience from Within. Klaus Podoll and Derek Robinson are responsible for the project, which included Migraine Art competitions in the UK and the US. The resultant artwork is a variety of depictions of the migraine itself by its sufferer.

Olea Nova has some lovely and evocative examples on her website www.migraineartwork.com.  A psychologist and artist, she herself does not have migraines, but she interviews those who do and transfers their words into the images in her work. She does an excellent job of creating a visual of an event for which it is difficult to find words.

Now for some practical information.

Migraines have four phases:

Prodrome: This is the first phase and shows up one or two days before the actual migraine. It’s sneaky and stealthy and mimics many other things. Symptoms at this stage (at least for me) include cravings, neck stiffness (like I slept wrong), irritability, and depression. You know something is wrong, but can’t pinpoint it. You wonder if you’re getting sick. But you don’t think about a migraine.

Aura: (And we’re not talking about that glowy-colored light that surrounds people.) Not everyone experiences this stage. I don’t. These symptoms may happen just before a migraine. You may have visual disturbances, or feel like your arms or legs are asleep - that numb, tingling feeling. You might have trouble talking – wait, I always have trouble talking these days. The aura stage is not to be confused with ophthalmic migraines, which are generally annoying, painless, and are NOT a precursor to a migraine.

Attack (a.k.a.Pain Pain Pain): This is the lulu stage. The pain. It is often in one part of your head. For me, it’s above my left eye, though my neck can hurt too. It pulses. It throbs. It’s stabby. You are sensitive to light, to sound. You are nauseated. It’s hard to see, to even keep your eyes open. It’s next to impossible to think. All you want to do is to get those little men with the pickle forks out of your head. It can last (seemingly forever but really) for anywhere from one to three days. This last one lasted for two days.

Postdrome: This is the migraine hangover. You feel exhausted, drained, and somehow there is still a shadow of the migraine hanging around. You are afraid it’s going to come back. It feels like it’s waiting in the wings for an encore.

I tried to find some migraine humor, but it’s hard to come by. I guess very few people find it a laughing matter. I’ll share what I’ve found.

Cures?  Heaven only knows.  There are numerous folk remedies that folks say will improve things: pineapple, orgasms, Lapis Lazuli crystals, feverew, ice-cold wet socks on the feet, peppermint oil, Vitamin B3, and the list goes on and on. For me (this time), the only thing that worked was ice packs and Oxycodone, which was ancient and leftover from some medical procedure years ago. It still walloped the tar out of my migraine. In fact, it kicked my migraine in its ass. (But I don’t recommend it unless things are extreme, because it is addictive.)

So now you have a little bit of what I know about migraines. What I don’t know I can’t tell you. I just hope you don’t become one of the elite squad of migraineurs. I certainly wish I wasn’t.

And by the way, tonight, I am almost all better.

April 2014
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