The thing about migraines, when you have them almost every day, is that they tame you. You stop fighting, sometimes because you’re lazy, sometimes because migraine is its own reality. Like dreams, where whole timelines are born, complete with histories and memories, migraine is a feverish bright blue that believes that you will never be normal:

You will be hurt by the sun.

You will never regard an invitation from a friend as “fun,” but rather, something to be survived. Like drinking anything alcoholic. Like watching a good movie. Like catching up with someone on the phone.



Taking the bus is carsick torture. You sit with the back of your head pressed against the iron bar behind your seat, forcing your neck into the disgusting and sticky metal, hard, so that it gives you pressure, sensation, anything but the tangled muscles and nerves that are strangling your brain. Maybe you can loosen them. You think of an anecdote someone told once about their mother accidentally breaking her own foot with her hands while trying to stop a cramp. You know how it happens. You’ve never forgotten the time you went to the grocery store, with a migraine, and tried to replace your cart. You missed, and accidentally scraped your elbow against the grocery store’s brick exterior. You watched the blood start trickling down your arm and realized, amazed, that your headache was gone. You did a little dance by the carts. You’ve thought many times since about scraping your arm against something to stop a headache, but you doubt you could do it hard enough on the first try, and you don’t want to become a self-harmer. It seems a dangerous road. Anyway, you know you look a little crazy on the bus, with your head at a 90-degree angle to your neck, but migraine clubs your absolute self-consciousness into submission. You don’t care.

You will never be entertained, the migraine says. Ha! It knows you can’t watch or read anything too absorbing, too interesting, when a headache strikes. The excitement makes the headache worse. Instead, you’re condemned to reruns. They’re shows you like–The Golden Girls, Arrested Development, Peep Show, and Frasier is especially soothing–but you know the episodes by heart because you’ve listened to every single one, in the dark, more times than you want to count. You are deeply, deeply bored. Your brain is hungry. If it were a tiny animal it would be starving, with horrible food allergies to all its favorite things. It would eat oatmeal every day and rage quietly at its lot.

So, like a child sneaking candy at night, you read Twitter. Small Tic Tacs of information you can digest. That’s not true, of course, and the migraine knows it; it knows you’ll take everything far too seriously, it knows that you can be tempted into participation and dialogue, and it knows that all of that will only make it stronger.

So you stand on a high-wire, with never-ending doldrums on the one side, nauseating and redundant, and a forest of spikes on the other.

And your balance sucks.

Then the migraine leaves, and all your failures of imagination evaporate. Friends are opportunities, books are salvific, and television does things you never thought it could. You work! You produce! A future seems possible. You imagine a posterity of good conversations, of entertainments, of discussions and walks.

It’s easy to say that the second world is the real one, but when you get one day of it every two weeks, it gets harder and harder to believe that, if one is, say, Kansas and the other is Oz, it’s the good days, the migraine-free days, when the Wicked Witch is dead.

2 Responses to Migraine

  1. Dianne says:

    Dear Lili – I have been there. Really. The day after day migraines. It got better.

    Can migraines be a strange gift as well as an apparent curse? Forcing your mind and imagination and even perhaps your “will” to go places you otherwise wouldn’t?
    Researchers have recently found that migraine sufferers have highly sensitive brains. You’re forced to spend time apart from an ever increasingly fast, (insane?) world.

    Shouldn’t SOMEBODY be doing that? People who can look at it all from a different perspective. And maybe bring new thoughts and ideas back from very painful places.
    It could end up making you a deeper, more soulful writer, who can express things that others are too busy, or unable, to sense or feel – the sensitive brain thing.

    Reach out to whatever sustains you spiritually. My experience is that sometimes, help arrives.

    And give the food approach an honest try – it’s so not-easy but has helped me enormously. I’ve got lots of tips for how to deal w/ this and that when it comes to migraine sensitve foods. Like, I’m going to a conference today and it’s not a day I can cheat – how do i get and keep protein food cold long enuf? What do i bring that really tastes good so I don’t eat things I shouldn’t.

    I’ve never turned down pain medication.

    Love and prayers,

  2. toscottybear says:

    Reblogged this on canuckrmt and commented:
    A very interesting first-hand account of living with migraines….

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