I'd only been up for ten minutes before it struck this morning. I looked at M and suddenly half his face wasn't there.
I am an Old Hand at these things and everyone in my house knows the routine: I take two arnica and go to bed in a dark room and there I stay for the remainder of the day and, depending on how bad it's been, I'm often still there the next day and sometimes, after a particularly nasty one, the third day too.
I have approx one minute once my vision starts to go to make any necessary phone calls for arrangements before I go blind. When L was a baby this was horrific and I didn't go out much because of it, I certainly didn't drive more than 15 minutes away, in case an attack came on when we were out. We couldn't go swimming, I didn't really join groups, I was always terrified at school pick up time in case one came on and I couldn't get him. We couldn't see friends who lived further afield and we couldn't go on holiday, because I was a single parent and there was no one there to take over if something happened.
I'll feel washed out for about four days and words will slip in and out of my memory for about a week after an attack. The muscles in my neck, back and shoulders seize and stiffen until they are like rock and they won't loosen up for about 7-10 days, no matter how much you massage them. My eyes don't see things properly for a few days afterwards, and on a bad day I forget the names of the people I love and the words for simple things like 'door' and 'window'. I lose all sensation down one side (the left) of my body, not to mention my tongue going numb so I lose speech and can only mumble. This makes it feel like you're going to swallow your tongue and often the numbness extends into your lungs and then you panic that you won't be able to breath.
After the numbness comes the tingling, only it isn't tingling. It's a white hot burning sensation that hurts as it rips through the numb muscles and leaves excruciating cramp in its wake. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You know it's coming, you can't control it; you can't stop it- all you can do is try to stay calm, breath through it and wait until it's over.
These really nasty symptoms come on about an hour after the flashing lights have stopped, usually when you think you're recovering, so if you haven't had them before they are a really nasty shock, which is why the first time it happened I ended up in A&E having been brought in in an ambulance with a suspected stroke. At 7 months pregnant this was no joke and I was terrified that my baby was in danger. He wasn't, but the GPs didn't recognise it as a migraine (God knows why- they are not uncommon) and I was hooked up to all sorts of machines before they let me out barefoot, car less and heavily pregnant at midnight.
Somewhere between the numbness and the tingling your thoughts become disordered, sounds grow disproportionately large and you can taste them in your mouth, because all your senses have got confused and stopped working in the way that you rely on them working. It is very disconcerting to say the least. If people talk near you you can't understand what they are saying and the sounds become muddled and meaningless and that's pretty frightening too so you find yourself wishing they would just be silent, only you can't talk to ask them to be.
After these symptoms have gone the headache starts. Only it isn't a headache, it's a sledgehammer and it gets worse whenever you try to move. Standing up is a no-no.
I tell you these things not for sympathy. On the whole these attacks are milder than they once were. I am relating this in case you know others who suffer from them. Because for many people who don't get them, it's tempting to liken a migraine to a headache, when what they actually are are neurological episodes, mini-strokes, that stop the blood flow to your brain and leave you feeling confused and exhausted and frightened and unable to do all the things you would normally do. A headache would be bliss in comparison.
Recent research has discovered lesions present on the brains of migraine sufferers. M and I joke about them- whenever I am forgetful we say it is my lesions- but I was glad when the research was published because I've been saying for years that you can not experience a migraine like this and not have some lasting effect on your brain from it. I do forget words more often than M does. I struggle to remember things and names often just drop out of my head, not in a forgetful way, but the way they do when a migraine steals them. I suspect there is some damage there that's permanent, but you learn to live with it and not worry overly because, as the old adage goes: 'worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, only saps today of its joy." And besides, I am a Positive Person- life will deal you knocks, we all have them, and we all have to figure out how to get over them.
I was meant to be going to my Great Uncle's funeral today. We weren't close, but it mattered because he is family, and also, because he is the last bar-one of my granny's generation left alive, and that feels significant, all the more because she went thirty years ago and he is very nearly the last contemporary connection with her.
Because of this, and because I'm stuck in bed unable to zoom about as I usually do, I have been reflecting on generations passing and the changes they have seen during their lifetimes. I am aware of this at the moment more than I would usually be because our own children are growing up- J is now 18 and will be off to France and then uni next year. She was 10 when I met her. 18 is miles away from ten. F is now as tall as me and getting taller every day, and L is just beginning to talk with a young man's maturity about taking control of his studies.
Time moves and seasons swing. Life ebbs and flows and all you can do is go with it and tread gently when you can, firmly when you must. Christmas is a good time for quiet reflection- that may sounds like a misnomer, but I mean the season rather than the celebration. Mid winter should be a time for pause and consideration, a chance to go over what has happened in the year that is drawing to a close, to check you've learnt the lessons of the hard stuff, then move on and not let them haunt your every step. Remember the nice things and focus on where you want to be next year instead. I'm always grateful for the chance to refresh that the new year offers, and also to say goodbye to the old one. It's done and it won't come again.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite poems. It's been a quiet day and one that I have needed, and Desiderata fits nicely into that kind of contemplative thinking.
Hope all are well,
'Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may
be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms
with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to
others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.
compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career,
however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full
of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many
persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical
about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as
perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully
surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield
you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark
imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the
universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be
here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is
unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you
conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the
noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy'.
Blessings to you all.