Thursday, 12 December 2013

Stuck in bed with a migraine gives me time to contemplate

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,

CT x

 
'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. 
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 
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. 
Be yourself. 
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. 
Beyond a 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. 
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy'.

Blessings to you all.

22 comments:

  1. I hope you recover safely, my friend. A horrible thing to live with, of which I have no experience, and can only imagine through your description.

    Sending healing your way this evening. X

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    1. Bless you D. They are (mercifully) not as severe these days. As I grow older I am also better at not fighting it with frustration but accepting the need to slow down and wait until it passes. A day passed in peace, quiet and stillness is something I have needed for a while- when I failed to do it for myself I guess the universe just stepped in and closed things down for me :-)

      Thank you for the healing- you are a dear X

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  2. Thank you for that wonderful poem CT. I hope your migraine passes soon. My best friend when I was growing up suffered the same type of migraine, and I was well trained in what to do from a fairly young age.

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    1. As with most things, there is huge comfort in knowing you are not the only one to have that experience, and also in knowing the people around you know what to do and can help without needing to be told. I would imagine your friend felt huge comfort in knowing you were there.

      So pleased you like the poem- it is one of my favourites. A very useful meditation x

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    2. I do hope your migraine passes soon. My husband suffers from them although nowhere near as badly as you but his vision suffers dreadfully and he goes through the phase where he can't remember people's names etc. Thinking of you and hoping you feel better today.

      A beautiful poem - one of my favourites and it contains such wonderful wisdom and advice :)

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    3. Thank you Caroline. I remember from before you'd mentioned your hubby gets the vision and memory loss. Unusual for a man although my father in law also gets them from time to time. Horrid things. It was a mild one yesterday so I am back on my feet today thank goodness! x

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  3. Get well soon and enjoy the rest. Take care x

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  4. Take care with this migraine, CT. I knew something about migraines but understand more about how severe they can be thanks to your description. Do they have a trigger at all? It must be worrying knowing that they can come out of the blue.
    I agree midwinter is a time for reflections - just as we were agreeing before - we should learn from nature becoming quieter at this time of year.
    There's lots in the poem to refect upon, too.
    Get well soon x

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    1. There are a number of factors that influence them (diet, weather, stress, hormones, tiredness) but they can be very random in that the triggers can vary with each one. Am fairly sure this one was due to me doing too much (a common fault of mine, despite my best efforts!). Mercifully it was mild in comparison to how they have been and me head feels reasonably clear today.

      I am really looking forward to having a couple of weeks off now. And thank you for your concern x

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  5. You poor thing CT - I'm so sorry. Your symptoms sound more severe than I've ever heard about........just terrible. I so hope you feel better soon. Try and take it a bit easier with the run up to Christmas although that's never easy is it! I had a lovely walk with the dogs yesterday, trying to enjoy it rather than rushing on to the next thing and stressing over stuff as I walked. Glad you've used your time to reflect. Get some sleep and I hope you're better tomorrow. xx

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    1. That's partly why I decided to describe them Em- migraines are too often spoken of in the same breath as headaches which can be frustrating when you're comatose with one for days! Like you and your post earlier this week on Tourettes I think blogs are a good way to pass on information- we all do a good job of increasing one another's learning that way and that surely can only be a good thing.
      You're so right about it being too easy to rush from one job to another without thinking about what you're doing- I'm pleased you got out with the dogs for fresh air and freedom. So important, and thanks for all your good wishes X

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  6. Whoa, I think I'd better stop calling whatever I get migraines, becasuse what I get is nothing compared to those you have. Take care and feel better soon.

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    1. Mine are (were) pretty hideous. Anything with flashing lights and a headache afterwards is a migraine. They have a sliding scale of awfulness so I'm glad your's don't flatten you! Hope you're OK with all that snow- we have wet, damp, grey weather here. It's pretty grotty x

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  7. Those sound truly awful. Do you take medication? Does it help? I have a girlfriend who suffers, not like you, but she sees colours, not so much lights but solid colours. She hasn't found the triggers but is hoping menopause will relieve them.

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    1. They are so hard to put down to any one trigger. It's what makes treating them tough. I take homeopathic arnica- I work as a healer so tend to avoid pills in general. I've learnt over the years to listen to what the migraine is telling me, which is usually that I'm doing too much and need to slow down. For me they are a symptom of imbalance, and rest usually does the trick. Many people do get them tied into hormone cycles and when oestrogen levels fall at menopause it can reduce them greatly so fingers crossed for your pal.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear you have a severe migraine, CT. I get them also but my symptoms are different than yours. It is so hard to know when they will hit. Mine normally starts out with what I have always called -my stomach flipped-. I do take meds everyday for them to try to avoid them as much as possible and take strong migraine meds once I feel one. There are lesions on my brain! YAY- we have the same thing! I lose words and forget what has happened on a daily basis. I'm used to it and try to just brush it off. Hope you feel better soon. Take care and rest. Tracey in Mississippi

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    1. Dear Tracey,

      Thanks so much for your message. Isn't it a relief to know other people have the same thing? They can be such scary things just knowing you aren't the only one makes it easier to cope. I'm so sorry you get the memory and word loss thing too- I know exactly how horrible that is, but you are right to try to take it in your stride and get on with life. We can't let these things get us down! Take care too, CT x

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  9. Your migraine symptoms sound so severe. I do hope you are feeling better take care.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thank you Sarah. I'm out of bed, just got a muzzy head to contend with for a few days! x

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  10. I too have had migraines since I was in my teens but not as severely as you, severe enough though for the planning of anything to be a worry. I broke my neck some years ago and since then I don't get classic migraines, I get a similar thing - cervicogenic headaches - neck related headaches. I find the best thing to prevent these is to avoid stress, not to take on too much, get enough sleep. I agree with your thoughts on reflection at this time of year .....I like to do this.along with hibernation! It was good to read Desiderata again, thank you and I do hope your migraines abate - my husband's disappeared altogether when we moved to Wales!

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    1. Hi Cait. Interesting about your husband and Wales- it obviously suits him there. I am certain there is a stress connection, as well as food triggers. So sorry to hear you get them too but how interesting about the changes after you broke your neck- that merits a whole post in itself I should think! :-)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x