Friday, November 11, 2011

Anatomy of a Migraine, or Thank Heavens for NCIS Marathons

Autumn windflowers give one last moment of relaxing beauty before cold comes

Two days in a fetal position on the couch with an elephant standing on my skull.  A migraine to end all migraines.  This one sneaks up on me, gets a head start while I’m sleeping so it was in full flower, past the opportune time to take my medicine.  Ice?  Heat?  A different pillow?  Close my eyes to the flashing lights that are really inside my head.  Turn down the television to a quiet murmur.  What will release the vise grip on my neck?  Can I outlast it or will this be the one that finally kills me?

But then the hallucinations start.  And the nausea.  I know I must be hallucinating because over and over again I hear the voice of Herman Cain talking about “false accusations” and “anonymous accusers.”  It’s just that one voice I hear over and over for hours as the vise tightens another notch.  “A troubled woman to make false accusations. . . .”  Surely it must be the pain talking.  In the 21st century women who make sexual harassment accusations surely are not still victims of the “slut or nut” portrayal by accused harassers and their supporters.

Perhaps the reason I seem to hear only Cain’s narrative in this hallucinatory migraine stage is because I keep fading in an out of consciousness.  That must explain why I don’t hear the women’s voices.  Surely it wouldn’t be because they were made to sign legal documents that forbid them ever to speak publicly about their unnerving encounter while the man with the money and power to circumscribe their female voices could face all the cameras and microphones he desired to declare every 30 minutes in the 24-hour news cycle that he did nothing wrong and doesn’t know what these crazy women are talking about.

Clearly this is the worst migraine delirium I’ve experienced in years.  It just won’t end.  What’s that?  A new voice enters my head, questioning the one-sided tale, bringing up the women, the accusers, that the presidential candidate has declared don’t exist and which he swears never to discuss.  The voice attempts to summon them, their stories, their voices in the midst of a debate.  But the mere mention of these “anonymous accusers” brings out ghosts of an alternative America offering a loud BOOOOO to the one who questions.  I hear the voices in a continuous loop in my head as I sweat and toss and seek relief from the pain throughout the night.

I finally fall into a fitful sleep wrapped in a blanket on the refuge of the couch.  Faithful dog by my side to alert me to any real evil in my world, not just the voices in my head. Then I turn again and, click, I hear a new voice about football and tradition and greatness and honor.

The last of the morning glories, beautiful and delicate

At one point I try to stand and move to see if I can clear my head of the voices.  However, a strong wave of nausea floods me at the light of the second day.  Nausea and voices whispering about sins of the fathers of deified college football programs.  Programs that had been worshipped as the shining moral compass within a corrupt sports universe.  My migraine triggers overwhelming nausea, leaving me spending day two hanging over my porcelain lifesaver even as the disembodied voices continue.

Through the fog of my pain and the frequent need to retch I hear a second narrative told with only one voice.  A voice witnessing acts of pedophilia yet remaining silent until the damage was done a dozen times over.  New names float in my dream state.  Paterno.  Sandusky.  McQueary.  A collective voice of rioters overturning cars and destroying property, not to speak with outrage for the silent and powerless victims but to raise on their shoulders the powerful who knew and said nothing, who did nothing.  Nausea engulfs my body as I hold my head and rock in an excruciating fever while the voices declare innocence behind a curtain of lawyers.

Far into day two of this migraine fog.  I roll over on the couch to see if the right side of my brain (which by now is clearly bleeding out of my ear) feels less pain when touching a pillow than the left, which is covered by a skullcap of a thousand tiny needles.  I open one eye to see some sun sliding in under the blinds and faithful Skyler still dead asleep at the base of the television cabinet.  I shift and feel something cold and metallic at my elbow.  Click.  The voices in my head shift.  Paterno. Click.  Cain. Click.  Sandusky. Click. Jethro Gibbs.

Gibbs?  Ahhh, the low-key, comforting voice of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, investigator in the Naval Criminal Investigation Service.  A voice I recognize.  This one I know for a fact isn’t real.  So I’m not hallucinating.  I’m listening to the beginning of an NCIS television marathon.  Something on which to rest my migraine-addled brain.  A world of right and wrong.  A world where the line between good and evil gets a fair workout.  Life is made up of 50 simple rules, like #3, “Don’t believe what you’re told.  Double check everything.”  In that fictional world a quick slap to the back of the head serves as a wake up call to do the right thing . . . now.

Ahhh, I feel my migraine floating away.  All the insane noise, the pain, the endless voices, the nausea it brought me.  I sink into my pillow.  Skyler snorts a little as she stretches and curls herself back onto her pillow, too.  We settle in to await the easing this overlong physical and mental disequilibrium.  For the next six hours I doze on the cushion of a blissful and secure NCIS marathon.  When I finally stand, pain and nausea free, I’m ready to believe again in a world where the good guys will win – eventually.

If you want to talk about your own migraine experiences, please feel free to share in the comments box.  Or, on a lighter side, tell us what are your final signs of autumn, whether in nature or something else.

 For your own fun, a montage of Jethro Gibbs' rules for living 


samantha stacia said...

The montage was good, the post was excrutiating, you are too good of a writer! and cant the dr come up with ANYTHING when this happens to you? Glad its over!

Anonymous said...

I've had a lot of problems in my life but, thankfully, migraines isn't one of them. Your post, though, made me feel like I had one. Excellent writing, love your conversational style. Let's just say, thanks to your post, I FEEL your pain! :)

Anonymous said...

I hate migraines! I've been lucky not to suffer from too many of them, although I am a chronic headache sufferer. They are completely debilitating and nearly nothing will help it. Speaking of fall, don't you think fall is the shortest season? It's like we get two months before going straight to cold winter and December holidays.

CandyceDeal said...

Been there! Great job describing the agony that is a migraine. Luckily migraines finally left me. I think that, for me, they were hormonal-based and the hormones finally settled down.

I just read an essay by Joan Didion. "Bed" details her battles with migraines...

Nadine Feldman said...

Powerful, Julie. To juxtapose the migraine with these horrific current events is masterful. It's hard to find relief in these troubled times. If only we had some real heroes to look up to, and not the made-up ones on TV! Maybe that's why fiction writers exist -- to somehow keep us sane and remind us that something better is possible.

totsymae said...

Jenny Garth was talking about this on The Doctors Show yesterday. I didn't watch the entire segment but she's doing something in regards with it, like a book or tour for research, since different people experience migraines differently.

Laura@Catharsis said...

Our world gave you a migraine. It gives me one daily, except when it does, I'm not actually suffering from a real life migraine. If only these things were hallucinations sparked by your terrible pain. Alas, they're real. Thankfully, I don't suffer from migraines, but I do occasionally get headaches so bad I'm nauseated. This usually occurs when I've had too much to drink, especially when I'm on my anti-anxiety medication and not supposed to be drinking at all. Ick.

Anonymous said...

Great post - despite borne of pain :(
I've been nauseated by these reports of late also - thankfully minus the migraine. Winter is soon upon us here in Canada even if the calendar doesn't agree. The clocks moving back is my last sign of Fall.

Laura@Catharsis said...

P.S. I've given you a blog award. Yay!!!

Stobby said...

Well I can't say, and glad for it, that I've ever suffered a migraine, I will say that lately there's been a lot of 'stuff' in my head.

On Saturday I went for a long bike ride through the country side which is now plowed over and ready for winter. There were still colorful leaves on the trees and many more on the ground and during my admiration I discovered one lonely, proud poppy growing at the edge of a field off the side of road. It was beautiful.

Of course the poppy is a symbol to remember the men and women who fought and fight for our freedom...but that day it reminded me of all the dreams they gave up so that I could fulfill mine. Suddenly, all that stuff in my worrisome head didn't seem as relevant anymore.

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