A Conversation With My Migraine
Sunday. It is evening. Tonight my migraine crept back, late and unapologetic.
It has never liked to be predictable. Unpredictability is a part of its power.
I am standing in the shower, letting the hot water drum against my back and neck while my thoughts slide loosely around inside my skull, the way they tend to do in the shower.
I think to myself, It’s sneaky, this migraine of mine. It doesn’t like to be thwarted or out-maneuvered. I had thought that it was gone. Three full days had passed since it had slid away into the shadows.
It was on Wednesday afternoon that it had first awoken behind my eye socket. Like a rabid gopher, it tried to claw its way to the outer world through the orb of my left eye. It raged and clawed for two nauseating days and nights and then on Friday morning, it was gone.
And I had waited, anxious, expectant – because my migraine has a pattern. It starts on one side, and when it is finished gnawing at my nerves on that side, it rests for half a day, sometimes a whole day (depending on its mood), and then it comes back… on the other side.
It is never quite as evil in the second round. It is weakened and tired, as am I. But it always comes.
But this time, all of Friday passed – no round two.
Sunday. All day – nothing… I thought I must be in the clear.
And then this evening, Sunday evening, about 7 o’clock, suddenly it is back.
In the way that a sleeping cat flexes its claws as it dreams, I can feel its tired talons lazily curling into the back of my right eyeball.
I can see “it,” my enemy – eyes still closed in rest, a mean smirk at the edges of its cruel mouth, as if to say in a wry, sardonic, wordless voice, ‘You thought I was gone?’
Damn. I had thought so, yes. Stupidly, foolishly, yes.
Enough time had slid past, and I thought I had, somehow, escaped. I had thought it was done with me.
I can feel it ‘tsking’ me, like a foolish child.
Standing in the shower and learning my head against the cool tiles, it occurs to me, that my migraines are not, for me, separate occurrences, individual entities.
They are recurring visits from a longtime nemesis.
They have body and presence, personality, and even voice.
Water drums against my back. Breathing the steamy air, I peer inward at it.
“Asshole,” I say. It smiles meanly back at me.
I might as well curse it. I have no power here. There are no drugs that will kill this thing.
I don’t drink coffee or eat chocolate. I can’t drink alcohol. Too much stress, not enough sleep, too much sleep… all these things can bring one on.
I mean, I’ve modified my entire life because of these fucking headaches. And still, I am powerless.
They come when they want to come. I am the victim.
“What the fuck?” I ask. “Why?”
I am, of course, just talking to myself. I know this. I talk to myself a lot, hold internal dialogues, whole conversations, sometimes. But, I do know that I am talking to myself.
Which is why I am so shocked when it speaks back.
And it says to me – I kid you not – in a sulky peevish voice…
“I’ll be here until you actually change your life.”
I swear to God, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye… all that.
I am beyond startled. Here I had been having a quiet inward and somewhat peevish conversation with myself…
Where the fuck did this voice come from?
Cause it didn’t come from me!
I swear it!
I peer inward again at this monster, but this time I don’t see the cruelly smirking face. I see dark, angry, pouting eyes looking back at me over a sulking shoulder.
And I think, probably not for the first time in my forty+ years – that I am an arrogant ass, and that my body has been begging me – literally begging me – to change, to care for it, to consider it, for, basically, all my life. And I have turned a deaf ear.
I have seen myself as the victim. A victim of the debilitating pain.
But the truth is, I have beat up on my body my whole life – too much anxiety, too much stress, not enough sleep, not enough care for myself – and my body has been trying to make me listen for years.
Borderline anorexia. Panic disorder. Generalized anxiety. Migraines…
Perhaps, I think… could it be… that I am not the victim?
Could I be the… aggressor?
I sit down in the shower, wrap my arms around my legs, because this realization is too much for me right now.
Perhaps it is no wonder my body is angry, I think. And, I am not certain, but I think that I might be on to something here.
I do not know yet if I will have the courage to face this. It may be easier to continue to be a victim.
I think, If my body were a business, and I was its leader, what kind of leader have I been? When the employees have all worked hard and done a good job, expended enormous energy, do I say, ‘take a break?’ Do I show appreciation? How do I reward myself, my body?
The separation of body and body – this has always been a problem for me.
I have never given my body credit for what I have attributed to be the successes of my mind.
But wasn’t it my body that gave me the energy, the alertness, the flow of blood? Did it not spend long hours sitting in a chair, focused and typing away, even as my back ached and my fingers ached in order to complete a project?
This new insight is hard to wrap my mind around. Victim is a role I know. To accept this new concept means… I need to change.
And change is hard.
It was a few years ago now that this happened to me. And in the intervening time, I have make significant changes in my life. I left the job that was slowly gnawing away at my soul. I began doing a lot of things differently… and my migraines today are mere shadows of the pain and nausea that once defined them.
The rabid gopher, it seems, has been assuaged. He sleeps.
Shh. Don’t wake the sleeping gopher.