Too many times I’ve talked to God to note it would be ok if my time was up amidst that conversation. These God gab termination debates have always been when I was in the throes of immobilization with a migraine. I’ve endured migraine headaches since my early youth. They’ve morphed at varied ages, but have yet to subside. I learned that my grandma on my dad’s side had them after she passed. My dad has them too, but not my mom or my sister. I’ve joked my brain must be donated to science when I go. But, that’s just it, I don’t want to die (yet). I’m not ready to exit too soon. I’ve plotted my fabulous future narratives in falling stars, diary entries, post-its, iPhone Notes, jillions of lists, and loads of journaling.
Nobody gets out alive. During alive, our existence is a breathtaking, while obscure, puzzle. I can paint my walls an egg yolk yellow, spruce it up with modern or antique amenities, decorate with maps from every culture I’ve met on the globe, climb the highest peaks, have intercourse in many oceans, collect living koala bears, yet I cannot hide the end. There will be a close to this being me. It is certain there will be loss. With it, I am guaranteed pain. Migraines have been the most consistent pain in my life.
Pain is a nebulous beast. For me, he’s masculine. He lives in a dark forest where it’s always deathly hot with extreme humidity. He’s a mean ogre. He doesn’t have a face, as it appears a jumble of burnt twigs. Think how if the top of a giant redwood caught fire, was doused with water, then was tortured with roaming the Sahara endlessly. He never made the deans list and was always looking to pick a fight. Pain is a bully by any bullying standards. He could care less about your obligations or interests. He doesn’t wear a watch or give a damn about time, most significantly anything related to your personal time. He’ll burst right in to interrupt your dinner, vacation, acceptance speech, and each important work or personal moment conceivable. Pain listens to Death Metal ardently alongside rituals that would make a cannibal blush. He likely masturbates to the soundtrack of tears. Pain is an asshole because he wasn’t ever given happiness. He has no resonance or room for understanding such cryptic descriptive. He is dedicated to all elements that evoke feelings of heavy, deep, sad, forlorn, frightful, and with esoterically prolonged suffering.
Academics were stressful for me as a child. I wanted to perform superbly, especially after being placed with the Advanced Placement (AP) programming. In hindsight, that was a hurdle akin to ants topping Everest in a day. I wasn’t that straight-A student. At best I was an average C, with room to be a B leaning into an A given arts, theatre, English, or French. Common school fluorescent lights were the devil to me. Add the performance anxiety and it was a perfect stew to set a migraine in motion almost every weekday for years. Then I chose a career that landed me a lot of high stress 24/7 work. That is a migraine mistake no matter what field you want to slice yourself into. Misery loves company you’ve heard. Well, migraines mimic bees pollinating from the flower of misery. So they were always best friends, making migraines my lifelong companion.
Along my timeline, the migraines married my menstrual cycle. Only I wasn’t ever told about the courtship. So, it was like a parent suddenly announcing a marriage to a mistress. Pretty devastating in the fact you can’t truly give it up, who your parents are or a menstrual cycle that is. The symptoms play out regardless. Being spared the typical uterus cramping, I instead receive the same intense cramping in my head. I thought the timing of my migraines with my period might allow me to predict a migraine to help myself anticipate when to deliver the Advil, which was a mild support if I caught it just in time. I learned the hard way that I’m a bit of a martyr in my work ethic. So I’d miss the fleeting window of a throbbing pain punch typically to one of my temples. I’d dismiss the blunt stab of that initial single sharp pain in some head lobe area. I’d power through and find myself crawling home with a screeching head trauma in full force. Unable to eat, wrestling with sleep, and frequently eventually hugging the toilet.
I never envisioned myself as much of a fighter. I’m not competitive with others. Competition with myself is another story. Exercise and endurance hiking are where I’ve unexpectedly seized an ambitious streak. Likewise, I put up one helluva contest battling the pain of my migraines. I’ve gained mostly mental armor in my years of struggle. I’ve wanted a total KO on this motherf@$&er! While not always easy, I’ve never been passive in my fight to eradicate my migraines.
I’ve gone through the gamut with over-the-counter medications to sort that Advil is the only one of those that work with my body. There’s only so many tummy aches or weird pangs one needs to let them know something ingested is not their ticket. I hit a pain tipping point at my quarter-century mark with a supreme celebrity needing me to the hilt, ending with referring me to her neurosurgeon as I complained of tension. I discovered I had compressed upper vertebrae that barely a dime might fit through, best analyzed as possibly from a childhood accident falling from a slow-moving jeep onto the sand.
The neuro doc prescribed a leading drug Imitrex, which was the first time I tried a prescription medication. At the height of a filming day on location in New York with my VIP boss, I found myself freaking out thinking I was about to truly die. I’d had to leave the set and go back to my apartment to deal with my migraine meltdown. I made the room as dark as possible since light was an eternal nemesis to Mr. Migraine. I put in earplugs to drown the city noise, as any sounds came through too elevated when I was so afflicted. My heartbeat sped up, racing so loudly I felt it was going to burst through my chest. Then it would suddenly slow down to a nearly imperceptible beat. I was scared. I distinctly recall phoning my father in tears. A master at migraines, he calmed me enough to give me some brand new techniques of breath-work, meditation, and talked me through mini blood flow exercise such as jogging in place for as few seconds as I could stand it or leaning my head upside down off the side of the bed a minute at a time to help increase the oxygen back into the reaches of my brain.
By the next day, my dad had helped me identify there were side effects to the Imitrex that caused my reaction. Unlucky me was one of a small percentage of people who receive ‘rebound headaches’, which are a mockingly delightful headache on top of a headache in colloquial terms. For you to read this correctly, I have the special skill of having a migraine along with a migraine given the correct dose of some modern miracle meds many use swimmingly. That’s like taking a dagger to your face with a side of twisting and turning of that dagger ever so slowly to make sure you know, yep, that’s a dagger alright! To say moving forward I shied from prescription meds and doctors who didn’t thoroughly discuss side effects with me is an understatement.
All the same, a few years later I attempted the prescription drug Lyrica hoping for the same relief as the first run. This time, having the exact same rebounds and knowing they could occur, I was at least prepared when it happened. But, damn. No luck for me with modern medicine as yet. Botox was suggested by a few, yet I’d ascertained I’m simply not one for man-made items. Also, there had been a famous case of Botox use for migraines with the wife of a Hollywood mogul that ended in terrible results. I knew the woman and let’s just say I wasn’t excited to tempt fate, namely with my track record.
I dove into alternative and holistic anything. Since my dad had paved a meditation path, it launched me further into deeper and longer meditations and the breathing patterns that could support me. Yoga was a godsend. Acupuncture and tinctures with those more eastern doctors aid became invaluable. One time, I even made an escape from work in time to get to the acupuncture clinic at the time of an onset migraine pang. Happily, I accepted the forty or so needles they agreed to put in me, with as high a gage as they could choose. I found myself in a quiet, pitch-black, cool room laying in Shavasana, but looking like a pricked Voodoo doll come to life. It resulted in my first and only magnificent levitation sensation. With my eyes closed for the session, I felt my entire body become surrounded by a glowing green aura light, as I saw myself lifted in the horizontal position a few feet above the table I lay upon. And it was the first and only time thus far I left headache-free! Timeline is crucial with migraines, but acutely troubling to micro-manage against safety driving, lights and sound pain disruptions.
I’ve stuck with what works to relieve as much pain for me as possible coupled with what feels right for my mood. It’s largely what I can muster in a migraine moment, as they are so often hard and fast coming in that I don’t feel so safe to drive to get to outside treatment from wherever my current location may be. Meditation and breath-work are the frontrunners which offer some simple exercises I can do anywhere, or if I can get to a class for a deeper benefit. Acupuncture remains a mainstay but is seldom the momentary bet due to the driving factor. Conforming to alcohol, migraines do not mix with being behind the wheel. God forbid you add rush hour, sirens, and whaling horns. I have self-developed using various clothespins that fit to apply to some of my pressure points. Peculiarly looking, I place them most often around my ears, nose, or in between my thumb and fingers nerve endings.
Nutrition is an ever-evolving panacea for my migraines. It turns out dairy from cow’s is another migraine monster for me. Goat’s I can handle, while cows I’m clearly divined to worship and not eat. I laugh that I must have been East Indian in a former life since cows are sacred to them. Maybe it’s karmic payback for slaughtering cows or eating too much tartare de boeuf. It all might explain a lot of my childhood migraines in part. I’ve often remarked that cheese is my chocolate being that I was well known as the kid who would add cheese to the top of my cheese with a side of cheese to boot, ate cheese with peanut butter, and even with chocolate. Chocolate was never my vice. it was always give me some sharp cheddar, Boursin, Allouette, brie, camembert, lots of blue, and all kinds of queso.
Chiropractors, massage, and sexual stimulation bring up the rear. Chiropractic assistance can be a deliverance mechanism but has not yet extinguished one of my migraines wholly. I do believe in ongoing chiro care as a preventative for long-term abolishment as the goal. Massage is similar to chiropractic. The pair ordinarily involves having to drive somewhere in hopes of the obliteration of a migraine. Though when my bank account is more weighted, there’s the luxury with having a masseuse come to me. Both chiropractic and massage have given me tools to do some at-home measures parallel to the meditation, breath-work, or yoga routines. I can stretch certain ways or crack my neck for instance. I’ve notably been taught about massaging certain body parts for calming (such as my right armpit) or the more well-known clitoral massage. I promise that one of the best uses of one’s own hands is for touching yourself.
Sex deserves its own paragraph. I’m not your “Honey, I have a headache, so leave me alone” kind of woman. I’m not the polar opposite when inflicted with flatlining pain either. Meaning, I’m not in tip-top shape for being a super active stimulating partner outwardly for the other person when under the influence of a migraine. Intimacy during a migraine is best laid out as receiving-mode. It’s a stellar time for a sexually loving opportunist to show me all he’s got in his bag of sensory tricks. Here’s the setting that seems to go hand in hand, or hands and tongue all over my you-know-what. I already want to be totally naked, so bonus to begin. Where I’m comfortable sans clothing anyway, I definitely want to be unencumbered when having a migraine. (Another reason having one at work, in the car, or elsewhere publicly is a pain in the ass, but I digress.) Every stitch of anything I’m hyper-sensitive to feeling. My hair is thick, and even regular use of a rubber band requires me to let my hair down throughout a day due to the tug of my head hurting a bit. A migraine makes my hair tied up in any way insanely uncomfortable. I want my hair tousled freely flowing, which I’m told is the prettiest on me anyway. Contrarily, there are moments where I appreciate my hair tugged tightly, but it’s more of a stress-relieving massage move. Then, I want someone to take my nakedness and serve it in ways as if you were trying out for the Orgasm Giving Olympics. This is all about tactical tactile maneuvers.
When under the blows of a migraine’s hold, I long for having a partner or a really good friend with benefits. A perfect migraine annihilation for me would be a male partner accepting to give me a few hours of his devoted time. A dark room, cooled to a nice temperature, with a most serenely soft bed, and some layers of sheets or blankets for my varied body parts desires of different needs for covering or not to be kept snuggly warm or left to the cold. He’d begin with an intended full body massage for my head, face, ears, neck, back, hands, feet, and finishing off with my vulva to the clitoris for the win. He would take… his… time. There is no rush. This is not a real competition. This is all about increasing my blood flow over and again and again and… you get the picture.
Orgasm for my migraines is what I think finding water in the middle of a desert must be. While I can, and often do, masturbate, preferably having another safe and loving person deliver such a release for me saves me the effort to try to the exert energy. It’s incredibly tough for me to concentrate and move myself to the edge of orgasm when I’m so sick. Essential oils of lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus are always welcome. They are very useful oils placed behind my ears, rubbed into my neck, across my sinuses on my face, or for my hands and feet. After a few rounds of orgasm, my male hero would make sure my specified body parts are surrounded by icepacks placed accordingly to any leftover pains I hope are subsiding in the coming twelve to fifteen hours a typical migraine stays within me. He would let me slumber the elongated hours needed for the pain to fully wear off. He wouldn’t turn on a bunch of lights or blast the tv and music in the next room as he lets me sleep. He would support me without wigging out if I get up to vomit, which is a usual sign of the peak of my migraine hitting. He would be available to whip up a healthy heaping of food for my ravished soul the next day when I wake famished. Of course, some gentle sex, or another round of orgasms for me would surely ease the day-after aches.
Calculating my migraine equates to merely operating at what I call ‘half-mast’. I’m about 10% to 15% compared to my daily average of 100%, noting I often give things more than that amount of my attention as a renowned exaggeration most agree about me. When the twenty-four hours post-migraine mark goes by I always feel I’ve literally been born again. Spared from my complete ending, the near-death experience begins to slowly instill Superwoman-like powers. Usually, within forty-eight hours, I’m bouncing back to Tiggerish me. It’s weird to have resurrected countless times in my life. There’s a gift that’s given me for appreciating every day, including the migraine days. Even if I only catch a tiny sliver of goodness such as a wildly imaginative dream snippet remembered upon waking which was left dangling off the edge of my giving-up-on-life precipice only hours before.
One side stumble of migraine torment is FOMO. Now, this millennial acronym meaning “fear of missing out” isn’t exactly my situation. In fact, in all my migraine discussions with God when I’m telling him it’s ok to take me now please, so the pain can subside as soon as possible, I blatantly remind him what a fabulous life I’ve led. I acknowledge there’s a lot more I could do, but I’d really rather not put up with all this pain. In other words, I don’t have the fear of missing out, as I’ve truly been granted one heck of a life. However, I do subscribe to a version of FOMO for certain with my migraines, but it’s not a ‘fear’ so much as a ‘funk’. I’m a social butterfly. I cherish time with friends and family above all else. I’m ultra deflated when a perfectly good day’s sunshine, beach invite, concert, date, event, or just time absorbing more vibrant life seems wasted by the pain weasel keeping me secluded.
I wanted to describe my brandished pain point with insightful detail in hopes to relate to anyone reading this. I’ve found it’s rarely why we’re paralyzed by pain that matters. It’s that we know pain that impresses upon us an unappetizing connection with others. May any profundity of pain in your life leave a little room to make you stronger. May you seek support inside and outside of whatever boxes you know. Ask for help. Then keep asking as much as you need it until you get some solutions brewing. Pain is a patient villain, yet sabotaged by health. Strive to be well. Accept lots of love. Keep going for the sake of liveliness in your alive.
I don’t want you to die either (yet).