In the throes of a migraine

My eyes close unwillingly.  Closed or open, the pain comes.  The waves of nausea and ache crash over me, and I hold my breath waiting for them to pass, waiting to breath again.  My fingers fly across the keys, thank you Mrs Hardy for the typing skills you bestowed in high school that serve me well thirty years on.  I stretch my neck, leaning my head far to the right.  I draw out the muscles, feeling the tension in them, allowing my brain to focus on the twinge that plucks at each one, a welcome distraction, forming an avenue for blood to flow to the throbbing behind my left eye.  My attention comes in and out of focus on the squabbling voices of daytime TV, white noise, something to quiet my brain, to slow its racing pace.  I keep typing through it all.  My brain is separated into the wilful, functioning section that still speaks to my fingers, and the larger, more insistent section that now musters all resources, calls all allies to battle, in the ongoing war with pain, ignoring all other functioning.

There is nothing quite like a migraine.  Labour and birth are horrible, nearly unbearable, but productive.  You can use the pain, work through it because you know there’s a productive end.  Migraines produce nothing good.  There is only weakness and damage as the reward.  Even as the urge to pluck my eyeball from its socket comes over me, I am aware that it is all in aid of the two days of listless lethargy that will surely follow.

My face thrums, demanding my wandering attention.  It is a ruthless and cruel dictator, commanding, demanding, insisting.  But it’s clever too.  It doesn’t demand undivided attention.  Undivided attention would allow me to formulate a new norm, my threshold for pain could be reset to manage the migraine’s vagaries.  Oh no.  It’s far more sadistic and cunning than that.  It whines and wheedles, it niggles and picks, then it slams in wave after wave, demanding full attention.  Just as I come to terms with it, just as I shuffle to make room for it, it leaves, the world clears, the colours are restored, and I dare to hope.  My eyes close now in exhaustion.  Unable to stay open another second, they seal sight into darkness.  The muscles in my face relax, my breathing comes easier, I feel the cool air whistle through my nose, lifting the hairs to attention as it goes.  My shoulders droop, and I allow my wearying limbs to calm.  I feel the letting go, the easing into sleep.  It is the eye of the storm, I’m gripped once more by the sharp stab, the lance jab behind my left eye that heralds the return of the migraine.


Dear reader,

Please forgive missed connections, typos, and any lack of flow.  I really am writing this while in the throes of a migraine.

6 Comments on “In the throes of a migraine”

  1. I liked the really raw nature of the post, Asha. It is terrifying, that picture you pain of migraines. If this is how you write under pain, I’m staying away from the blog when you’re in full form. No way can anyone compete with that. Master of words. That’s you.

    • Thank you, Shailaja! I was inspired by your frank discussion of your depression. A fabulous post that brought a personal narrative to the fore.

  2. hi Asha, Shailaja pointed me to your blog when I mentioned having a terrible migraine yesterday. What powerful writing you have, and I can’t imagine putting down even 2 lines close to this in the throes of one! Hope you find relief from the attacks sometime soon.

    • Hi Aparna! Thank you so much for your kind comments. Migraines are the bane of so many people’s existence. The older I get, the more people I find who suffer with them so terribly. I hope you’re able to find some strategies and remedies that work for you too.

  3. You are amazing. I have suffered with migraines for over 50 years. When younger I too would keep going and carry on at my teaching job and parenting while in the throes. I could never have written about it as well as you and certainly not during the migraine. It’s the fear that undoes me. The fear of the next time it arrives. I’m older and retired, they happen less often and I am better able to succumb and heal. I still resent their intrusion into my life. I wish you freedom from the pain. Cheers.

    • Beryl, thank you! It seems I have an unusually high tolerance for pain, which helps immensely. I agree with you wholeheartedly on resenting the intrusion of migraines on life. It’s the many days that need to be devoted to either tolerating or recovering from them that really irk me.

      I suspect we carry on through them, because for so very many reasons, we have to. Sadly, we don’t have the social structures that allow us to stop, rest and heal, while our parenting and employment responsibilities are taken up by someone else (but that’s a whole essay in itself!).

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read so thoughtfully, and to comment.

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