Monday, August 8, 2011

Complex Migraine, round 2

Bryan and I were sitting on the couch last night, playing with Chloë. She threw herself against my right arm, and it only took me a second to realize what that awful feeling was. Numbness.

I grabbed my arm, felt up and down, and quickly assesed how much of my body was numb. Most of my arm... my upper chest and neck. I could feel the numbness creeping up face, and down into my finger tips. It was like a line had been drawn down the middle of my face: right side, numb, left side, normal. The feeling of numbness is similar to that when a hand or leg "falls asleep," before it starts to hurt, but a lot more intense. I slowly touched my face... my eyelid, nose, lips, tongue... the face is the the weirdest to have numb.

It takes 10 or 15 seconds for the realization to settle: I'm getting another complex migraine.

I don't get them very often. But when I do, I have a hard time not feeling like my body is being invaded by machines or aliens or someone else's synapses. My body just feels so overtaken and foreign. After the numbness slowly evolves and moves through one side of my body, I wonder what will come next. The inability to talk? The flashy lights in my head or the blackout of half of my vision? Or maybe the intense pain. Normally, I would have wasted no time getting some Imitrex and probably some Excedrine into my system. But no, not this time. This time, I need to keep Baby safe, and the angry nerves under my skull pose no risk to the baby growing in my belly. Medications, on the other hand... we just don't know, and so, we play it safe. (I had one of these fun migraines when I was a little further along in my pregnancy with Chloë, so the migraine and pregnancy combo wasn't anything new.)

Hemianopsia is just a fancy word for having one side of your vision gone. This is also an "evolving" symptom, sometimes starting with little flickers of light far off to the side. And then they get brighter and grow stronger, sometimes as white sparkles, sometimes as yellow lightning bolts, until they take over half of what I can see. Then at some point the flashing lights fade to a still gray or black, and then I am just basically blind on one side. I find myself a dark, quiet place to lie down, and try not to use my eyes. Simple tasks like texting become extremely difficult.

Expressive aphasia is the strangest of the little monsters. The migraine takes over the part of my brain that controls speech, and, if I choose to open my mouth, it would be easy for a listener to pick up on the short-circuits or random firings. And this is, hands down, the weirdest part of the whole experience. It is also the one thing I have some control over. "Even the foolish man is considered wise when he keeps silent." If I don't try to talk, my mouth can't misbehave. But as soon as I open my mouth, there is a foggy disconnect. Like I'm trying to think through a pillow. The feeling is similar to the one we get in the middle of a bad dream, when we're trying to run, but can't, or yell, but can't, or fly, but can't. Only this isn't a dream. It's my tongue. And it doesn't work. And I really, really don't like it.

When I mentioned the part about pain, I did actually say maybe. Strangely enough, there have been a few of these crazy headaches with little to no pain. But pain is the familiar part. Pain is like the horrible, predictable old friend. I've had a thousand migraines, and the pain is always the same. Stabbing, throbbing, pounding... the feeling that my head might spontaneously explode, and that pressing a knuckle or pillow into the part that hurts the most helps just a tiny bit. As much as I hate the pain, there is something strangely comforting about the familiarity. If it weren't for the familiar pain, I wouldn't be able to quickly rule out other awful things like having a stroke or growing a tumor. It's just a mean old nasty headache. And it will go away.

I was out of commission for last night and a good part of today, but have bounced back fairly quickly as far as migraines go. Maybe I'll post some cute videos and pictures in the next day or two.


  1. Well, I am just SO glad that you got better, and that you weren't in a ton of pain. I can't even imagine that kind of a migraine. So bizarre to not have control over your body! Glad you've got a nice hubby to help you :)

  2. I sub yanstudy barndance. Stubble. And if capsillydown howdy again. OK?