Friday, June 1, 2012

Migraine Awareness Month #1: My First for the First

Since June is Migraine Awareness Month, I will be joining my fellow Migraine-Surviving Bloggers in the Migraine Awareness Month Blogging Challenge, and make my best effort to blog about Migraines on each day in June, with the intention of raising awareness. Each day, we (the bloggers) will each write about a given topic. To kick off the first of the month, today's topic is my first migraine.

Since they first started around age 5, I don't have a very clear memory of my first migraine attack. What I can tell you is that I can't remember not having them. I do remember what the pain felt like in my little body. It was crushing, and made my head feel gigantic and brutally heavy. I was a skinny kid, and it felt like my head was about five times too big for my body. I felt like a bobblehead, decades before I ever heard the term. (To this day, when the pain is above, say, a 7, I can't hold my head up.) The pressure inside my seemingly enormous head made my eyes ache from the inside, and my sinuses often hurt like crazy. My grandmother, Kaki, used to put Ben-Gay on my sinuses, in hopes of relieving some of that particular pressure. It usually helped a little, until I'd forget, and accidentally rub it in my eye. Ben-Gay is not for the eye area, in case you haven't heard. ;|

I vividly remember the first time I had to go to the emergency room for a migraine attack, though. I was about nine years old, and my Mom had taken my brother and me to the mountains for the weekend. We'd driven to our family's cabin in Mountain City, Georgia, a small town known more for its square-dancing venue than its exceptional, round-the-clock medical care. It was late on Friday night, and my head had been hurting since that afternoon. I couldn't sleep, in spite of Mom's best efforts to comfort me-- a cool washcloth for my forehead, light backrubs, guided body-scan meditations, using her words to transport me to my favorite tranquil spot (on the cool sand under the umbrella on the beach in Destin, Florida) in her soothing voice-- but not a thing could get me to rest enough to sleep. The anxiety from the pain was too much for me to handle, and, as the pain escalated, I eventually became hysterical. As I type this, I can remember exactly what it felt like to lie there in that hard, lumpy bed, sweating to death one minute, but shivering cold the next, trying as hard as I could not to come right out of my skin, screaming bloody murder. I simply could not take it.

Mom got us to the hospital (in our pajamas, as I recall), and I don't remember anything about being there except bright lights and a long needle going into my fanny. I don't know what they gave me, but I remember that it loosened up the migraine's grip. Unfortunately, though, it made me very nauseous. (Looking back, I suspect it was DHE45, which is what I give myself now, via a PICC line in my left arm.) I made it back to the house without getting sick in the car, but I vomited many times in the hours that followed. I can still feel the grit on my knees from the cool, grey-painted hardwood floor of the upstairs bathroom. I napped on that floor in-between bouts of throwing up, and remember the view of the claw-footed bathtub from that vantage point. 

One funny thing always sticks out about that night. At some point, while vomiting, I was shocked by what I was seeing come out. I started hollering, "MOMMMMM!!!! IT'S GREEN!!! I DIDN'T EAT ANYTHING GREEN, BUT IT'S GREEN AND LOOKS JUST LIKE PERT PLUS!!! Y'ALL COME LOOK!" And they did. So, after I was finished with this particular wave of nausea, before flushing the toilet, Mom and my brother and I stood and looked down into that old bowl, perplexed. Mom said, "well, maybe it's bile. But it sure looks like Pert Plus to me. Are you sure you didn't drink some? Where's the shampoo bottle?" Although really gross, the silliness was much-needed.

Since that day, I've never seen the Pert Plus Puke again, after having hundreds of possible opportunities to do so. But I will never forget it, or that night, or that little girl, feeling inexplicably, relentlessly tortured by her own body. It's been over 30 years, and it's still happening. I still don't understand it.

My brother & me. Kaki's house, ~1979.

Pain level right now: 5


National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger's Challenge is initiated by