Migraines—Not All Bad


I had a migraine yesterday. I was out for a 7-mile walk with my husband, enjoying a perfect spring day, when I became aware that pieces of the countryside had gone missing. No matter how hard I stared at the right side of the house a quarter mile down the road, I couldn’t see it. The left side was there; not the right. So I closed my eyes and…there it was—a long and winding kaleidoscope eating its way through my field of vision and spitting it back out, fragmented and shifting.

So I opened my eyes to something like this:


Note the distortion, but also note the beauty. The colors are much more vibrant than in the original image.

Jim suggested we turn back, but I opted to keep walking and let the migraine do its thing. The headache that came with it was mild, and I wasn’t dizzy or nauseous. Besides, these twenty extra pounds aren’t going to lose themselves.

For a while I was nearly blinded, relying heavily on my seeing-eye hubby. But eventually the special effects drifted off to the left and dimmed to nothing more than a glimmer, fading until the sky and trees and asphalt beneath our feet all returned to normal.

Better than normal.

There’s something about the post-migraine experience that’s just plain exhilarating. The scent of honeysuckle mixed with apple blossoms and lilacs made my mouth water. The sky was so darn blue that I felt as if I could wade in it, or carve off a piece and roll it in my hands, and make moonstone. The landscape spread out beneath stage lighting, alternately dappled, then stark and dramatic, shimmering beneath a sparkling flurry of fairy dust. And the normal sounds of birds and frogs and insects—they were melodies, their staccato sweetness deftly intertwined.

I’m not a frequent migraine sufferer, so imagine my surprise when, this morning, another one struck. It started as a little flying saucer, the rich pastels reminiscent of coyote-dog art. Its geometric puzzle pieces, in constant motion, quickly expanded to a giant oval with a fuzzy center, the edges now fragmented and shifting while the whole thing rapidly expanded, until finally it split into twin anacondas.

And it hurt. I rarely get headaches, and I see why those of you who do dislike them so much.

So I dove into bed and convinced myself that watching the show would be fun—all the benefits of a psychedelic drug with none of the risks. And then…

I’m a massage therapist, for-the-love-of-Pete, and there are muscles that, when tight or in spasm, can exert tensile stress upon the dura mater, the membrane covering the brain. They can, alone or in concert, contribute to migraines.

My fingers went straight to a trigger point at the base of the superior oblique. Man, it hurt. But as I lay there with a couple ounces of pressure on what turned out to be exactly the right spot, the kaleidoscope serpents dissolved and faded. Within seconds, they were gone. The pressure in my head eased. The hint of nausea vanished.

And I was just a teeny bit sad to see it go.

Sure, I’d stopped the pain. But in so doing I’d cheated myself out of experiencing something unique and beautiful. Despite the discomfort, I would have enjoyed the dazzling images and the heightened awareness that would have followed.

I’m not entirely nuts. Even when a choice is clear, we still give up one thing in order to gain another. I stopped a headache, but missed a stunning visual extravaganza. That’s life.


4 thoughts on “Migraines—Not All Bad

  1. I have those visual migraines also, Nancy, so I know just what you’re talking about. They last about 20 minutes and I’ve gotten used to them. Great photo here showing what they can look like.

    • Magnesium helps. 🙂 When I supplement regularly, I never get migraines, but I’ve been lax for quite a while. I was pleased at how the picture came out. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to capturing what they look like. I used Gimp to manipulate the image – fun. 😀

  2. This is the very best description I’ve ever seen of the migraine experience. It seems most people have a very difficult time describing it and non-sufferers have a very difficult time imagining it. I’m glad it didn’t hurt too much. I’ve never had a migraine that I know of, but I used to have what I think are called vascular headaches. Light and sound would just kill me and I couldn’t even move my head once it was in one position on the pillow. It’s been a long time, thankfully. Probably related to the fact that last time I had one (which lasted for three miserable days), I started taking BP meds. (And doctors say that high BP does not cause headaches. Oh really?) In any case, there were no redeeming qualities…no beautiful altered perceptions. So this was a very neat post; you truly made lemonade out of lemons!

    • Ugh. I don’t envy you those headaches. Glad to hear they’re no longer a problem for you.

      The light and sound thing reminded me of when I had Lyme. Light was unbearable. It would knock me to the ground, drenched in sweat, unable to move. And the littlest sounds felt as if I’d been struck by some sort of force field. I had a sort of electric panic response to…everything. My brain was in a constant state of alert, frenzied. I was scared shitless just sitting in a chair.

      I’m not sure why all of a sudden my migraines are back. 1. I have been working on my neck, regaining range of motion, so I may have activated a bunch of trigger points. 2. I’ve started jogging, and my resting BP has fallen from 135/78 to 108/59. So maybe I’m just not used to the new BP yet. 3. I’m on a (urgh) diet. It’s not a stupid diet, but I’m eating way less than I have been. Maybe my brain is hungry. 😉

      I’m gonna see them as a sign of positive change – the egg-breaking stage of my personal omelet. 😀

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