Migraines aren't just headaches; they're whole-brain events. When I get a migraine, I usually get some warning signs, but they're not always totally evident. My vision is the first thing to go out... I often have a diagonal split where I can't see anything. This was disturbing during my first episode, since I was petsitting in an unfamiliar house, and walked around the house several times trying to find the stairs (which were dead center) because the only phone was upstairs. I kept going around, and knew they were there, but couldn't find them until I finally doubled back and caught sight of them with my other eye. The second time happened at night while I was driving home from a restaurant. I tried my best to get home (stupid), and eventually ended up rising the curb and turning into the back parking lot at the post office, where a woman came out and repeatedly yelled at me that I couldn't park there, while I kept screaming at her that I didn't know where I was and couldn't see. Moron. By the time she went inside, presumably to call someone, my vision cleared and I took off. Probably for the best; the police might have brought me in for presumed DUI. Lately, though, rather than the split vision, I seem to get tunnel-vision. I just about walked in front of a car because of this, while Arno was giving commands to the dog and not looking at me. This sneaks up on me... I don't realize immediately that my vision is so limited... certainly a potential danger.
Another warning sign I get is that my right arm tingles and then goes numb. I talked recently online with someone who insisted that if the headaches seemed to originate from the back of the head/neck, coupled with the arm numbness, that it was a neck problem and not a nerve problem, but, being a chiropractor, he didn't have any particular explanation for the more neurological symptoms. (Imagine that.) When my arm goes numb, it starts trying to act of its own free will, often spasming and twitching my fingers, or rising off my lap or a table. There was once where it rose up and flailed around and hit me in the face in the process. Since then I've been pretty good about keeping it pinned down when it seems particularly rebellious.
Now we get to the scary part, impairment of the brain. Like this reporter, my communication goes all to hell. I can't string more than three syllables together cognizantly, can't say a phone number in the right order, can't understand any Dutch and sometimes large sentences in English (especially if more than one person is speaking), and when it comes down to it, I can't THINK in whole sentences either... a thought may dawn on me as a whole, but trying to mentally speak it to myself gets confusing and frustrating. I've tried to write a message to a colleague that something was going wrong, and couldn't figure out the word 'right.' It came out as 'wrighte' or some such, and the futility of it was frustrating as hell.
In fact, even more disconcerting was a few moments before this, I was about to eat lunch... a cup of noodles. The noodles were done, sitting steaming in front of me, and I had a fork in my hand... but I didn't know what to do. I knew there had to be some connection between the noodles and the thing in my hand, but I couldn't figure out that the fork--this thing is called a fork--goes into the noodles and then into your mouth. I imagine this is a lot like what people with Alzheimer's and dementia go through... you know there was supposed to be an association between objects, but it's not there. And you know you knew it. And it flusters and scares the crap out of you. What I'm most scared of during these incidents is that I'll get stuck in them... that I won't come back, that I'll just be stuck in this mad world inside my head. With my more recent occurrence, I started crying uncontrollably, even though I had no emotional attachment (except annoyance) that would trigger that.
And then when all these things have run their course, over 20 mins to an hour, then comes the headache, which lasts another 2 hours or so. At this point a neck rub and Ibuprofen are in order. And really, if you're around me and this happens, the best thing to do is just sit me down somewhere quiet for a while until it passes.
The thing is, these things happen to her from time to time. Not very often, fortunately; it's not like I got myself a majorly defective dragon. Day-to-day all the bits work as designed: the eyes see, the teeth chomp and the dragon goes rar. But when it does happen, there is not a lot that I can do. Since men are, ostensibly, problem 'solvers', this is a bit problematic. Obviously I would like to reach into her head and take out the migraine and put it in my own head or something until it's done, but unfortunately the technology to do this has not yet been invented. What I can do is not a lot: I can stand by, I can keep her company while she lies down, and I can go away when I think she'd rather be by herself now.
And it's not like she's a delicate flower that needs to be sheltered from every cold breeze! When she had her brain tumor, and did not know it yet, she had headaches all the time. But when she came online, she never used that as an excuse to grump or grouch or bring everybody down. She told us about it, and that was that. She nearly died, then lost a chunk of hair in the resulting treatment, it doesn't matter: she still refused to be a burden on us. I very much appreciate that about her. But I think it does help, and is only fair, that we know what she has to go through from time to time.
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