I had just gotten home from the gym last night when I noticed the first spots. They were in my left eye and before I realized what they meant, I blinked a bunch of times and rubbed my eye to clear my vision. Within a minute, I figured it out: I was getting a migraine.
When I was in 7th grade, I had my first migraine. I had a few that year and I don't remember much about them, other than the weird vision stuff that indicated the beginning of the headache. I even missed my 7th grade Social Studies final (Mr. Becker never made me take it, a kindness that surprised me). But then for many years, migraines were out of my life. I didn't have another one until last year at work, when the odd gray light in our company's boardroom tricked me into thinking it was the clouds and then a smudge on my glasses and then a moment later, a resurrected migraine.
I've only had two since last year but last night makes three. And last night was certainly the scariest.
Chris was out at a work thing, so I finished eating the avocado half I'd planned on eating as an appetizer to my dinner, took two Advil and jumped in the shower. The headache hadn't yet arrived, but my vision got worse and worse. I texted Chris to let him know I was getting in bed, crawled under the covers, and waited for the pain to come.
It's hard to describe what's going on in your mind when this kind of headache happens, but here's an attempt. I wasn't yet tired, so I'd put on a podcast to listen to in the dark. I thought that distracting myself from what was coming soon would be a good idea. I remember the podcaster making mention of the year 1918 and when I tried to visualize that number, I could not. I could hear the words "nineteen eighteen," but I didn't know what it meant and, again, couldn't imagine what the year looked like.
I turned the podcast off. By this point, Chris was home. After checking on me, he closed the door to have some dinner and the next thing I remember is thirty minutes later when I padded out into the dimly-lit living room. I didn't know what I wanted to say, but I remember feeling like I needed to tell him something, to talk with him. I felt very confused and couldn't remember if I'd slept or not.
"What is it?" he said, coming over to where I stood at the end of our island. And I opened my mouth to say "my head hurts," but different sounds came out of my mouth.
Different words, non-words, just sounds, came out when I tried to talk to him. And though I wasn't sure what was quite going wrong, I was scared and knew that meant something was going on with my brain. Somehow I made my way over to the drawer where we keep paper and took out a pad of post-its. I grabbed a pen, my instincts to scrawl out my message if my linguistics were refusing me.
Here is what I wrote:
I found this note this morning and thought "holy, holy shit." I had remembered trying to write "my head hurts," and that I had written "hearts" instead of "hurts" before I crossed it out. Somewhere, signals in my brain still connected to correct a misspelling. But I hadn't remembered writing that second "my" and when I showed it to Chris this morning he said "yeah, that's about the point I was going to call my dad. You were writing "my head my head" and I was really worried about you."
I am fortunate to be marrying into another family with a nurse (score!) and my sister has just been accepted to nursing school for this summer. I'm glad that neither Chris nor I mess around with weird symptoms and just call our big family of nurses for help.
No calls were made last night, though. Instead, he helped me back to bed where I lay for a while dealing with the fact that I'd forgotten how to breathe. I found myself taking huge breaths because whenever I finished inhaling, I would feel panicked, unsure of how to get more oxygen into myself. This, of course, made me even more scared about the headache and somewhere beneath the symptoms, my mind wandered to the TED talk of the woman who realizes she's having a stroke while it's happening.
Somehow I fell asleep. This morning, my head was still dull and ached a bit even though the headache itself never fully emerged. I immediately called in sick (something I almost never do) because I was terrified it would come back in full force and take away my brain again.
I've been writing a lot about the soul on here lately, but last night's antics was an immediate reminder of the way a body can be a dictator. Reading a lot of books and forming opinions is great work for the mind, but we need to be just as respectful with our bodies. They are powerful (and sometimes scary!) machines.