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Pain in the Membrane, Speaking About Migraines

The light seems to pierce straight to your brain through your eyes even as auras flare. Every sound beats against the blood within your veins. Despite the pain stiffening your neck, you feel lightheaded. All of a sudden eating lunch may have been a bad idea. You have a migraine.

Migraines have been around from the earliest of days. According to Greek myth, the goddess Athena was born when Zeus became afflicted with such terrible pain in the cranium that he used an axe to split open his skull for relief, and out she popped. Zeus being an immortal deity, he survived his impromptu bout of self-trepanation. I do not recommend this approach for anyone else.

Migraines do not simply bring the pain though. No, no, this kind of pain has a host of friends that can come along to party. Also on the guest list are sensitivities to light, sound, and sometimes smell, dizziness, lightheadedness, malaise, distorted vision, seeing flashes of light, auras around lights or objects and all sorts of other fun. Not all will come to every party, but they all could! Isn’t that great news, since you are the venue for the shindig?

A symptom or side effect of migraines I never heard of until relatively recently? Aphasia. Luckily this symptom is selective in what parties and what venues it will attend, but let me tell you, it is all sorts of fun when it does. Aphasia is an impairment of language that is more often experienced by those that have had a stroke (and isn’t that a fun thing to know when you first experience this!) that affects the ability to comprehend language. In my case it is usually either reading and writing, or hearing and speaking, but not usually both at the same time.

When I was younger I went to the doctors hoping for answers and solutions. After blood tests, food journals, MRIs, and probably more tests I cannot remember I was given the prognosis that would make it all clear. I had migraines. *shrug* That was it.

Most of the time when I tell someone I have a migraine, I get a head nod and an “Okay, you have a headache. Is that all?” … No, it’s not just a headache. There are times that I experience such pain that I am honestly a little surprised that I don’t start bleeding from the eyes and ears. But no one can see a migraine, and if they have not experienced it themselves they really don’t get it. Granted in my case, I kind of count myself as lucky if I can understand inane commentary these days, not just hear garbled nonsense.

I recently came across something on Facebook, Speak Your Migraine, that really brought home how much a part of my life having a migraine really is. Usually I downplay things. Yeah, it hurts, but life goes on and I just need to power through it. In this I am far from alone. Migraines affect more people than you think, and more often. On the Speak Your Migraine site they have what they call the Migraine Impact Tool. Using it made it clear that I am affected far more often than I am not by migraines. Seeing this removes my ability to downplay the effect on my life and encourages me to seek help for this again. Hopefully this time I will get a prognosis that does not include a shrug. If you also suffer from migraines, you are not alone, and you should take a look at the Impact Tool.

Daniel Holl

Daniel is a non-traditional student who splits his time between campus and his home in Swarthmore with his wife and children. When he somehow manages to get caught up on his school work, Daniel likes to relax with a fantasy novel or take his dog Mac for a run in the woods.


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