Friday, June 5, 2009

Migraines? Me? Who knew?!

That's right. I've suffered from migraines for years and never had a clue. How is that possible you ask? Well, it takes a misunderstanding about migraines and a great lack of self-unawareness but I assure you, it's certainly possible.

A few weeks ago I was at the eye doctor for a routine check up and after he assured me that I still have my much-prized 20/20 vision he asked me if I had any other concerns. I told him that on occasion my vision temporarily goes funny. Not blurry but rather patchy so that I only see things in bits and pieces. It's very disorienting. He asked if those times were accompanied by headaches. Not that I remembered. Nausea? No. Exhaustion? Maybe.

So he told me that what I described was a classic ocular migraine. The vision troubles were the classic auras people with migraines experience. Apparently some people can have migraines with no pain.

Well shoot. I thought migraines were headaches, horrible, debilitating headaches but still, bascially headaches.

So today I got up. I was feeling okay, just a little tired. I went and got some breakfast and wouldn't you know it, my vision goes wonky. Ah! Here's my painless migraine coming on. But it wasn't. Painless that is. Within 30 minutes that aura was gone but a headache had started and I wobbled off to the bedroom to grab an ibuprofen, close the curtains and have a nap.

Lying there in the bed I realized how familiar it felt. I'm not exactly sure how the auras and the nap-requiring headaches got separated in memory but despite what I told my eye doctor those vision problems often do in fact come with headaches, exhaustion and nausea and a few other classic symptoms of migraines. My best guess is that the headaches and exhaustion became so commonplace and expected that I hadn't committed honest thought to them for ages. I really do have the auras without the pain at times so I suppose I'd must have dismissed the idea that they were somehow related.

So I have migraines. And I have the nifty aura phase that lets me know a headache is on it's way.

And so why didn't I, even without the auras, ever think my headaches might be migraines? Because they're mild to moderate and most of all, familiar. Sometimes they just slow me down. Occasionally they send me to bed for a couple of hours while the ibuprofen kicks in but most of all, having dealt with them, I guess I never thought they were painful enough. The migraine sufferers I knew in real life really suffered. They spent days or even weeks in horrible pain no medicine could help. I looked at what I dealt with and could see no comparison.

But now, after going through a day with my eyes open I'm amazed at just how ordinary and textbook a migraine case I am. I can Google signs and symptoms and there I am on every page.

And I'm absolutely thrilled. I've been dogged by these symptoms for years and always thought they were no big deal and I had to slog through a day anyway, pushing myself to get things done even though all I wanted to do was curl up in the dark. Now I have a magical word that, when I say it, makes my husband tuck me into bed and send the children outside or to the basement. And when I crawl out of bed and wander out to join the family they don't expect anything from me for the rest of the day and just let me sit back and do nothing until my head is right, my weakness gone and the colour has returned to my face.

Migraine. I don't think a diagnoses has given me such relief and peace since I was told I had ADD.

Now, if only I can just get over how I dense I am for spending years not seeing something so damn obvious...


Not June Cleaver said...

I get ocular migraines. Sometimes they come with pain, sometimes not. It is the weirdest sensation though -- the vision stuff. Sometimes I see weird floaters on the periphery as if I have tunnel vision. Sometimes just colors and shapes. I know that when I have the ocular symptoms, I can quickly take Motrin and hopefully avert the pain part. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Glad you figured it out! :-)

Molytail said...

I got migraines as a kid - outgrew them though, thank heavens. Glad you know what they are now, but it still sucks that you have to put up with them!

Dawn said...

I haven't seen shapes or colours but I do see the floaters and have to tunnel vision. If I sit and really watch it happen I can see blurry patches ringed with crystaline structures. I have to admit, I think that part though yes, really weird feeling, is sort of cool. :D