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The Face of Chronic Migraine

Posted on the 20 March 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
The face of chronic migraine

Woman suffering from a migraine

This weekend I had a particularly annoying two-day right sided migraine. Migraines are characterised by their one sidedness. Mine are, 90 percent of the time, left sided, so I do not like these random right siders. They are different in nature, instead of a vice like grip they are a throbbing stab which is worse if I move or stand up. This makes going to the loo very difficult. I also don’t like them mainly because they’re different. There is something comforting in the familiarity of my left sided migraines, I know how they will act. Anyway, enough about me – I just thought it would be good to start with something vaguely educational.

So, I awake from a snooze in the midst of right sider migraine, to find my mother intently staring at me, hands on hips. Our conversation goes something like this:

Me: Why are you staring at me?

Mum: I think I should take a picture of you.

Me: Why?

Mum: For your flog.

Me: It’s called a blog.

Mum: That’s not important. People should see you like this, then they’d really understand. You should be the face of migraine.

Me: No.

Mum: Yes.

Me: No.

Mum: Yes.

Let me explain. My migraines stem from, and are triggered by, a spinal injury incurred when I was 18. Thus during migraines, especially right siders, I always find it very difficult to get comfy. Second educational migraine tip coming up: during a migraine your skin may become extra sensitive, so even the soft edge of a pillow can feel like someone has put a pile of nails under your head. My mother has spent so many hours patiently arranging pillows in different layouts that she should get some kind of qualification – Jill Saxton, Pillow Arranger (Hons). She is a gifted flower arranger so maybe the two are connected somehow…

Anyway, when my mother wants to capture this special Kodak moment I have about ten Tempur pillows stuffed around various points of my body, wedging me into what probably looks to the untrained eye like an incredibly uncomfortable position. I’m wearing my lovely beige neck brace, my unwashed hair is matted around my face, I have a Virgin Atlantic Airline Eye mask around my forehead (in case I want to keep out the light) and my ten inch thick, cracked, Ugly Betty glasses are falling off my nose. I have an ice pack tied onto my head with a dish cloth designed by my 10 year old niece’s class, featuring their self drawn crayon portraits (they’re a surprisingly talented class) plus various hot water bottles wedged around me. But the finishing touch is a large tissue shoved up my right nostril, which has been utilised to stop an earlier nosebleed. There is probably some residual blood on my pajamas. In short, I looked pretty damn sexy.

Me: Um, Mum I don’t think of photo of me looking like this is a good idea. It might scare away the two readers I have.

Mum: No darling, people should see what a migraine really looks like!

Me: No.

Mum: Yes. People should see this. I’ll get my Canon Digital Camera.

I know I wouldn’t be able to wrestle her to the ground in my current condition but I do know exactly what to say to stop my mother dead in her tracks.

Me: Mum, if you take a picture of me looking like this no one will ever want to marry me.

She pauses. I see her struggle. I have appealed to her inner Mrs Bennet that is always lurking just beneath the calm surface of her motherly exterior.

Mum: Good point.

I relaxed and fell back into a fitful sleep. A couple of hours later I awoke to find Mum lovingly replacing ice packs and hot water bottles and puffing up pillows in her professional manner. She tenderly kissed me on the forehead and said, as if to make amends, “You really do have such beautiful eyebrows.”

Victoria Saxton, 31, a Theatre Writer and Dramaturge, has suffered with migraines since she was 18. Her blog is about the reality of living with chronic migraine, the misconceptions that surround people who get this disabling condition and the wide variety of help that is available. 

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