This is my run-off entry for Week Twenty-six of The Real LJ Idol competition, where am currently tied with another contestant. This entry addresses the topic "Making Fire." While the episode in this entry is fictional, I cope with migraines on a regular basis.
I'll post an update about voting after 6 p.m. today. The loser of this run-off will be eliminated. Again, I really appreciate all the support so far!
Me in the grip of pain
For hours a migraine has wracked me with pain, every nerve across my forehead throbbing. Focusing on my bright computer screen, even with the lights dimmed, makes me nauseous. Some nights, when migraine pain hits in the middle of a transcription assignment, I lose the battle with my stomach, dry heaving in the bathroom until blood vessels burst in my face. For days afterwards, my face is a red-dotted relic.
Over the years, I have become a connoisseur of headaches. Like Arctic people, who know a hundred words for snow, I can distinguish between the dull forehead ache of a tension headache and the pulsing nasal pain of a sinus headache. Migraines often start with a dull ache, growing into an all-encompassing throb. Pain flashes behind my eyes and in my temples, and every noise or light aggravates my misery.
I've had migraines since puberty, and I've learned the best cure is prevention. This is easier said than done. Almost anything can cause a migraine: lack of sleep, too much sleep, an unhealthy diet, rapidly-changing atmospheric pressure, and of course, stress. When I worked at a daily newspaper, I got a migraine once a week, but now they are less frequent, if not less intense.
When a migraine strikes, I try to decrease sensory input: turning off lights, limiting noise. Over-the-counter pain medicine does little, but my mental state helps. If I can reach a calm, relaxed state, the headache ebbs to an almost indiscernible tingle. If I get agitated, the pain grows, like a seething, boiling mass that infuses every cell. A migraine is like a living entity, an alien parasite fed by negative thoughts.
In my newspaper days, I had a prescription for migraine medicine, a little yellow bottle I carried in my camera bag. When I left that job, I let the prescription lapse, fearing that eventually, the medicine would stop working and I'd find myself in a constantly expanding loop of stronger and stronger pain meds. Besides, I've had no insurance for years, so a prescription was just a fever dream. This week, under my husband's insurance plan, I started with a new doctor. She wants me to get a CAT Scan to ensure my migraines aren't a phantom symptom of a more serious condition. I am more excited than frightened about the prospect of a CAT Scan, since I'm a fan of medical shows like ER and House. Plus, I figure I have little to fear. I'd have to have the world's slowest-growing brain tumor: plaguing me now for more than 20 years.
Right now, I would much rather be wearing loose clothing and lying inside a white X-ray tunnel than lying on the couch, my forehead a tapestry of pulsating nerves. A frozen gel mask provides temporary relief, as does my dog, Una, whom I've nicknamed Nurse Dog. She lies nearby, concern in her warm brown eyes, giving my forehead occasional, solicitous licks.
When I was younger, taking a nap was a sure cure, but these days, I slip asleep and awake to agony. Worse than that is the ticking Clock of Doom: if I cannot beat this headache within five hours then four... then three... then two I must either call off work (and sacrifice an evening's pay), or suffer through a night of fevered nausea.
Calm down, I tell myself. Calm down and the pain will ebb. But the Clock of Doom continues to tick. T minus one hour, and the pain won't budge.
The lock clicks in the front door, and Una jumps to her feet. Immediately, relief floods my bones. My husband is here, my gentle savior. As he hangs his coat on the hook, he notices the dimmed lights, my prostrate form. "Awww," he croons. "Do you have a headache?"
I nod weakly. "All day," I moan.
He kneels at my side. Briskly, he rubs his wide hands together, with a "shuff-shuff" sound. Then, he places his hot palms on my forehead, his smooth skin pressing gently. Yellow flashes flare inside my eyelids, my own private light show. His love burns away my pain like a healing light. At last, I am calm.
Love medicine is stronger than any prescription.