Yesterday was a write off. I drove to London and back on Monday, a nine hour round trip including trains and the underground, and I already had what I hoped was just a headache before I got within 100 miles of home. The new car? Not as comfortable as the Picasso for long distance drives. Luckily, before I’d left for London, I packed the only thing my mother left me that had any value – her complete set of Anthony Robbins’ Personal Power II 30 Day Self Improvement Course… in all its glory on 30(ish) cassette tapes. It’s fairly lucky that new car has a tape player embedded into the radio – and it all works – but I did pack my handheld portable cassette player (takes 2x AA batteries) just in case. So I had the fired-up tones of Tony Robbins to keep me awake on the motorway. I think I got through 10 or 11 days of the 30 day program on Monday. And when I was falling asleep at the wheel at 12am on the way home, he suddenly started talking about state change, and how there had been research done with people with bipolar disorder (he called it manic depression – these tapes are OLD) and they had found that when those people religiously smiled 20 minutes a day, and correspondingly got into a posture of happiness (thinking about the whole body) their rates of depression went down. I tried it out in the car, sitting upright with my chest inflated and a big silly grin on my face (I’d been attending a comedy workshop at RADA so this wasn’t unprecipitated), and it certainly woke me right up, I wasn’t really feeling emotional by then so I can’t say what it would have done emotionally.
Of course, I wanted to look this up (have since done so, sadly the results are drowned out by the tide of bullshit myths about depression so I’ve found another allusion to this experiment but that’s not the same experiment at all, and that was all I could find that was remotely related) but I had to take a day away from the computer yesterday due to having a migraine.
Migraines are how I imagine one feels after ECT, and certainly with me the migraines seem to precipitate a state change which is interesting when you think about it – my neurons just fire themselves off on their own and I feel like total shit for about 36 hours (or up to a week) and when I’m back to daily life, I seem to be more clear and flexible of the thinking (although not always very energised – migraines take it out of you). I severely hate them with a vengeance and I wouldn’t recommend migraines to anyone (which, y’know, is fine since migraine with aura is congenital) because they’re associated with higher risk of stroke and mean you can’t take oestrogen (for example in birth control pills).
Yesterday’s migraine went on for over 12 hours before I could contain it – I tried everything; I started with paracetamol (Tylenol) like a good little girl, then a couple of hours later moved onto co-codamol (I take them all in single tablets, to work out if they’re actually going to do anything, then take more if they’re working at all, so no, I didn’t overdose). I tried Migraleve and by that point I was curling up on the floor, sure I was going to vomit on baby bunny Timmy (who had come to comfort me) and wishing I could tear my own nose off to stop the pain.
That was when I was desperate enough to try my new migraine prescription medication – Imigran (sumatriptan). Why not straight away? Well I’ve been diagnosed with migraines since I was 6 years old, there’s a holy trinity of things that causes it – lack of water, lack of sleep, and having to concentrate on something finicky (such as driving) for a long time. Any two of these will start a migraine, and I like to start with solving those first. Yesterday’s was caused by all three (there are other causes as well such as oestrogen but I avoid oestrogen now, which solves that one), just the same formula that caused the migraine that nearly stopped me climbing Ben Nevis.
I got given the prescription when I was very first pregnant and I had a chain of 14 migraines in two weeks – that’s right, every day was a migraine. I went to the doctor’s in tears and she told me I could only take 6 of these Imigran tablets in a month. Anyway, I was too scared to take them in case they killed the unborn child but that’s not an issue any more. I didn’t reach for the Imigran straight away because I’ve never really believed these were real migraines – something some stupid nurse said to me when I started the birth control pill for the first time.
The conversation went like this:
“Do you suffer from migraines?”
“Do you have an aura around your vision when they start?”
“Then they’re headaches.”
I later found out this was horse shit, and that there are more symptoms of aura than just the visual aura (which is the rarest): Sensitivity to light and sound, muscle weakness and visual illusions/hallucinations (of which the visual halo or aura is one) are all classed as “migraine with aura” but some incompetent nurse clearly knows better and totally invalidated an affliction I’ve had for 23 years. Aura, as in “migraine with aura” means “migraine with additional symptoms” and there’s a set of symptoms, not just one specific symptom. I have now been diagnosed with migraine with aura by a doctor.
There are also migraines without aura which are the severe head pain on its own and can be difficult to distinguish from cluster headaches.
So anyway I was scared of taking one of the Imigran tablets in case it proved I didn’t really have migraines (if they’re not migraines and migraine medication doesn’t work on them, then I’ve got really bad headaches with no way of getting rid of them which is terrifying, given the level of pain is an 8 or 9). The Imigran tablets aren’t painkillers at all, you see – they’re ergotamines, so derived from ergot (the LSD family) and they work by constricting the blood vessels all over your body (hence one of the possible side effects is to get blue fingers and toes) and if you don’t have a real migraine, they don’t help at all. The theory is that the blood vessels open too much allowing too much blood to flow, which in a pressed-for-space cavity such as the skull can cause immense pain.
After I took it, I immediately wanted to vomit. That settled and an hour later the pain gradually declined and I was functioning at a steady 2/10, a vast improvement from earlier. I topped up with paracetamol over the course of the day and I still had dizziness and muscle weakness to deal with, and I couldn’t look at bright screens, so going near the computer/phone was not an option.
I think the Imigran got it to a place where paracetamol worked on the rest, but I’ve still got aura symptoms today and I’m not operating at full speed or accuracy (so many typos to correct; I think I’ve got them all), so I’m posting this, then probably not going near my laptop until this afternoon.