Migraine sufferers do just that – they suffer. They suffer to a degree unimaginable to families and friends who underestimate what they are experiencing as they soothe their own headaches with a pill or two and then carry on as usual.
A migraine is not merely a pounding headache. The Mayo Clinic states, “Migraines are chronic headaches that can cause significant pain for hours or even days. Symptoms can be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down.” The severe pulsating or throbbing pain worsens with physical activity, prevents the sufferer from engaging in regular activities, causes nausea, with or without vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sounds and light.
Even without the strange visual hallucinations, flashes of light and numbness or prickling in an arm or leg that accompany some migraines with auras, there is sweating, chills, loss of appetite, thirst, frequent urination, difficulty in concentrating or speaking and distortions of space, time and body image. A migraine attack is frightening, disorienting and above all, incapacitating.
Migraines ravage inner control and energy balance. During psychotherapy sessions some sufferers report the experience is similar to an ongoing brutal explosion inside them. They feel they cannot keep pieces of themselves together enough to think, find words or perform the simplest physical actions. Everything in them seems to fly off in all directions.
Many say migraine feels like inner cruelty gone wild, as if their own anger turned against them. Others say their brain feels burned or burning. Some experience a machine-like grinding in the head or the overwhelming sensation of being flooded with something resembling thick oil, sickening their stomachs and causing repetitive vomiting.
An almost universal complaint is the hammering, usually in one side of the head, which is so shattering it gets almost too much to bear.
So many things can trigger the next migraine that it is almost impossible to avoid them all. And even if it were possible, this would not prevent the next occurrence. Physical or emotional stress of any kind, alcohol, exposure to smoke, bright lights, missed meals, loud noises, perfumes or certain odors, hormonal changes, retiring to bed too late or even exercise are powerful triggers.
Numerous foods act as triggers, too. Bacon, hot dogs, cured meats, nuts, onions, peanut butter, chocolate, avocado, banana, citrus fruits, aged cheese, red wine, smoked fish, chicken livers, dairy products, baked goods, figs, and foods pickled, marinated or containing MSG.
Helplessness and loss of personal power accompany migraines. Nothing helps. Feeling powerless also after the migraine has gone, the sufferer knows it will come again, wrecking havoc with daily life and its responsibilities. With trepidation future appointments are made without any real assurance they can be kept.
Capricious, migraines can occur on wedding nights, or on days of important job auditions, funerals and urgent work assignments. And a day or so before they reoccur, there is that sickening sensation of premonition accompanied by irritability, depression, intense energy or cravings for sweets.
Mayo Clinic staff: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/DS00120 and http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/DS00120/DSECTION=symptoms
Private notes of psychotherapist and migraine counselor Francine Juhasz, Ph.D.