I love almost everything about being a girl – except for the four to six days a month I have my period. Besides cramps, acne, and the other inconveniences that normally accompany menstruation, I also have menstrual migraines. I wake up in the morning with a piercing pain drilling through one side of my head, both nauseous and light-headed, and afraid to open my eyes because I know that light will only make me feel worse.
I stagger down the hall, to the kitchen, grudgingly squinting out of one eye so I won’t walk into a wall, and microwave a frozen bagel, opening the door just before it finishes, so I won’t have to hear the shrill triple beep. I pull a bottle of Diet Coke from the fridge and slug back as much as my system can handle in hopes that the caffeine will constrict the pulsating blood vessels in my head. Carrying the Diet Coke, and nibbling on the bagel, I wobble my way back down the hall and through the bedroom, to the bathroom where I keep my migraine medication, Imitrex (Sumatriptin). If I catch a migraine early enough, then I may be able to take Excedrin Migraine, which contains aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine, but most often, I wake up with the migraine in full force.
The pills come with only 9 to a one month prescription, and I take one half per migraine. Gingerly I cut open the corner of one of the blisters and ease out a pill. They are triangle shaped, so I carefully fit it into the pill cutter purchased just for this purpose and squeeze it shut. I squeeze one half back into its blister, and swallow the other with a glass of water. The medication is dehydrating, and I know that I will spend the rest of the day craving the fried, salty things that my college room mate referred to as “hangover food.” Given how sensitive my stomach can be after taking Imitrex, and while I have my period, I am always amazed at how much better it does with McDonald’s chicken nuggets than, say, an apple.
After an hour or so, the migraine will hopefully recede, leaving me feeling vaguely hungover and detached from the rest of the world, often unable to coherently discuss the most mundane things – once I forgot the word for “desk” ! It can be embarrassing to admit, on a regular basis, professionally that I have “blanked” on something that I should have immediately known the answer to, but calling out sick every time I have a migraine simply is not an option, since I spend several days a month dealing with one.
Menstrual migraines have taught me, though, that I can survive just about anything, and that my threshold for pain is surprisingly high. As depressing as that knowledge can be, it is also empowering.