It is unpredictable and unavoidable when it comes.
Beginning at the base of my skull, it slowly builds, like the steam in a pressure cooker, only there is no little metal buoy bouncing about, releasing the steam. At first it is like any ache or pain. Maybe it will disappear. Maybe it will not. Doing all the same things -- stretching, applying heat, applying ice, resting -- sometimes doesn't do a damned thing.
My eyes begin to have trouble focusing on the screen during the conference. A cattle prod enters at the base of my skull and inches toward my right eye. My legs go wobbly. I know that if I try to stand, they will be weak. Someone asks me a question; "Could you please repeat that?" They shout and echo into the phone, though I know they are simply speaking to me. My eyes keep drifting to the clock on the lower right corner of my screen. When the conference is over, I know I will take a Fioricet and rest in a darkened room. It will be okay.
But it is not okay.
The pain spreads until the only relief is from sleep. I fall asleep in pain and wake up to the same pain. It is a night in which I will be unable to get up and see to my family. Grateful that I have no small children, I nevertheless feel sorry for my dogs, who desperately want their normal after-dinner walkies. Hubby is good; he picks up Chinese food and brings me a cold glass of soda in my dark bedroom. He tells me it's okay.
The pain sickens me but not to the point of being sick. These aren't typical migraines; they are hemiplegic or "complicated." They appear as and act like strokes. Only those of us versed in the strange chords of this waltz can tell the difference: my neurologists and me, my husband -- though even he worries that we might miss an important distinguishing characteristic someday. Those drugs that help my friends -- Zofran, Imitrex, and so on -- could actually produce a stroke in me. I'm left only with the Fioricet, sometimes other painkillers. Nothing really takes it away.
Now in the downhill slide toward what I hope will be a few peaceful days, because this one has been dancing around me for days, I'm achy, exhausted. I feel at a loss. None of these headaches ever hit me before the hours-long surgery to fuse C5/C6/C7 in my neck, leaving my head bent backwards at an unnatural angle for too long. We didn't know then that I had a Chiari malformation. We know now, but it's too late. What happened has already happened and I am left with the consequences and a long - very long - line of doctors who don't know how to help me and don't seem to care.
And my life slowly falls apart. Good days, bad days. I wonder what the migraine will take away next. I hope that I hear from the Chiari Institute soon about an appointment. I'm facing another winter of weak legs, searing head pain, and hopelessness. I lean on my church, my friends at church, my friends here, and God -- but friends I tell you this: when I am in the throes of it, no one can help me. It is me against the migraine.