Archives for Migraine
"But you don't look sick." Yeah. I've heard that one before. Have you? There's migraine. Fibromyalgia. Lupus. The pain and autoimmune problems aren't immediately visible. Within the mental health spectrum, there's panic disorder. There's depression. There's bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD. It's not easy for others to visually see our suffering. But just because an illness isn't showing doesn't mean it's not legitimate! THIS STUFF IS FOR REAL When I have a bad migraine, the only overt evidence of my suffering is the pair of sunglasses I'm probably wearing indoors. Also, I tend to walk very lightly on my tiptoes in a futile attempt to suppress the gnawing, throbbing, and stabbing pain on the right side of my skull. But a big pair of sunglasses coupled with a delicate walk? I look more like some cross between a drunk ballerina and a celebrity-in-hiding. I don't look like I'm suffering. It's the same thing with panic: if I have an attack in the middle of the grocery store, there's no good visual indicator that I'm suffering. Sure, I'll probably abandon my cart and walk quickly toward the exit -- but how does that make me different than any other woman who has forgotten her wallet in the car?
According to the ModernAnxieties website, the premise of this project is simple: send a tweet with the hashtag "#modernanxieties" on February 8th, and Agentic (a digital media company based out of British Columbia) will donate 5 cents to the Vancouver Crisis Centre. And what exactly are you supposed to tweet about? Well, modern-day anxieties, of course. From the Vancouver Crisis Centre's website: Inspired by Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign, Agentic Communications Inc. will be involved in an online awareness and fundraising campaign via Twitter, “Modern Anxieties” (www.modernanxieties.com). Agentic will be tweeting an amusing technology-related modern anxiety (i.e. lack of e-mail syndrome, GPS mistrust anxiety, etc.) every day, leading up to the campaign day on February 8th, 2012. All proceeds of up to $1000 from every share of their website/video/tweets will be donated to the Crisis Centre! Lack of e-mail syndrome? GPS mistrust anxiety? Agentic's Twitter account (@TehWorryBot -- not a misspelling of "the"; it's slang from teh internetz) lists a few more of these "modern anxieties": Breaking into sweats over needing a better phone? Fretting over a font's unrequited love? A font?
The other week, I wrote about the frustrating world of migraine symptoms. So many migraine symptoms overlap with my own personal panic triggers. (And I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't easily deal with nausea, pain, and dizziness -- you too, right?) And now, another great migraine-related Catch 22: when the effects of migraine medicines overlap with your panic triggers. You may know the feeling. You feel a migraine coming on, and you've got a pill in your pocket that can save you from the pain, the sensitivity to light, and the sick stomach. Of course, that pill -- that miracle pill, really -- is going to make you lightheaded. Or jittery. Or drowsy and all fatigue-y. If fatigue, sleepiness, and the jitters have a proven history of making you panic, do you still take the miracle pill?
The sky was gray and I heard thunder in the distance. It wasn't even raining yet during my head-throbbing walk from my car to the front door. I had left work early with a migraine. I walked into my apartment and hurriedly got ready for my date with the dark bedroom: meds, a glass of water, and an ice pack. It was 3:00 pm. The other week, I finally bought some light-blocking curtains for the bedroom. ("Helps reduce stress and improve sleep!" boasted the plastic package.) Glad to finally have a dark room to retreat to, I drew the curtains shut. Save the light of the alarm clock, I was in near complete darkness. Ahhhh. Perfect. For about five seconds or so.
Just like I could never forget my first panic attack, I could never forget my first migraine. I was sixteen or so and had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. Laying face-down on the couch in my parents' living room with the lights out, I remember stuffing my throbbing head between the cushions. Nothing could kill the pain. I was half convinced that my brain and my heart had temporarily switched locations. My newly-transplanted heart, I imagined, had gotten cozy behind my right eye and it stabbed my optic nerve with each beat. Put simply, migraines aren't just painful -- they can be scary. I'm about halfway through Dr. Carolyn Bernstein's The Migraine Brain, and even after 11+ years of suffering from at least 2 or 3 migraines per month, my storehouse of migraine-related knowledge has increased threefold thanks to this book. Migraines aren't just bad headaches -- they're a complex neurological disorder that involves far more than just head pain. They're something like a four-act play. A four-act play that, in my case (and perhaps yours), can invite anxiety and panic.