Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Normally, I wouldn't side...

...with Michele Bachmann if I was offered anything in the world. In the galaxy, even.

And I don't agree with her goons roughing up reporters. That's just not cool.

However, the other thing that's not cool is to make a big deal out of this migraine story. You see, I've got migraines. I'm in my 50s and I have had them since my 20s. I've gone through every therapy (aside from surgery and Botox) that has been available, including some pretty heavy-duty narcotics.

Properly treated, migraines can have very little impact on your life. It sounds as if she's got the proper treatment. Heck, her health care is probably head-and-shoulders above most normal humans, so I'm sure she's got top doctors looking at her meds and what she needs to do.

That being said, stories telling of her missing work and missing votes are stories I can truly relate to. I've called my boss a couple of times (not many, thank God, because my migraines are about 90% controlled), and said, "I'm leaving now, while I can still see. I have a migraine."

And she gets it. Here's a picture of my migraines. Often, I'm awakened at 3 a.m. It starts with a "feeling" that something is "off." And it gets worse. All of a sudden, I get a stabbing pain over my right temple. Think Sweeney Todd with an ice-pick and having a VERY bad day. Then, it begins to affect the vision in my right eye. Often, that vision turns into a tunnel, and I literally can't open my eyelid.

If I have one that starts during the day, it starts with an aura. I wear glasses and have done so since 3rd grade; during the beginning of a migraine, my vision becomes hyper-acute. Like, I can see in super-3-D and everything is sort of leaping AT me. This is called "migraine with aura" and it's got the grand distinction of carrying a significantly higher stroke risk.

Then I become (in either the early a.m. headache or during the day headache) hyper-sensitive to sound. I want EVERYONE to just shut up. I want no birds tweeting, no leaves rustling, no footfalls anywhere within 100 yards of wherever I am.

It's so bad that when I'm lying on the couch, the kids come in, take one look, and say, "Oh-oh - migraine!" --- softly, though. Because they know I'll hurt them if they disturb me. Or at least open my left eye, the right one being perma-fused shut, and glare at them.

I want lots of ice - around my neck and around my head. I want lots of darkness. I want nobody to touch me. At. All. At some point, if I can manage it, I crawl onto the floor and lay face-up while my husband uses a massage technique that literally stretches my neck; the traction seems to help, and I don't know why. I'm only grateful that it does.

Then the nausea starts. It comes in rolls. If I manage to throw up, frankly, I feel  better, but often I can't because I can't eat or drink. Picture yourself on the worst roller coaster of your life... up and down and up and down and up and down. That's what my stomach is doing, and often I end up with dry heaves. Not fun.

I take a daily medication to keep them quiet, but occasionally, I do have break-through headaches. They can occur because of triggers: strong scents; stress; certain foods; weather; hormones; lack of sleep (and hey, I'm in my early 50s - guess what my sleep is like??). They can last from 2 hours to 3 days. Three. Days.

It took me a decade to get a doctor who understood and who could prescribe me something that wouldn't knock me out for days or hours. Particularly after I had kids, I really couldn't have a 3-day headache - I needed to function. I have honestly had doctors who said, with straight faces, "This is all in your head." I've been accused of malingering. Trying to avoid work. Being a baby. Believe me, when the bells of Notre Dame and the National Cathedral are going off in your head? You're not trying to avoid anything. Except the stuff going on in your head.

But you can't shut it off. You have to endure it, and I use "endure" deliberately. It's an endurance test to make it through a migraine. I'm blessed if it only lasts a couple of hours. I have often said to people, "You know, I'd just love a 'take 2 aspirin headache' one of these days." I don't get those. I get migraines.

I have a medication that I take at the first sign of the headaches, but I can't take it unless I'm home because it knocks me out. My friend has a similar one, and it doesn't affect her that way. I'm not so lucky. If I don't take this at the right time, however, the migraine goes on to its own conclusion and there is nothing that will stop it. And one of the odd side effects of this medication is that after I take it, I get seriously cold and my blood pressure tanks. Yeah, that's something to keep in mind, because I bet that's never happened to anyone who's popped a couple of aspirins for a "regular" headache. Migraine is a very complicated ailment, and it's something that the medical community is only now taking seriously.

I've heard that people say they want to kill themselves. I know what that feels like because I've often felt, "Hey, the best thing that could happen is that this kills me. Just so it's over."

Migraine treatment has come a long way. Bachmann's staffers have said that they've often closed doors and shut lights off. I can feel for her. I don't agree with anything she says, other than her remarks on migraines. Properly treated, they don't have to take over your life, but often you have no control over what a migraine does. If you want more information about migraines, check out this website: or this one, for another viewpoint: -- you can educate yourself on how bad these headaches really are, how many people suffer from them, and what's being done in medicine to help those who suffer from this condition.

This story is a minor distraction. She'll have to disclose her medical records as the process goes forward. We need to be paying attention to the weird stuff she is saying; the contradictions with "get rid of government programs" versus "my husband's therapy practice takes Medicare patients;" the contradiction of the farm subsidies she disclosed on paper but denies on tape.

Get past the headaches she has and look at the headaches she could cause if she's elected.

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