Sunday, July 6, 2008

My friend, Migraine.

My friend, Migraine.
I have suffered from migraines since I was a kid. I remember when i was in elementary school, I got a horrible headache every time it rained. I didn't know they were migraines until I was about 24, when I realized that the "headaches" I would get were beyond any pain that a traditional headache brings. I didn't bother to take Advil because even three or four pills did nothing to stop the pain, and the nausea that accompanied the splitting pain was aggravated by ibuprofen.

Anyway, enough about pain. This isn't a search for pity; it's just a fact. I suffer from Migraine.

A few years ago, I was getting 8-10 a month. Think about that. Every 3rd or 4th day, you are in such pain that you just can't function. I understood why Virginia Woolf might walk down the lake, or why Vincent would cut off his ear (both famous Migraneurs, FYI). It was debilitating.

Imagine the worst hangover you have ever experienced, and multiply it by 10. That is a migraine. Horrible light sensitivity, vomiting, the feeling of an icepick being jabbed in your skull. And I'm delirious. Between cold chills and sweat, and crying at the inability to sleep it off.

I've come to know it well over the years, mostly by becoming in tune with my own body -- its reactions, quirks, pains, swells, etc. I know redheads suffer more from them, and pain medicines don't work as well on us. I learned that my grandmother had migraines, and would tie a scarf around her head. This trick helps me fall asleep. I learned that marijuana is prescribed to California migraine sufferers as one of the best preventative treatments.

All the legal medicines for migraine made me more ill on a regular basis. I grew my own Feverfew, took extra zinc and vitamin B, all the herbal remedies. Some helped, but my friend Migraine still called several times a month. When the pains got so regular and bad, I began keeping a diary of everything. Food, weather, my body, etc.

The worst discovery was that avocados and bananas are extreme migraine triggers for me. Most wine is a trigger. For some reason, Pinots are usually okay. Cheap alcohol will give me a headache long before I've even got a buzz. It's been a nice excuse to only drink the good stuff. When a man offers to buy me a drink, I say, "I'm drinking Crown and Soda, which i know is expensive, but I'll buy it myself rather than drink Early Times."

Anyway, I've mostly been able to control them. Occasionally, when the storm front comes through on the same day I had too much dairy and a piece of dark chocolate, I will suffer. And I say, "I should have known better."

I hate being a picky-eater, but that slice of cheese or glass of wine is no longer worth the migraine.

And recently, I think I'd discovered a new migraine trigger, which may very well have been there all along ... gluten. People talk about gluten this and gluten that, and I don't even really understand what gluten actually is. (Library trip tomorrow for some science books.) But I know that I gave it up for three days, then had one piece of focaccia bread, and was down with a migraine within an hour.

So i'm experimenting with this gluten-free thing for a bit. It's harder than anything I've ever done. And I've been a vegetarian since high school. Vegan when I choose. That's all easy. It's the gluten-free thing i'm finding difficult.

Anyone out there doing it? Advice? Anything you've learned?

And as for you Migraineurs, i recommend a brilliant essay by Joan Didion called, "In Bed." She writes beautifully of her friend, Migraine.

Other famous Migraneurs: Thomas Jefferson, Georges Seurat, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Lewis Carroll (his hallucinations during migraines were said to have been a huge part of Alice in Wonderland), Virginia Woolf, Julius Caesar, Sigmund Freud, Napoleon, and Elvis Presley.

Maybe they should've avoided gluten. I don't know. I'm at a loss. I've had two migraines in the past two weeks. Not as bad as I've had in the past. But ten times worse than a bad hangover.

Anyone else? Just curious.

***

Sorry to not have an exciting life-on-the-road blog.

If you want that: Nashville was fun. I ran into my pal, Shannon Lawson, and we decided to put an impromptu show together in Louisville on Friday, July 11th at the Monkey Wrench. 10:00pm . $5. And it's Shannon's birthday that weekend, so come sing one to him. And my birthday is soon soon soon ... so maybe sing to me too:) I'll be there, unless I have a migraine.

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