Friday, August 27, 2004

Souvenir Migraine

Public service announcement: This post will contain repeated and occasionally graphic references to vomiting.

It may also take me awhile to get to a point in any way related to infertility. If any of this bothers you, I urge you to skip it, moving swiftly along to any one of the excellent blogs, links located on the lower right hand side of the page. Thank you for your attention.


If you've been watching the news or reading the paper recently, you may have noticed that the famous painting The Screamby Edvard Munch was stolen at gunpoint from a museum in Oslo on Sunday.

The painting is famous for the sense of torment, panic, desperation and anguish it evokes. At the same time, it's quite quirky, and I find something almost cutely humorous about the way the little guy's head sort of looks like it is melting. I keep a little fridge magnet of it on my desk at work.

Until recently, the Scream was my close to my heart, because it was able to sum up, in a single image, the way I feel when I am suffering from a migraine. I am certainly not the first person to make that observation, so I think this is something to which others who experience migraines relate.

Migraines have been a regular occurence in my life since the onset of puberty. The symptoms, intensity and duration of migraine vary for different people, as do the triggers. Some people get flashing lights and sound sensitivity. My migraines occur by stealth, like a poisonous goblin tiptoeing up behind me with gigantic comedy rubber hammer, gently tapping, tapping, until WHAM. Steel hammer.

I get migraines when I overheat, usually from overexertion when exercising, or when I am under stress. My headaches are generally characterised by a throbbing pain on one side of my head, spreading over my eye. I can feel the blood pounding in the distorted vein. And after awhile, if I don't get to the painkillers in a timeous fashion, vomiting. The worse the pain, the greater the tendency to retch.

Over the years, I have had some real doozies. I can't always remember trailers preceding the headache, but I sure do recall the feature film. Other people collect souvenirs like snow domes, kitschy ashtrays or t-shirts from places they visit- I collect migraines. So much so that I keep a list of Migraines, Best Of. It is as follows:

1. Gettysburg, 1983. Summer. Driving back from the war memorial with my parents. Dad had to pull over car to let me throw up on the side of the road.

2. New Jersey, 1987. Visiting new boyfriend's house. Tour of bedroom rudely interrupted by spectacular head pain and upchucking the chocolate ice cream he bought me earlier. (Side note: Boyfriend later dumped me when he discovered he wanted to be a "she". I shit you not.)

3. St Catherine's, Ontario. circa 1998. Visiting family of future husband-to-be. Aunt talking about how she got migraines. Cue onset of big stinker, made worse by flocked, floral wallpaper in guest bedroom.

4. Lake Ochachobee, Florida. 1989. Traveling with then boyfriend by bicycle across United States. Heat. Campsite. Noisy children next door. Tent. Barfed all over sleeping bag. Repeated at various intervals during remainder of journey. Boyfriend not amused.

5. Turkey, 2000. Summer. Walked in heat of the day from hotel 3 miles into town- no shade, no water. Yakked in taxi on way back to hotel.

6. Scotland, circa 1999. Summer. Completed Glasgow Half Marathon. Involved in car accident with soon-to-be ex husband, narrowing avoiding collision with big wall and death. Puked all over the side of the road. He left me the next day.

7. High Sierra, California, circa 1990. Climbed this. Threw up at the summit, approx. 13, 700 feet. Nice view, though.

8. Inverness, Scotland. 1986. The bus drove right by, leaving me stranded at ruined castle on Loch Ness with my brother. It was January, and snowing. We hitched a lift back to the youth hostel in town with a lorry driver. When we reached the hostel, I went to the girls' bathroom, and threw up so hard, I passed out and nearly cracked my skull open on the toilet seat.

I could go on and on, but I think that gives you some highlights. A lot of roadside puking, to be sure. The list reminds me that, although I have had some truly terrible headaches over the years, I've also done some interesting things.

Since my rendez-vous with infertility, Munch's painting has also become an apt symbol of the way I feel every month when my period arrives, or I hear someone say something insensitive about infertility. I love its tangible expression of my inner turmoil. I hope the Scream is eventually restored safely to the museum where it rightly belongs.

But I don't really want to store up the same sort of memory trinkets from infertility, from failed cycles, or from loss. I'll live with the migraines, but I think those take up enough quite enough space on the shelf.


At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 4:33 PM, Blogger Toni said...

:) Well, at least, when you become pregnant, you'll be ready for the puking, right?

Sorry to hear you have such pain (in all areas).

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've been able to puke in some places. I've never traveled that much ;)

I have migraines too, really bad's caused by the horrible shoulder pain I have, the one where Dr. NasTea had to stick in two needles because it was so tight I popped one out. I've had migraines since I was about 10 or so, but I don't usually get sick, just really dizzy.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you've been able to puke in some places. I've never traveled that much ;)

I have migraines too, really bad's caused by the horrible shoulder pain I have, the one where Dr. NasTea had to stick in two needles because it was so tight I popped one out. I've had migraines since I was about 10 or so, but I don't usually get sick, just really dizzy.


At 7:46 PM, Blogger Wavery said...

You have puked in a lot of countries. I shouldn't be envious. (?) I have done similar puking and I've noticed that the older I get the more keyed up my gag response is. I pray for the opportunity to wretch at a nasty diaper.

The Scream also holds a little something for me. I discovered it in the fifth grade, fondly.

At 8:02 PM, Blogger lobster girl said...

Oh, honey, that sounds so awful. But you're right. You have certainly done some interesting things and gone to cool places. Maybe you could think of yourself puking around the world kinda like a cat marking its territory. Everywhere you've yacked is YOURS. You'd be Queen of your own Upchuck Kingdom.

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. I do hope you are mapping these. You know, a map of the world with push pins?
So sorry you have these awful migraines - it sure is no way to see the world : (


At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Scream, that about sums it up. Sorry about your headaches.


At 4:19 AM, Blogger Heather said...

Why is it I had never heard of this painting until it got stolen in such dramatic fashion? EVERYONE seems to be familiar with it except me. Hell, it's apparently famous enough to merit desk magnets?! I have spent the past several days feeling terribly uncultured and in need of a museum visit. Except that there's not one for at least 100 miles any direction. Maybe that's part of my problem.

Well, that's all beside the point. I wanted to tell you I also keep a mental list, not of migraines, but of times I've most desperately had to pee and not been able to get to a bathroom. Two of these end with me peeing my pants, but none of them involve me being in another country doing anything particularly interesting. So at least you have that.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Jen P said...

Oh Mare, jeeez. Sucks with the migraines. I've have horrible migraines before too. Ick. I went through 4 months of a 'cluster' of vascular migraines. I truly wanted someone to slam my head over and over into the toilet so I'd just fucking die. But thank G-d they passeed. There's a drug called Immigram (you've probably been prescribed it?) that I take when I feel one of those mother-f'ers on their way. Works a charm.

And wow. I've never puked in such cool places. Hrrrm...maybe that should be my goal for 2005.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Mare, migraines SUCK. I have had one in my life, about a month ago, and it was so horrible. I had the weird eye stuff and everything. I am also very pukey, even without migraines. I'm so sorry you get these.

Off topic, but I wanted to point out that the skirts that you so maliciously slander on Horkin Ramblings are a favorite fashion item of mine (for real) and that I have a brand spanking new PONCHO in my closet, so THERE!!! ;)

Karen/Naked OVary

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, another member of the Migraine Fellowship. Sorry you have to be part of the gang...and at such a rarefied level, too.

Something that's helped me is taking 400 mg of vitamin B2 (aka riboflavin) every day. Forgot where I first read about it, but there have been a few studies done that indicate that it reduces the chance of migraines, so I started taking it several years ago. Since then, I have far fewer migraines -- and most of the ones I have had have come after I didn't take the riboflavin for a day or two. Now, this could just be because I have wimpy migraines, but thought I'd suggest it -- AFAIK, it's non-toxic, and can be purchased at vitamin/health food stores.

Oh, a colleague of mine who has killer migraines like yours uses injectable medication -- she carries around inject-a-pens (or something like that) of her meds (Imitrex, I think).

Sorry if this is assvice. I've had a few friends with migraines who have, let's just say, been ill-served by their doctors, so I try to pass along what knowledge I have.


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