The working title is “A Migraine Story,” as I have no idea what to call it just yet. Idea comes from a post on the NoSleep Facebook Fanpage where someone asked why isn’t there any stories about migraines? So far, the word count is 2268, which is awesome because it beats my word-count goal for this story, so yay.
A Migraine Story
I didn’t start getting the migraines until I had gone down to the Bahamas with my family. My sister, Michaela, had convinced me to get my hair braided by one of the women hawking the service. It took a while, but eventually I caved and let one of them do a “headband” style of cornrows since my hair was just past my ears.
The woman was quiet as I sat on a rickety chair, holding a large Tupperware box of colourful plastic beads. She slathered some sort of goo on my head before starting to pull as hard as she could. Stabbing into my scalp with the comb and angrily braiding before shoving a bead into place and snapping a small rubber band behind it. It felt like every bead and every rubber band was an inconvenience as it smashed into my scalp.
I remember, at one point, she gave me shit for complaining about the pain. She demanded to know if I had ever had my “hair did before, y’know, by a professional.” After I had told her no, I’d never done anything like this before, she scoffed and pulled harder, telling me I “don’t know what pain is.” When she was done, she had added on an extra $30 to the original request of $25. Michaela and I couldn’t do anything except pay the woman and leave Michaela laughed the whole way from the little rickety, faded red chair to the beach where the rest of our family had situated themselves about half a mile away. Michaela apologized with buying a Rum Punch from the little bar on the edge of the beach.
The rest of the trip went through without any problems that I was aware of. Being on a cruise ship that had 8 bars in various areas that were practically open 24/7 tends to help keep most problems at bay. But that was a few months ago and now having a migraine is a constant problem. It’s not so much a “hey, I have a bit of a headache” once in a while, it’s more like “when is this going to happen and how bad will it be this time.”
Normally it feels as though someone has punched me right behind my left ear. I can put my fist behind my ear and cover the area with my fingers and knuckles.
I ended up going to a doctor, who basically told me that there was nothing wrong with me. I was informed to “drink more liquids” and “get some rest.” I went to a different doctor for a second opinion. That doctor hemmed and hawed, nodding a little bit, and didn’t really seem to care what I said. The old man wrote a note on an RX pad, his thick glasses reflecting the harsh light, and handed me a prescription for Tylenol 3. I had had this before, years ago. It was an extra-strength Tylenol with something else added to it. I sighed and asked for a referral for a neurologist or something. He shook his head and told me to give the script a chance. He seemed convinced the Tylenol would work just fine.
I ended up turning to the internet to look for ways to ease up the issue. I began making a list of what might help and whittle it down until I had a nice small list of things to do that I could mentally tally up when the migraines started. Chocolate, caffeine, food, water. Simple things. Sometimes it helped, most times it didn’t.
I went back to the second doctor, who seemed to be disappointed that I had come back, complaining of something so trivial. I got a new prescription and a referral to a neurologist. The doctor acted as though it wasn’t worth even referring me to someone else. But, I got it and all I had to do was wait 2 weeks. Just two, long weeks.
I had the worst migraine of my life. I was hunched over the toilet, waiting to vomit, in the pitch black of my bathroom. I couldn’t deal with sound, smell, or, well, much of anything. I wanted to die. I wanted to pop my eyeballs out. I wanted to crawl to my small toolbox and bash my skull apart with hammer.
I had to slowly text my boss to let her know I couldn’t come in while lying on the cold tile. I couldn’t call—god no. I couldn’t hand the thought of listening to the ringing, let alone the sound of someone else’s voice.
My phone buzzed, sending spikes of pain through my head and face.
Michaela: What’s up yo
Me: I feel like I’m dying.
I somehow managed to respond, squinting at the darkened screen.
Michaela: What’s wrong?
Me: Migraine from hell
Michaela: I’m coming over.
Michaela was stubborn. I couldn’t stop her no matter how much I would ask her not to do something. I stayed on the floor.
Floor is nice. I thought about staying on the cold tile forever. I didn’t know if I could make my way to my bed, even with all the black-out curtains I’d recently purchased and had closed. The bed was maybe 20 or 25 feet away, but I just…couldn’t. The pain behind my ear was unbearable. It was pounding and felt like it was growing.
The front door opened and sounded like a steel door being slammed as hard as possible, even though I’m pretty sure it was shut as quiet as could be. Michaela and I had keys to each other’s apartments, which was a godsend right now. I heard her shuffle towards me, trying so hard to not make noise. I couldn’t tell her that the shuffling of her feet on the carpet sounded like glass marbles being shaken vigorously inside a tin can.
She bent down, “are you alright?”
Her voice was swelled with concern. I grunted and covered my head with the towel I’d managed to pull off the rack.
“Lizzie, you need to answer me.”
She was as quiet as she could be despite the screaming bouncing around my head that it sounded like to me. She put her hand on my shoulder.
“Lizzie, I’m serious.”
I grumbled and rolled over so she’d be able to hear me. “I feel like I’m dying. Nothing helps.”
“Has it ever been this bad before?” I couldn’t see her face, but I could imagine the look of concern she was giving me.
“I want a hammer.”
“If I smash the hammer against my head, maybe it’ll go away.”
She sighed and patted my arm. “I’ll be right back.”
She stood and left the area. Tile flooring without any padding did not help my head at all, so I moved an arm under my head. It wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than being curled up in a ball on my side. I felt Michaela come back and begin doing something to my foot.
“Stuff it, Liz. I’m getting your shoes on. We’re going to the hospital.”
“No.” it was a weak protest.
“No? Really, Liz, I’m tired of you bitching about your headaches and you not getting anything done with it.”
“Got appointment,” I mumbled as she helped me sit up and lean against the wall.
Michaela had gotten a tea towel damp and put it in my hand. She pulled the towel off my head, took the tea towel, and pressed it against my eyes. The shock of cold pulled me out of the enormous pain long enough to stand up and take the zip-up jacket she stuffed in my free hand. She started walking me towards the door before plopping me down on the couch. She disappeared for some time, I’m not sure how long it took, and eventually came back to haul my ass up.
“Lean on me,” Michaela grabbed my arm and threw it over a shoulder. “We are going on an adventure.”
All I remember is beeping. Christ, the beeping. Each beep stabbing itself into my head. I groaned and moved my head slowly back and forth.
“Turn it off,” I whined. My own voice ricocheting against my skull. God, I’d kill to make this stop.
“Can’t turn it off,” a cheerful voice boomed somewhere near me. “Got to keep you hooked up, sweetie.”
I wanted to scream, I wanted to jump up and punch this person in the face, but all I could do was grunt and weakly flip the room off.
“Lizzie, be nice,” my sister piped up. “You’re lucky we got you here in time.”
In time. That’s an odd phrase. In Time. Sounds like something from a time when horses were a main source of transportation. In Time sounded like something a doctor would say before locking a loved one up in a padded room.
“You’re going to feel something cold and then you’ll feel like you’re peeing yourself, but don’t worry. You won’t be peeing and the pain will start to go down.”
“Bullshit,” I didn’t believe it. The only way this pain would go away is if someone could release the pressure in my head.
Wasn’t that a lobotomy? I could get behind that. Maybe not the whole ice pick beside the eyeball thing, but the whole small hole drilled out of your skull thing. I wonder if I could get them to do a lobotomy on me.
I felt a weird and cold sensation go through my right arm before the sudden warm sensation of peeing myself. “Ew.”
The cheerful voice laughed, “You’re fine. Someone will check on you in about 10 or 20 minutes and see how you’re doing. If you have any feeling like you can’t breathe, the emergency button is right beside you.”
I’d still rather someone cracked open my skull to get rid of the never-ending pain. It was all I could think about until I realized I had been lulled into a strange middle ground. The huge spike of pain was still there, but as a background throb. It was as though I’d fallen into a nice dark haze of half-asleep apathy.
“How’s the patient doing?” a soft, new voice asked.
“I’ve died and gone to hell,” I answered without moving.
“Looks like you’re livelier now that we’ve gotten some morphine into you.” The voice sounded amused. “Are you able to answer some questions?”
“I can help if need be,” I heard my sister answer.
“That will be great. Now, Elizabeth, how long have you been having these headaches…”
The questions seemed to go on forever. When did you first notice them? How long do they normally last? Do they generate in any specific area? What did you use to treat them? Do you do drugs? Have you been seen for any psychiatric illnesses? Do you remember who you saw for the headaches?
That’s what the doctor called them. He kept refusing to use the term “migraine” and seemed to be more likely determined to prove that I was either coming down from something or simply had the worst hangover ever. I heard him mutter something about an extra saline bag.
Headaches don’t feel like this. A headache is a dull throb that shows up every once in a while and the headache pills knock it out within an hour or so. Migraines are a deep, painful, screwdriver lodged in your skull. Sometimes pills help, sometimes sleep helps. And sometimes you find yourself sprawled on your bathroom floor wishing for a swift death.
The doctor added something else to my IV, talking about “just waiting for the bloodwork to come back.” I sank back into the fuzzy dark world between asleep and awake while Michaela made a remark about some drama on Facebook.
I woke up to the face of the doctor. The small cloth Michaela had put over my eyes to block as much light out as possible was gone. The doctor had a concerned look on his face.
“I’m glad you’re awake. I need you as coherent as possible. We’re going to wheel you over to the MRI and see what’s going on.”
The machine was boring. I kept my eyes closed as the technician spoke calmly. It felt like no time at all and, before I knew it, I was being wheeled back to the ER room I’d first woken up in. the short doctor was staring at the images of my brain looking confused.
“You said you went on vacation to the Bahamas, right?”
Michaela nodded, “Yeah. We went on a cruise.”
“Did anything strange happen?” he’d turned to her as I put the cloth back over my eyes. I could easily answer the questions without seeing things.
“No. We had fun. We drank a bit, went on excursions, hung out on the beach.”
“Did you hit your head on anything?”
“No,” I grumbled.
“Did you have anything done to your head?”
“She got her hair braided,” Michaela replied. “Y’know, it’s like those island braids that a lot of girls get when they go on cruises and stuff.”
I could hear the pause before the doctor made up his mind to speak.
“We need to prep you for surgery.”
I heard the chair scrape as Michaela jumped up. “What! Why?”
He tapped the glass where the scans of my brain were and I pulled the cloth off my eyes. “Your sister, and you have to understand that this is rare.”
He looked towards me, “We believe that you may have a worm lodged in your brain.”