It’s a brisk, sunny, perfectly normal Sunday morning. I’m driving along, minding my own business, thinking about the beautiful nectarines I just purchased at the grocery store, when it happens. Just in my peripheral vision, I see it. Flashing, sparkly, almost beautiful if not for its ominous nature.
I take a few deep breaths. Surely, this isn’t happening now. Not while I’m driving. I spend the next few seconds trying to convince myself that my eyes are just tired. I blink, slowly, three times. It’s only when I stop at a red light and focus that I understand what is happening. The fuzziness is spreading across my line of vision, and I’m in for a really long day.
In the ten minutes it takes me to get home, it has moved from my peripheral into the center of my vision. The road, the sky, the trees, the oncoming traffic—all are out of focus. I’m mostly blind now, the aura devouring my sense of sight.
My heart pounds with anxiety until I finally reach my driveway. I’m careful to stop a few feet from my usual parking spot so I’m sure not to hit the fence. I gather my belongings, the few bags of groceries, and shuffle quickly to my house. I fumble for what feels like 10 minutes with my keys, unable to tell which one opens my front door from the dozen others dangling from my chain. I finally find it, slide it home, and as open the door, the pain begins to set in.
At first, it’s just a slight ache above my right eye. Still blind from the aura, I clumsily put away the groceries, double-and-triple checking that all the perishables have been shoved, probably haphazardly, into the fridge. With shaking hands I turn on the faucet and fill a glass with water. My pills are in the bathroom cabinet, I think to myself, and I don’t even bother with the light as I throw open the doors and start rummaging through bottles. The first one I pull out is too big. The second is too small. The third is clearly a brown prescription bottle, but I know there is more than one brown bottle inside the cabinet. I hold it up close to my face, peering at the label through the tiny pinhole of vision that is remotely focused. Bingo. Pain meds. I carefully drop two into my palm, tighten the lid, and down the pills with the glass of water. I start to put the bottle back into the cabinet, and on second thought, carry it with me to the bedroom.
At this point, the pain has increased to a sharp pain that radiates from my right eye socket to just behind my right ear. I draw the shades, close the door, and crawl, fully clothed, into bed. I retreat into sleep, though I know I’ll be a prisoner until the pain releases me, weak, exhausted, defeated.
When I wake, the pain is staggering. Both hands are tingling. I briefly wonder if I’m having a stroke. It takes all my strength to lift my head and glance at the clock. Twenty six minutes. I got twenty six minutes of sleep thanks to the meds before the pain grips me and shakes me awake. The only good news to report is that the aura is mostly gone. I can clearly read the four numbers blinking across the face of my alarm clock. Only the shadows in the corner are slightly blurred.
I flip my pillow over, to the cool side, and bury my face in the soft cotton. I can feel the tears just behind my eyes, but I know crying will only intensify the pain. So I stamp them down, refuse to let them come. I spend some time telling the muscles in my neck and shoulders to relax, knowing the tension is from pain, and knowing they will ache later when my head no longer throbs. I wish for a glass of wine, a shot of whiskey, anything strong enough to make the pain stop. I wish for my husband, although the best he can do for me is rub my back, calm me down, hold my hand.
I will watch the clock for the next four hours, waiting for the minute hand to reach the six before I grab for my medicine bottle again, downing two more pills, desperate for a few more minutes of escape. And this cycle will continue, every four hours, until the migraine releases me from its clutches and allows me some peace.