Imagine you are a young, blond, slim, attractive, popular, funny, rich, normal woman. You are sitting on the train on your way home from a long day’s work modeling at Vogue. Out of nowhere you suddenly start to smell something very strange, like rotting egg sandwiches. In fact this smell makes you feel quite sick. And will the man sitting next to you please turn down his f’ing Ipod nano! Why has he suddenly turned it up so loud that it’s as if Madonna herself is screaming in your ear holding a megaphone with her scary biceps? You are so busy focusing on the sick egg smell, and the fact that all the noises in the train seem strangely amplified, that you do not notice the large mean man in the black cloak sweep up behind you and viciously ram a dagger into the back of your skull! Oh dear. And then Mr Evil Cloak Man just runs away leaving his massive dagger in the back of your skull. Obviously this starts to hurt a little. Then, his malicious accomplice, the well known torturer Midget Man, jumps up and rams a steel vice around your head and starts tightening it. The dagger was bad enough Midget Man, is this really necessary? He nods and turns the vice one more notch. Your head is literally being crushed, and as typical on public transport, no one is moving a finger to help you. Your eyeball may start bleeding at this point, in fact it might be about to pop out, so could someone please switch the lights off and call your Mum?
Ladies and gentleman, I have just described in a metaphorical, alliterative and hopefully amusing manner, how my migraines feel. This is all true; except that I am not a model at Vogue.
Yes, this is going to be a series of monologues about migraines. But don’t stop reading. It’s going to be deeply moving but also terribly funny. Maybe educational. Maybe there will be songs. In an ideal world these monologues would be performed by famous actresses on stages across the globe, à la The Vagina Monologues, whose title I have borrowed (thank you Eve Ensler for your permission which you have not actually granted but I’m sure you would, as I also have a vagina). In my dream world these monologues would also be part of a hugely successful sitcom/docudrama I’ve written on Chanel 4, or NBC, that catapults my burgeoning writing career into the stratosphere. Thus my years of pain and plight lead to, and amount to… something.
And this brings me to, perhaps, one of the most annoying things about migraine. It is a totally pointless pain. See footnote at bottom*. Normally pain is the body's response to an incident. For example, a little child accidentally cuts off his little finger trying to be helpful whilst he cuts up carrots for his mother. He is so focused on carrot chopping he may not notice he has cut off his finger (this is vaguely based on a true story I heard once when I was 7.) But thank God for the body's natural pain response that alerts him to the fact that something pretty major has just gone wrong and needs medical attention. Said little helpful boy will wail, his mother will sweep him and bloody finger top up, take them to the emergency room where they will be fixed and the pain relieved. Not so with migraine.
There is no accidental dagger cut that causes migraine pain. There is no brain tumor that causes the pain of migraine. There is no sinus blockage that causes migraine. There is no…. you get the point. And I know this will sound mighty odd but I have actually wished - dare I say - kind of tried to make a deal with God once, that I had a benign brain tumour, as this would account for the totally pointless pain I was experiencing, and would help people other than my Mum believe how debilitating this is; and then I could have an operation and never be in pain again. But with a migraine you are in total agony for up to 72 hours (on a bad day) and at the end of it you have nothing to show for what you have been through. No arm in plaster for your friends to sign, no cool operation scar, nothing. It has been a wasted, pointless, 72 hours of your life that you can not have back. Sadly, migraine is a complex brain malfunction that even top neurologists and scientists around the world can not fully explain. Luckily, migraine is not lethal (though those who've had severely acute attacks have, at times, wished otherwise), but this means it hasn’t - thus far - received the research funding it deserves. Obviously this blog will change that overnight.
I have had migraines (single or plural, capital letter or not, I don’t know?) since I was 18. I’m now 31, though if you have a cute, financially successful, tall, handsome son you can tell him I’m 26. On these pages I will chronicle my journey with migraine over the next year. Join me.
Please see the handy links page for more medical info and for places to go for help if you get migraine. P.S. Please seek help if you have persistent headaches of migraines. Don't be ‘British’ and suffer in silence. It's just stupid to suffer in silence. If your G.P. is not helpful, get another one, or get thee to a migraine clinic. Now. Go.
*Footnote: At the time of printing this information was correct. As far as I know there is no known cure for migraine. And as several junior doctors and G.P.’s have reluctantly informed me “Um, Victoria, I think you know way more about Migraine than I do”, so if there was a cure I think I would know about it. Also, if you think it’s scary that I could know more than your G.P. about migraine you’re right, it is scary and it shouldn’t be that way. But I will be dealing with the medical world and my many weird, varied and freaky experiences with them at another point, obviously in an amusing and heartfelt manner.
Victoria SaxtonFormerly New York, now reluctantly back in London.