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anne mikolay 2012 120Let's talk about my hangover. Shall we?

Let me begin by saying this: my hangover has absolutely nothing to do with liquor or Bradley Cooper's 2009 movie and everything to do with that strange neurological event known as the migraine. I am now  coming out of a fourteen day migraine that turned me into a recluse wearing ice packs on my noggin and sleeping much of the day. With the help of a skilled neurologist, I am slowly inching back into the land of the living.

The Mayo Clinic defines a migraine headache as “intense throbbing or pulsing sensation in one area of the head, commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.” Migraine attacks can last for hours, days, weeks, and in the most severe cases, months. Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms (aura) like flashes of light, blind spots, or vertigo. If you are a migraine sufferer, you may find the phrase “intense throbbing or pulsing sensation” lacking; there are no words to adequately convey the unique pain that is migraine. If you are not a migraine patient and wonder what such pain feels like, whack yourself on the side of your head with a brick or a two by four and you'll quickly understand. A migraine assaults the senses; simple things become intensely unbearable. My neighbor's lawn mower, for example, sounds like fighter jets overhead when I have a headache. Doctor Phil's voice on the television is akin to nails on a blackboard. My chihuahua's barking emerges the lion's roar, and in the throes of migraine, my own son's deep voice is too loud for me to take. Relief comes in darkened, quiet rooms...or cooling my head by sticking my face in the freezer for a few minutes. No joke.

There's lots of talk about migraine symptoms, treatments, and preventive medications, but not all that much chatter about the migraine “hangover”, that post migraine mental fog that settles upon a patient for days after the event itself. While I am in this befuddled state I refer to as “migraine stupid”, nothing  makes much sense to me. Those who speak to me sound far away. Things are forgotten. I might go upstairs to fetch my robe or slippers and return with absolutely nothing in my hands, or open the pantry and stand there wondering what I am looking for. Words I want to say hang just out of my reach. Ordinary tasks require more energy than I can muster. My head feels as though it is stuffed with cotton. While migraine stupid, I do not drive, operate power tools, use sharp kitchen knives, or make important decisions until the post headache fog has lifted.

Why am I telling you this? I don't exactly know. Perhaps it's to explain my recent absence to family and friends, or declare the possibility I have already forgotten important things they may have said to me during the past two weeks. Or perhaps I am simply commiserating and offering hope to fellow migraineurs; there is light at the end of that dark, painful tunnel we sufferers unexpectedly fall into every now and then. More importantly though, I want to remind people to be considerate of one another. Though a person may appear perfectly fine on the outside, you have no idea what pain they might be suffering on the inside.

So there you have it. My migraine. My hangover. If you currently have either one, hang in there. Remember: this too shall pass.

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