My migraines and their non-pain symptoms (Anxiety, derealization, sudden depression)

When I was younger, I used to think that my bouts of sudden anxiety and depression were my fault.  As in, I would blame myself for bursting into tears at the slightest provocation.  In my not-so-distant past, with my ex, I would spend nights crying, or raging at him, and blame him all the while; and then convince myself that since I can’t change his behavior, it’s my fault, and therefore, rage at myself for a while.

I’m not saying that my ex was not an ass (because he was), but I’m merely pointing out that in tense situations, I have a disadvantage.  I have a predisposition to not handling stress well.  And I would argue that this comes from my migraine disorder.

I’ve spoken about migraines a lot on this blog.  Sometimes, it feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but to be honest, writing about it helps me figure it out sometimes.  Today, I have it figured out (at least, for now), and I’d like to rant about it.

Imagine deciding that you need to take a walk.  Not for any drive or sudden desperation, but just because you want a bit of exercise.  Now, imagine walking outside, and as soon as you begin your walk, feeling… not right.  Like the world is fake.  You’re seeing things fine but they just don’t seem right.  You notice that your balance is a little off.  Not more than once, and quite embarrassingly, you stumble off the sidewalk and your feet touch the grass.

As you walk, your day swirls around you, and suddenly your thoughts become angry and depressed for no reason.  You begin to laugh at yourself, to remind your conscious mind that you’re a little insane.  But then that same insane voice reminds you that since you’re insane, you probably will never amount to anything, or you’re an imposter in your own job.  Then you laugh a little more and try to put it out of your mind, because most of your conscious mind knows that it’s just your brain chemistry a little bit off.

You start to feel better as you make your way back home, about a mile’s walk.  If you ignore the random throat tightness and sudden, passing urges to gag and/or puke.  You make it into your house and take a shower.  Then come to write this post.

That’s what a day in my migraine life is like.  I am fine, and then one decision, or one situation, sends me into an alternate dimension where the migraine and its anxiety.  

In this case, I imagine that my choice to read for 2 hours without a water bottle to nurse on was the cause of my symptoms.  I felt dehydrated before I left for my walk.  And I was even smart enough to grab a bottle of water and drink it — which probably explains why I’m fine now.  

One day, almost 8 months ago now, I was sitting in my office, fighting similar feelings of derealization (the sense that the world is… wrong, somehow) and anxiety, and I decided that I had to contact a friend of mine, Ryan.  Ryan is the boyfriend of a closer friend of mine, although they recently moved away.  Ryan works at the University where I work.

I could not convince myself that Ryan was his name.  I looked for him on my phone, I looked for him on Facebook, and I looked for him on my university website.  The pictures on Facebook were of the man I needed to speak to… but for some reason, I could not convince myself that Ryan was his name.  For an hour, I debated on whether or not to email him, and when I finally convinced the “sane” part of me that Ryan was his name, I went ahead and wrote the message, ignoring the part of me that tried to say that I was wrong.  

This is just another example of a day in the life of someone with this nasty neurological disorder.  When these incidents add up, and you’re in the middle of one of them, it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re not crazy.

But I promise — if you’re like me, if you’re desperately searching the internet for a piece about migraine to see if your symptoms match someone else’s — you’re not crazy.  We are out there.  Not all of us have blogs, and not all of us have the non-pain symptoms.  But I do, and you’re not crazy.  You’re only half crazy.  You’re only crazy when you’re mid symptom.  And even then, as long as you KNOW you’re crazy, you’ll be fine.  You’ll get through it.  Your brain will fix its mis-wiring and you’ll be fine again until you cross one of it’s silent lines.  Like not drinking enough water, or getting too much sun, or thinking about the color purple while hopping around on one foot.  Okay, the last one isn’t a symptom of mine.  But you get the idea. 

You are protected under the ADA in America (Americans with Disabilities Act) and you are entitled to reasonable accomodations at work.  If that means sunglasses or access to water or a day off, take it.  Make sure your boss knows that migraine isn’t just about the headaches.  

I wrote last time about a mantra that I’ve had of late, 

When I am strong, I am strong.

When I am weak, I am weak.

This refers to migraine days.  When I am symptom free, I use those days to the best of my ability.  When I get symptoms though, I treat myself.  Whether that’s water or crying or sleep or puking or medicine or what have you.  I am first.  

Today was not a “weak” day for me.  Except for my walk.  I cleaned the house, I watched some movies.  I hung out with the boyfriend.  I even did some work-from-home.  I had my first day off since April 28.  I slept in.

I entered an alternate universe for a bit there, but I came back out just fine.  And I want you to know that you will be, too.  When you are weak, rest, and medicate, and remind yourself that you’ll come out the other side just fine.  

Haunting Dreams

As I promised that I would write more, I decided that I’m going to tell you about my day, and my dream.  I think it’s something that is easier to communicate in writing; sharing it verbally with a friend this morning still didn’t help me shake it.  

I took what I call a “super melatonin” last night – a dose of melatonin with l-theanine that knocks me the fuck out.  I did that because I accidentally had a wonderful 2 hour nap yesterday and knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep without a bit of help.  

Unfortunately for me, the super melatonin sometimes gives me weirdly intense dreams.  Tonight was no exception.

I was sitting on the bed with my BF.  We were getting ready for bed or something – I don’t know.  Then all of a sudden, an arm reaches out grabs my arm and I look at the BF, but it’s not him.  

I turn and it’s my ex, and he’s got me pinned down underneath him, threatening like, and my BF can’t do anything about it (gun, maybe? My brain didn’t think it was important WHY).  

Any my ex says he’s there to take me back, and I try to wrench away from him, and tell him to go away, that I don’t want him anymore.  

He doesn’t even seem that hurt.  He just like… stares at me disbelievingly.  Then gets up and is like, “Fine.  I’ll leave.”  And he walks out to the kitchen (apparently there was a back door there that he came through to get in) and he looks at me and there’s someone else in the backyard, and he offers to “take care of that problem” — meaning, of course, that person is an intruder.  Because there are always intruders, known or not, in my dreams.  

Dream ended right about then.  

I just woke up feeling violated.  Like, somehow, my ex had invaded my space and it was my fault.  I haven’t been able to shake the rape-y feeling all day.  I’ve been very… melancholy.  Not sad, or even depressed… just, “blah.”  Granted, that may be because the super-melatonin is wearing off.  It tends to stick around a while. 

I’ve been trying all day to figure out … something.  As I typed out that sentence, I realized that I don’t really know what I’m looking for.  Not today.  I’ve tried writing songs.  I went to work (as always, and I’ll be headed back soon enough).  I’ve tried crocheting.  I ate a bit.  I just compiled a list of old/familiar songs to see if they can get me back into my comfort zone.  

I’m teaching middle school students tomorrow, so that’ll be interesting.  I think that I’ll be less stressed after tomorrow – tomorrow is just “fear of the unknown.”  I’m half afraid that my “potty mouth” is going to slip out.  Hopefully, it won’t.  I have a bad habit of swearing.  

Three weeks from now, I get to go camping. It’ll be a welcome vacation, even if I have to bring a bit of work with me.  

Ah, well.  Gloomy day, gloomy mind, eh?  

I have this phrase that I’ve been using this year as my “mantra” of sorts.  I don’t know if I’ve shared it with you, but I’d like to now.

When I am strong, I am strong.

When I am weak, I am weak.

It doesn’t sound very uplifting, but it actually means a lot to me.  For someone who has a habit of stretching herself too thin, it reminds me to promote balance in myself.  It reminds me that on days where I am weak… it’s okay.  It’s okay if you need to rest a while, or have quiet time, or take the day for yourself.  And when I am strong… I am strong.  I can do anything.  

Today is an odd mix of the two.  I am strong physically — sore from yesterday’s workout, trying to incorporate some intermittent fasting into today, doing fine with hunger.  The thought of going a day under 1000 calories isn’t really that daunting to me.

But mentally… I am quiet.  My dreams are hanging heavy over me like the rain clouds that are blocking the sun.  I’m not freaking out or anything.  It’s just… uneasily quiet in my brain.  I’m very basal today — in touch with my emotions rather than my higher thinking.  

It’s not been a bad day, by any means.  Just a quiet one.

I seem to be rambling, and I think I’ve given you all of the insight I have today.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day and week!


Getting back on track

Well guys, as promised, I’m getting back into the swing of things. I still haven’t had a day off of work since April 28th, and have had to go in twice a day on the weekends for the entirety of June.

I tend to respond to stress badly. I eat more, I sleep more, and I get more headaches. I’ve been trying my best to minimize my reaction to stress, especially this week. I’ve focused on meditating nightly, and I even went to a Yoga class this morning.

What do you do to de-stress? Anything regular?

Spring and Summer Updates

Man, I hate it when the last post on a blog mentions “Writer’s Block…”

I swear, it wasn’t actually writer’s block that kept me away for so long. Unfortunately, you have to remember: I am a scientist. And my busiest season is April/May/June. To be more specific, or perhaps, more depressing, I haven’t had a day off since April 27th. Trust me, I tried, not two days ago, to take a day off, and our assistant called and asked me to come into work to help with something. I’ve already logged three hours there today, and will have to go back in an hour or two to finish things up.

That being said, things SHOULD be slowing down soon, and I should be able to get back into the swing of sharing things with you guys. My creative mind has just been shut off, lately, to deal with all of the logistics and science-y things I’ve been faced with. My “free” time has been filled with laundry, groceries, cleaning, cycling, and napping.

I was able to celebrate Beltane here with my new covenmates, and we did a May Pole. I had never got to do one before. It was a lot of fun, and raised a lot of good feelings and energy. I’d recommend it if you have an opportunity. The May Pole may be my new favorite pagan activity, although jumping the Beltane fire is a close second. Wooh, sex and fertility!

I’ll try to check back in asap. Have a wonderful June!


P.S. – if you haven’t had a chance to grab my book, “Using Wicca to Achieve Your Goals” … it’ll be free sometime this month. So give it a look!