A light turns on and now I see only flickering objects and flashing faces. “Maybe it’ll pass” I tell myself as I look down at my right hand which I can only see half of. “Sometimes it does.”
My body tingles. My hands shake. As my peripheral vision blurs for longer than 5 minutes I know I’m in this for the long run. The thought that soon I’ll have a throbbing head and nausea is enough to make me want to escape home to my bed, but with no way to safely drive back, I sit down with my eyes shut and wait for an hour to pass for my vision to return, longing to escape this loud, glaring room.
“Don’t be dramatic” people comment as I sit in silence, struggling to concentrate on my surroundings. Everything is moving slowly, neutral colours and dimmed lights are blindingly bright and their natural speaking voices are bellowing. This is not just a headache.
The World Health Organisation names the disorder among the most debilitating in the UK, so if you think it’s only a ‘bad head’, you’re mistaken.
I was young when my first migraine hit. Playing in a samba band in Primary school, my head became sharp with pulsating pain with the out of time banging of sticks on loudly rattling drums. This kind of abomination of noise was probably pain-worthy for anyone. I held my ears and left to sit outside, unsure why the room was blurry and filled with bright white floating spots. Looking at my friend confused me; I squinted and saw only half of her face, thinking the whole thing was in my imagination. I seem to remember her telling me the only reason my vision was blurred was because I was squinting and I believed her.
I believed I was making everything up as I left school early.
As the years went on, I continued to leave my lessons to sit in the medical room. Rowdy groups would stroll in: “I have a migraine” they’d shout, my head throbbing as they laughed and joked to each other: “Can’t believe we got away with that again!” I’d sit, squeezing my eyes shut and hope someone would be able to collect me before it got worse.
Now, more than 10 years after my first, I know these symptoms too well. With the dreaded illness destroying my day a couple of times each month, I only have my parents to blame for passing down their migraine-prone genetics. Thanks Mum and Dad.
Still, after all of these years, people don’t take them seriously. “Deal with it,” employers and colleagues complain, suggesting that I must have drank a few too many the night before. Oh how I wish this was just a hangover. Sadly for myself and most other migraine sufferers, there’s no cure. I can try to prevent them. I can try to deal with them. But all in all, when one hits, rest is the only relief.
So please, do this for me. As I avoid certain contraception at the risk of a stroke, as I struggle to find medications to soothe the pain and as I look for a dark room whenever one hits, do not make me feel I don’t deserve a day off. That’s my only ask.