Miss Migraine: Couch days — When migraines try to get the best of me

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on August 7, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

Yesterday, after floundering around most of the day and accomplishing little, I sent my husband a text message to warn him that I felt restless, unfocused, depressed, tired, and totally zoned out.

By that point I had given up trying to tackle any of my freelance work or the short story I’m working on. My vision had blurred slightly, and the entire left side of my head was lighting up every couple of seconds like a beacon on top of cell phone tower: fade in, fade out, fade in, fade out.

I took a book and a pen down to the couch with me, but as soon as my head sunk into the suede pillow I knew I couldn’t tackle David Foster Wallace just then. My corgi came over and gave me her “Don’t be sad, Mom” look and rolled over so I could pet her belly.

That gave me an idea about cheering myself up. I pulled up YouTube on my phone and found plenty of videos of cute corgi puppies and German shepherd dogs. And they did make me laugh and feel better–for awhile.

It IS a comfortable couch, but I don’t want to live on it.

The moment I stopped watching puppies on unsteady feet stumble around and bark at ice cubes, the overwhelming feelings of depression returned. I felt useless; I hadn’t even been able to pick up my migraine prescriptions from the pharmacy, let alone make a much-needed trip to the grocery store. So I dreaded my husband coming home from work, even though I knew he would gladly do those things and anything else he could to make me feel better.

When he did come home, he told me (for the second time in as many days) to stop being silly and worrying about him getting mad or frustrated with me. With him sitting next to me on the couch, I drifted to sleep. When I woke up, the pain hadn’t gone anywhere, and neither had the depression.

My husband was setting out for the grocery store, and laying on the couch in the dark for the rest of the evening, wallowing in misery, didn’t seem very appealing. So instead of getting more depressed, I recognized that it was only the migraine talking, made myself a cup of green tea and sat down in front of the computer, determined to make something–however little–of the rest of my day.

I managed to do an hour of freelance work before the computer screen began to wear on me and I had to switch to something else, but an hour is an hour, and I’m proud of it. Because some days, it feels impossible to even exist. It’s hard to focus, hard to think, hard to move.

But I have goals that I want to accomplish: finish graduate school; find a publisher for all the books I have written, am writing, and will write; run an awesome blog; continue my small, independent literary press; and contribute to my communities through advocacy and volunteer work. Migraines aren’t going to stop me from doing those things, even if they limit what I can do in one day, week, or month.

It sometimes feels like migraines run my life, but they don’t. I run my life. Migraines are only an intrusion, a setback, an obstacle to overcome. So today, now that I’m feeling better, I’m going to sketch a representation of that fact and hang it by my desk to remind myself of that every day. I’ll share it with you all this Saturday.

How do you overcome the depression and feelings of hopelessness brought on by a migraine attack?

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