The Other Side of a Migraine

Migraines aren’t just about pain, but also release from pain.

I’ve been having migraine headaches that fully flatten me a few days each month for about 15 years now. My worst one ever was Monday and Tuesday of this week. But I don’t want to think about what the migraine does to me during the “attack” as it’s called, or the aura that comes before.

No, I’m interested in the other side of a migraine, the precious hours when it recedes.

That strange time between migraine and normal is like being born all over again, going from a state of darkness, as helpless as an unborn child, right back to the state of adulthood all within the matter of a day.

Gargoyle in Jackson Heights, Queens
Gargoyle in Jackson Heights, Queens

My usual abilities and senses reappear gradually and it seems odd to say, but they surprise me as they come back. I can hear someone walk through the apartment and be happy they are here, instead of thinking the entire building is about to come crashing down with their every step. I can walk again, myself, albeit slowly and a bit unsteadily like a clumsy toddler, and remember with each step how much I really like to walk.

I can tolerate, and even enjoy, scents without getting sick while I make coffee and light incense in the kitchen, just like I usually would when I don’t have a migraine. I can come into the light, and even open the curtains and let daylight stream in through the tall maple trees from the courtyard. I’m able to eat something, and to make it down two flights of stairs, outside.

I’m functional enough to step into a sunlit patch on the partly shaded sidewalk. I can’t yet take full sun, but can squint at the light reflecting on the tiger lilies blooming down my street, and the gargoyles guarding the neighbor’s gardens, and remember how I love the sun. Colors jump out all around me every step by deliberate step of the way to the morning train.

On the other side of a migraine, my senses transform from an abnormal and painful state of fully overwhelmed nerves to simply hyperactive. They are on their way back to normal, and in these sensitive moments they seem precious to me.

Colors are still almost painfully vibrant but I want to see them, scents come in too sharp but I want to smell them, and sounds that were only a few hours before causing tumultuous pounding in my brain now seem interesting to me. I hear the smallest things I would normally completely miss, blocking them out whether from familiarity or dislike, I don’t know. But now I want to be able to hear them again.

I want all these sense impressions again, and as the dark blanket of pain falls away, I can handle them.

The strangest part of the other side of a migraine is how thoughts rush back in like a waterfall after a good rain, as if to say, “Hey, listen to me! Why weren’t you paying any attention to me these last days? Where did you go? You know what I think? Well, I’m about to tell you…” and then come the 1,000 things the mind wants to do and say and accomplish now that the darkness is gone. So, OK mind, I’m here again. I’m listening.

Thank you migraine, for helping me remember how much I really wanted to be here.

Writer’s note: I write about migraines with aura in my novel, Vector a Modern Love Story. Read more about my books at my official author site.

Queens Botanical Gardens, J.J.Brown
Queens Botanical Garden, J.J.Brown

4 responses to “The Other Side of a Migraine”


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