I’ve had migraines since my pre-teens. I know that when my hormones are off balance, I’m more likely to get a migraine. It works a bit like a threshold, and when something lowers that threshold, other factors are more likely to push me over it and into a migraine. There are a few food items that cause problems, but food is less of a problem than websites and books suggest that it is for the average migraine sufferer. But then again, I keep a pretty strict check on my diet, so that may also help.
Prodrome – this is the phase of a migraine before any direct symptoms happen. It can happen as much as two days before a migraine. I can only really notice a lot before my worst migraines, and the symptoms are diffuse – feeling odd, being in an unusual mood, being somehow “off”. It’s usually obvious AFTER I’ve had the migraine.
Aura – this is the really scare phase, especially for someone who has never experienced a migraine before, or forgets between migraines because they don’t happen often. A friend of mine once had to help me home during a migraine aura and described it as being “scary, like I was having a stroke”.
I usually start either with visual or physical symptoms. The visual symptoms usually appear on the opposite side to where I will have the headache. The visual symptoms take one of two forms, typically either loss of part of my field of vision, or flickering and shimmering effects across part of the field of vision. During this part, I typically also have problems with talking (but I don’t notice it myself) and I typically also get a spreading, tingling numbness on the same side of the body as the visual symptoms. There is a curious thing I have noticed: I’m pretty much bilingual in Swedish and English, but depending on which side the headache is on, either language will be affected, but not both.
I tend to make observations like that to not panic, because this phase is very unpleasant and scary (as opposed to the headache, which is painful and unpleasant).
Headache – the really painful part. I need to be laid down, in the dark, and preferably with no strong smells. Sounds don’t seem to affect me much unless really loud, I actually like hearing voices and find them reassuring. Without painkillers, the headache will not resolve without nausea and vomiting. For many years, I had no effective painkillers for migraines, until I accidentally discovered that co-codamol will do the trick for me. It also helps me sleep off the worst of the migraine. This is not a medication that seems to be recommended for migraines, but I’ve tried others, including migraine-specific medication, and nothing else has worked. I’m not keen to experiment, as you might guess.
Postdrome – the hours and days after the migraine. For me this can sometimes give a slight euphoria, but mostly I feel tired, light sensitive for up to 24 hours or more, soreness where the headache was, and I have very tight muscles in the neck and shoulders. It usually includes a moderate to severe tension headache that needs painkillers on its own.
So, this is my migraines. I’m currently in the postdrome phase of the two-day migraine and I’m mostly out of the light sensitivity and the rest of the symptoms, but with the two-day experience seems to come a longer than usual recovery period as well.