the silence of migraines and no more tears

Taking a break and thought I was due for a blog post. No burning topic to write of, but simple musing on what is on my mind, literally.

"migraine with scintillation" by joana roja

As I write this I’m experiencing what some call a “silent” migraine, but trust me, in its silence it roars. There are many names for what I have, the current term du jour being “migraine aura without headache.” It is one of my least favorite things inherited from my mother.

I’m at the tail end of it, and it’s apparently a mild one, but when it is at its peak it makes focusing difficult for in front of my eyes I see a constantly undulating squiggle of flashing prisms, which do not go away even when I close my eyes and cover them. I definitely consider myself to be of the fortunate 3% of migraine sufferers to get this type. I know people (including children, which breaks my heart) who get the “other” kind, the migraines that feel like a thousand needles repeatedly stabbing from within. People have been known to be suicidal, the pain so unbearable.

Mine are not. At times I get a lingering headache which follows the visual madness, at others I get nauseous. Lights can trigger a migraine almost instantly and because of this I am a bit of a vampire, hiding from bright lights and wearing dark glasses even when it’s cloudy. Not only do I have dimmers in every room but I’ve been known to walk around turning off lights in friends’ houses when I visit. I hide from cameras (flash) and flashlights and haunted houses and places with strobe lights. One of the worst things about migraines is that they not only throw you for a loop when you have one, but you live in fear that one will sneak up on you when you are driving, or working, or on vacation (all of which has happened). It seems that the light sensitivity, or photophobia, affects me mostly when I pass suddenly from dark to light, for when I vacation at the beach I rarely get one (gracias a dios ’cause I do love the beach!).

Migraines have existed since time began and there is a wealth of information, medical, anecdotal, literary, about them (of note are discussions by Oliver Sacks as well as those of one of my favorite writers, Siri Hustvedt, whose descriptions of her own experiences are quite incredible.) There is even a classification for art created to describe the aura and the pain of migraines, sort of an art brut for migraineurs. The link with the brain, with imagination and creativity makes the migraine, its history and its many forms fascinating. (By the way, it has passed now, and I’m left with just a dull headache, no more squiggly abstractions impeding my vision.)

If it weren’t for the fact that migraines have existed since the beginning of recorded history, I’ve venture to blame them on processed foods and chemical toxicities and all the garbage most people put in and on their bodies. But I suppose I can’t blame migraine on that, at least not wholly.

Also on my mind is the beauty of a baby’s bath. What is more intimate than a mother lovingly washing her child, or more delightful than children splashing and playing and covering themselves (and their bather) with bubbles? Sheer bliss. I remember the soothing smell of “No More Tears,” a bottle of which we never traveled without and which lived, permanently and until very recently, on the edge of the tub. It was, at least in my mind, pure and simple, good for my babies’ tender skin and gentle on their eyes (which they invariably open). So gentle, so pure, and so full of…

…1,4-dioxane and quaternium-15. Damn.

Boycott Johnson & Johnson. Read up on this issue and others relating to the toxins in beauty products and cosmetics at While you’re at it, watch this:

I’d take a migraine any day over liver cancer or death, wouldn’t you?

Speaking of that migraine, it’s kind of kicking in again so I’d better go lie down in a nice dark place…


12 thoughts on “the silence of migraines and no more tears

  1. Oh, Tracey, I’m so sorry that you go through those! (I almost hate to use an exclamation there; afraid that the content of this comment will come across as too loud when I just want to talk softly in a dim room with you.) One of my closest friends and sometimes-skippers gets migraines, and would occasionally get one during the fishing season. Soon as it started to come on, we’d pull the gear and go anchor up for the rest of the day. Miserable. I’m in awe that you put together such a strong, personal and researched post while in the midst of yours. My best wishes for feeling better.

    1. Oh Tele…I loved your “whispering” in my dim room. Ha! Actually as I just replied to Michael Ann, it’s just a pain in the $%##, but really not so bad at all.
      Actually, I was thinking of you earlier because one of the characters in my nanowrimo “novel” (rambling would be a better term) is working the slime line in a cannery in Alaska, which I really know zip about other than what I’ve read. Crazy things happen when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys)!

  2. I have never heard of a silent migraine. It sounds really disturbing 😦 I’m so sorry you have to deal with them.

    I get cluster migraines which last for 2-3 days. Not much fun.

    Love the baby baby picture!! So sweet. I do miss that.

  3. Wow. That’s fascinating. I’d never heard of your kind of migraines. I started getting them when I was twelve, but it wasn’t until I was 21 and my mom sent me to the New England Center for Headache in Greenwich, CT that I learned I had hormonal migraines. That made it easier to catch them in the act, before they could blow themselves into full reality, that increasing ache in my left eye (the certain indicator).

    The problem I have now that I’m of an advanced age (damn close to the half century mark) is that they’re changing their patterns. They sneak in while I’m sleeping so I wake up with a migraine, which is much harder to snuff out. Total BS, I gotta tell ya. Like my hot flashes aren’t BS enough? Oiy. (Ha!)

    The one thing I have “liked” about my migraines is that after hours of being in my darkened room, with cold cloths on my forehead and tons of blankets on top of me, existing in a world of only pain, when the migraine finally fades, the cloth can be removed, I push back the covers because I’m no longer cold, I fall asleep—when I wake up, I feel completely new. I’m a bit slow on my feet, a bit worn out, but being free of that pain makes me feel like “Damn, life is beautiful!” It sounds ridiculous, but that pain-free feeling is wondrous, like I have a whole new outlook on life. It’s so simple, but profound for me.

    Anyway, blah, blah.

    I hope you are feeling, finally, thoroughly better.

    1. I love your description of how the darkness and pain is spun by you into a reminder of how wonderful it is to live without it. My only explanation for the bad things that happen in life is that they are meant to make us appreciate the good. Thank you, Kat!

  4. I get abdominal migraines (look that up and they’ll tell you that this happens only in kids – not true!). No headache, just a whole lot of barfing. The migraine meds work for it, but only if you can keep them down. There’s the conundrum. Sorry to hear about your headache, and hope that it is now much, much better.

  5. Migraines. UgH. I just lay in a dark room and cover my head with a pillow and yell into the mattress. It doesn’t help, but it gives me something to do while I wait out the “roaring” as you said.

    To the woman above with abdominal migraines – now I’m going to think of you whenever I get one because that would be much worse than my sad headaches.

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