16 April 2009
I started getting migraines about a year ago, having previously not had a clue exactly what they were. Hedex and other tablet-makers had long used the expression "even in migraine headaches" when flogging their wares to us on telly, but throughout adulthood I never knew specifically what that meant.
Now I do. And oh God, they make you feel horrendous.
I don't know why I've started getting them in the last year or so and not any time before then. Assuming my weird and varied working hours are a contributory factor, I should have been getting them back in 1997, when I first started doing regular nightshifts and living the hermit's lifestyle, a pattern which existed for four years without me ever quite getting entirely used to it.
Then it was on to better sleep patterns but long old driving trips per day when I moved jobs to Stockport. Upon getting the breakfast show in 2002, I was up at 3.15am every weekday and at least once a week would hit a lunchtime wall of fatigue which felt entirely insurmountable. Such hours play havoc with your body clock in all ways - not just how tired you are, but also when you get hungry and how much you eat as a consequence, even when you get the horn. And yet my head remained clear.
So, they finally began about a year ago. As soon as I felt the combination of blinding headache with an eye aura and a nauseous feeling, I knew what it was, even though I'd mildly scorned migraine's existence previously through a mixture of ignorance and great good luck that I'd never experienced one. Well, now I knew what one was. It floored me. Knocked me sideways.
I probably get one every fortnight or so now. They seem to strike on Sundays, when I've done a long night at the club and then, after about five hours of sleep, get up to spend three hours on the radio. All I would consume during this time would be coffee, which was an obvious no-no, so I began making sure I ate something. This assisted, but occasionally on Sundays I'll go home knowing that the aura is there in my eyes and if I'm lucky I'll not get the headache until I've managed to walk through my back door and locate a sofa.
On one Sunday, I got the whole migraine while still on air. I only had 15 minutes or so to go, so I finished the show without a problem, but the drive home was one of the single most appalling experiences of my life. I felt drunk, or worse than drunk, and probably shouldn't have been on the road, but I had no medication with me at all and had literally no choice but to plough the motorway eastwards until my house came into blessed view. Fortunately, with my migraines, the aura which follows your line of sight everywhere, had gone and been replaced by the headache, so while I was in awful pain I could, at least, see in front of me.
My first show in Preston last week was affected by migraine, and I'd only just got up. I had slept well and rose at 3am without too many hitches but within 20 minutes of getting into the car, the aura enveloped my eyes and I knew a migraine was on the way. Not only had I slept well, I'd eaten some breakfast and so was annoyed that the damned thing had got to me, so I stopped at a service station on the M61. Fortunately, it sold migraine-strength Nurofen - not all of these places do - and I took a couple in the car for the last leg of my journey. I got lucky, as when the aura did its disappearing act while I prepared the show in the studio, the headache didn't follow. What did follow was a weird - insert your own joke her - empty feeling in my head, as if it knew a headache was expected but didn't know why it hadn't arrived, and so had created a space for it. I avoided the migraine, but instead had a bruised feeling to the inside of my head, rendering it painful if I coughed or sneezed.
I don't know what causes them. The doctor has said it's most likely to be dietary or sleep-related. I certainly think my eyesight is okay. They come often enough for me to know when to expect them, and now I have migraine-strength tablets on my person all the time. But I feel sorry that I ever scorned their existence, or sub-consciously doubted anyone who previously suffered from them (the teenage son of a friend of mine had them frequently at one time). They are simply the most awful things in the world ... and when you consider that I can be put wholly out of action by a mild hangover, I'm not the ideal migraine victim.