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Think You've Seen It All?

Cartoon sketch of a hand puppet with frizzy hair, glasses, and circles for cheeks being wiggled around by a hand belonging to an unseen person. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

If I hadn't been zapped in the noggin when I was in my fifties, I'd never have learned that migraine had been throwing parties at my expense from the starting gate; playing games with my body, my brain and my very soul without ever once whispering in my ear; Want to know who I am?

When it comes to diagnosis, migraine's the artful dodger; so many iterations; maybe this; maybe that; could be anything. Or nothing.

For me; years; lower back spasms; shooting pain in my jaw up through my head; frequent episodes of nausea; nightmares; sleep-walking; pneumatic drill down through my brain into the right side of my face; room-spinning vertigo; catching glimpses of a structure out of the corner of my eye; a ball of light floating across my line of sight.

No specifics. Could be this; could be that.

Until one day, out of nowhere, my brain took off on a trip; flashes of words; fragments of ideas; unrelated images. I thought I'd lost my mind.

My internist; instant diagnosis: No question here, it's a stroke; nodding head. Immediate CT scan; strictly for confirmation; seen many of these. Stroke. No


CT done. Result? Negative. Clearly not a stroke at all.

My physician, speechless. How could I do this to him? a personal affront. Lots of mumbling; a final sigh; a call to his partner; major neurologist. I'd see him right away.

Totally different. Calm, knowledgeable. Precise, detailed review of the experience; of my years of other unidentified assaults; body-wide.

His diagnosis; I'd had a deja vu; prominent migraine family member.

My laundry list of years of afflictions? All expressions of migraine.

Over an hour, reviewing my lifelong experience with this and that and the other, without a clue and now, finally; understanding; migraine isn't one single affliction; it's an army.


Fact is, I'd wager that my experience is far from unique; further, that for many sufferers, migraine is just another word for headache.

I have a migraine. I have a headache.

My deja vu was a blessing; terrifying; but a blessing. Leading to a definite; my history; all the ways in which migraine shows itself; fragments; unified; a single definition.

For me; a deciphering of the universe; pieces floating here and there; a scientific mind putting it all together; all connected.

A little melodrama doesn't hurt; and isn't totally inappropriate. My experience was extraordinary; creating a perspective I'd never had; a challenge to deal with; looking for a single cause; instigator; trigger. The puppeteer; behind the curtain; pulling all the strings.

Questions; questions; questions.

What is migraine? Is there a cure? Are there triggers? Allergies involved? Weather? Situations? Personality? Family? Psychology? Feelings?


Well; all I have to offer is my own experience; my long life as migraine's target practice; and I've never found a universal cure; remedy; or magic bullet that sends migraine packing.

But—again; this is me—what I have found is a process that softens the blows; that gives me insight into the part I play, provides an inner peace and not infrequently, a good night's sleep.

What is it?

Reflecting. Looking inside. Exploring emotional clues; tracking connections. Not infrequently, giving myself a high-five.

Hang in there.

For what it's worth, I'll spill some beans next week.

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