A High School Headache
I can't remember when I started having headaches, but by the time I was in high school, they were a regular part of my life.
I remember that I took a lot of Advil in high school and probably in middle school too. Because of the way they rattle in the bottle and have a sweet coating, I use to referred to them as candy. Now I am far more cautious - stomach bleeding is something I actually worry about.
So, even though I don't know when the headaches started, the headache story I tell here was far from being the first headache - this was just of particular note.
A traveling show of Les Miserables came to town when I was in high school. My sister had given me a CD of the original Broadway cast recording a year or two before I was able to see the show, and I was ready to see a production. I was very excited to see this performance: I had memorized all the lyrics; I had read Victor Hugo's text (an abridged version); and I full of anticipation. It was great - as good as I could have imagined. The revolving stage, the music, Javert's suicide scene - stunning.
Apparently, at some point during the show I started getting a headache. Later I claimed that I was staring too intently at the stage (or perhaps lights were shining in my eyes). I guess I can't really doubt that vision had something to do with starting this headache, but I now know that I often invent causes for my headaches - having a reason seems easier than not having one.
When I asked my mom what she remembered about going to the traveling Broadway shows of my youth, she immediately remembered that I had a headache after Les Mis. She also remembered that I blamed my vision, but she doesn't remember much else about that night. Considering how many headaches I had, the fact that she specifically remembers any one of them indicates how special it must have been.
How was this one special?
For some reason, I didn't stay in my room. I try not to have headaches in front of people. But for some reason, after I retired to my room, I did not stay in bed - I just couldn't. Was I too excited from seeing the show? Did I want to talk about it? Was I restless, or hungry? Was the pain too much? I don't know, but I didn't keep hidden.
I remember sitting at the dining room table while Mom held something cold on my head to help relieve the pain. I think that she was upset. I was crying - either from the pain, or from feeling weak, or from the conflict of being excited but also feeling too bad to act on that excitement. I don't remember. I remember this headache because I let it be seen.
Something to blame -
I have pretty good eyesight. I don't wear glasses - yet. (I am starting to hold things further away from me when I read).
My first visit to an eye doctor followed this headache - if the pain was caused from straining my eyes as I looked at the stage, then maybe I needed glasses. But my vision tested fine, so if the headache was related to vision, it had more to do with bright lights than with efforts to focus.
According the Mayo Clinic, migraines can be triggered by "Sensory stimuli: Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Unusual smells — including perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and others — can trigger migraines in some people."
I have had all of these experiences: headaches from restaurant lighting such as can-lights that point straight down, headaches from narrow sunbeams that sneak past the edges of window shades and can wake me up, headaches from too much glowing morning sunlight before I wake up; headaches from driving into a rising or setting sun; headaches from headlights; headaches from perfume; headaches from second-hand smoke, headaches from campfire smoke, and headaches from the smoke from burning leaves when the good people of my town burn leaves and brush in their yards during the fall (we do not have a burn ban here).
It is exhausting to be this sensitive.
In addition to "sensory stimuli," as possible causes or triggers for migraines, the Mayo Clinic also lists: "Hormonal changes in women, foods, food additives, drinks (with alcohol and caffeine), stress, changes in wake-sleep pattern, physical exertion, changes in the environment (such as barometric pressure changes), and medications. In other words, headaches can be triggered by all aspects of my physical self - eating, drinking, breathing, looking, moving, sleeping, possessing a hormonal cycle, and by aspects of being alive - living in the world of changing weather, living in a world that can be stressful.
At least I went to see Les Mis.
I could have evaluated the situation and determined that it was likely that I would encounter factors that could lead to a headache. There were bright lights, loud noises, and smoke (from the fireworks that accompany the battle scenes).
I could have stayed home.
The prison of headaches - not just being shackled by pain (on occasions) but also by the threat of pain from everything.
The sun is strong
It's hot as hell below
Look down, look down,
There's twenty years to go.
Look down, look down
You'll always be a slave
Look down, look down,
You're standing in your grave.
hmm - let's try not to confuse the drama of theater with real life...