Warning: This post is about migraine and my experiences with the affliction and has few fun moments.
I stayed in bed a bit longer today. I woke up at 11ish after getting to bed at 5ish so I lay down again knowing that this was my last opportunity to rest well before the weekend which will be busy with swimming on Saturday morning, studio all day working on Arctic Lake, and then on Sunday I have 5 sessions that take me from 11AM to 11PM. So approaching a busy period it seems prudent to not be tired before you start. On the average sleep chart, they say I need 7-9 hours a night – and they’re right, sometimes I sleep less and sometimes more but if I get 8 hours then it’s all good. Some people (adults) it seems, sleep a lot less than that and some people can’t get to sleep through the night or are such light sleepers that the sound of a mouse whispering subliminal messages into the cat’s ear is enough to disturb them. Not being able to sleep is awful, having to get up in the morning is awful and if I was king, children would start school at 10AM not 8AM and earlier as some children do (at my school, Woodchurch Sec, it was ten to nine). I suffered quite badly during the school years with migraines and as a teenager, I was prescribed Valium and another tablet called Dixarit which was a lovely blue colour and sugar-coated. I took the blue pills and the white pill every night before I went to bed. In the morning I was always drowsy and it was difficult to wake up. If I didn’t get up on the first call from my father he’d come into the room and throw a glass of water in my face.
We all know about Valium but what is Dixarit? Well, the main ingredient is Clonidine:
Clonidine, sold as the brand name Catapres among others, is a medication used to treat high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, drug withdrawal, menopausal flushing, diarrhoea, spasticity, and certain pain conditions.
When I read this description I look at the list of afflictions – that weren’t about me, which is all of them except pain. The only reason they must have prescribed this to me was because they thought I had “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” which I didn’t have. This was their way of dealing with the awkwardness, the inconvenience to everyone around me of a recurring medical condition which still nobody can properly explain. So they invented a trauma I didn’t have because otherwise, they felt like they weren’t doing anything, they couldn’t cure me or solve the problem so they invented a flaw in my psyche and tried to fix that.
But what then causes migraines? There are triggers:
Stress at work or home can cause migraines. Sensory stimuli. Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells — including perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke, and others — trigger migraines in some people.
I can qualify that these extreme migraine triggers are true. Include chocolate, citrus, bananas, excessive exercise, stroboscopes (it’s one of the reasons that in the ex-band we didn’t use them much). Then there’s hot climates and change in atmospheric pressure. The list goes on but how a doctor would conclude that a drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder would be appropriate when the range of triggers is so broad is disconcerting.
My migraines were bad in the old days, loss of vision, numbness, temporary aphasia, a terrible headache, vomiting, unable to be touched, the sheet falling on my skin in my bed would be painful, the light coming in the room through a curtain or even the noise of the door handle being turned coming into the room. I had a bucket by my bed for a few days, I couldn’t even keep water down, and then the strain of it all was so hard on my body that it took the rest of the week to get over it – slowly walking would hurt my head. I had a specialist at the local hospital in Birkenhead, he said at the time that “it was the worst case of migraine he’d ever seen”. At one stage I was taken to hospital and I was so sick that they gave me a lumbar puncture, that is removing the fluid from the base of the spine to check that I didn’t have meningitis. It’s like being hit in the base of the spine with a sledgehammer.
These days as I’ve mentioned before, I lose my vision for about 20 minutes, that is flickering diamonds in the eyes and then depending on the day I can have a dull headache which makes me struggle to get anything done. Next day is usually ok. They arrive sporadically and although there may be a few weeks in between, two can come in quick succession. The only thing that ever stopped them happening was in the eighties when I regularly smoked marijuana. They returned with a vengeance when I stopped.
Music today comes from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer. The album Sukierae was released in 2014 under the name Tweedy that had Spencer playing the drums, Dad playing lots of things with backing vocal help from Jess Wolf and Holly Laessig, plus Scott McCaughey contributing piano and keys here and there. The title is in reference to Jeff’s wife and Spencer’s mother and is allegedly her nickname – I guess the lads were just trying to get her involved. I heard that Jeff Tweedy was also a migraine sufferer. I did actually interview him once for the same place that I did the Anna Calvi interview but the video guy was late and the interview never saw the light of day. I was there for the gig in Stockholm and as a Wilco fan, I enjoyed this record which started as a solo album. If you like Wilco, you’ll like this.
Song Of The Daze
Jeff Tweedy with Spencer Tweedy and Liam Kazar on bass performing John Lennon’s God in celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday on October 9th, 2020.