I could write a lot about what’s been going on in the last month, but I’m not. If I did, it would be a mashup of margaritas, anxiety, bad dates, long walks, mental health and palm trees. Maybe soon, but today I want to talk about headaches.
My mom has always suffered from migraines. When we were little kids, she would get quiet in the car and tell us that she wasn’t feeling well. After that it was the fastest drive home possible, because once she started seeing focal points it wasn’t long before nausea would force her to pull over and be sick. When she got a migraine, she would escape to her bedroom and lay down with the lights off and a heavy magazine (usually Southern Living) over her head. We knew to be quiet and leave her alone, usually until the next day.
I don’t get traditional migraines, but I do have chronic headaches. They were at their worst right after my undergraduate degree, but have never fully stopped. For me, it’s a constant pounding above my right eye that is usually (but not always) fixed with 800 mg of Ibuprofen and going to sleep. It wasn’t unusual for me to get a crippling headache 3-5 times a week during a bad spell. Doctors and migraine medicine has never helped, and over time I’ve learned to chug water when I feel one coming on and stay as relaxed as I possibly can.
If my head hurts too bad for me to sleep, I try my mom’s migraine coping strategies on my own. One time Tim walked in to find me laying silently in our dark bedroom with a book over my right eye.
“Does that work?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “I think the pressure helps a little bit.”
He got in bed next to me in the middle afternoon, and took the book off my head. In its place he put his palm above my right eye. He pressed lightly on his palm, his finger wrapped softly around the curve of my forehead. And he would lie with me that until I fell asleep. I breathed slowly in the dark, the pressure of his palm calmed the throbbing in my head.
Friday night I went to bed with a headache, brought on by too many margaritas too many life stresses and not enough water. I dreamt a manic dream of alcohol and anxiety. There were crowds of people, and I was trying to find someone or something but could never succeed. People were nameless. People were fictional. People were friends. People were from my future, ones I hadn’t even me. I kept searching through this crowd and I kept failing and worrying about failing, when Tim walked up to me in the middle of the sea of bodies. He stood in front of me without a word, and put his hand on my forehead. We faced each other. Nobody uttered a sound. I felt the light pressure on my skin.
I woke up curled up in a semi-circle of pillows. A light sheet draped over my legs which were cool from the ceiling fan swirling on high. Pascale stretched out next to me, her paws at the end of her long limbs poking into my back.
It was around 3am, quiet and dark in the room. I took my hand, and placed it on my forehead. With my head still nuzzled down into the pillow, I applied pressure. I don’t know how long I held it there. Time was inconsequential. My eyes were open to look at the nothing around me, and I held my hand like that for a long time before I tried to fall back to sleep.