The past two weeks have been filled with major brain fog. I try to write and the words just won’t come together. It’s not that I can only turn out mediocre drafts. It’s more like I’m looking at a puzzle and can’t even determine which pieces might fit together, never mind trying to figure out where they fit in the larger picture. I write words, move them around, delete and rewrite, but nothing makes sense.
That’s when I’m trying to write something from my own mind. Even more difficult is synthesizing information from other sources. I read the words and think I understand them, but can form no cohesive thoughts on them. I start sentences and am at a complete loss on how to finish them.
The pain of a severe migraine is horrible, the nausea can be gut-wrenching, the fatigue is a drag… those are all physical symptoms that, while miserable, are separate from my sense of self. My intelligence and ability to write, however, are critical elements of my personality. When I’m shrouded in a dense brain fog, I don’t feel ill, I feel dumb. And that’s something I don’t think I’ll ever learn to cope with.
As brain cells swell during a migraine, they become starved of oxygen, which may cause brain damage — at least in rats — according to a newly released study. This damage may help explain other findings that people with migraine have a higher risk of stroke. Here’s an excerpt of the article on brain damage and migraine:
“They studied a process called cortical spreading depression, known as CSD, a wave of changes in cells associated with migraine, stroke and head trauma.
“They used a precise two-photon microscopic and oxygen sensor microelectrodes to look at the brains of live mice while they caused this process.
“They saw a swelling occur and the brain cells became starved of oxygen. The nerve cells were damaged — specifically the dendrites, the long, thin spikes that stretch from one nerve cell to another.”
This highlights the importance of using preventives rather than just painkillers during a migraine. Not having a migraine at all prevents other symptoms and the potential for brain damage. In contrast, painkillers treat the pain, they don’t keep the migraine from wreaking havoc on the brain. I’m not sure where triptans fall on this scale, but certainly aborting a migraine is better than having one.
Some good may come from having migraine. A study released last week found that migraine sufferers show less cognitive decline and memory loss than those without migraine.
However, that good news is muddied by other studies showing that people with migraine suffer from brain changes and a risk of brain lesions. Not to mention another new study noted an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
How much more will it take for people to see that migraine isn’t just about headaches?
Pain is an obvious symptom of migraine, but there’s so much more to migraine than the headache. Even the well-known symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes aura barely scratch the surface.
Right now I’m in the early stages of a migraine. Although I can feel the pain coming on, more frustrating is that I’m having trouble thinking, concentrating and finding words. I’m fatigued and thirsty. The black circles under my eyes have returned. Eating might make me feel better, but I’m nauseated, have no appetite and the smell of food turns my stomach.
My current symptoms are part of the many different migraine symptoms. I now know what to expect, but I was terrified when I first noticed all these strange feelings I had before and during a migraine. Cognitive impairment was by far the scariest (and it still frustrates me to no end).
My mind is so fuzzy that I can’t make sense of the rest of the post. I’ll return to the topic next week. In the meantime, here are some relevant links that I intend to use as support.