I was going to prepare a post for today on Monday or Tuesday, but a migraine got in the way. Migraines are my Achilles' heel. I don't take painkillers for tension headaches, menstrual cramps, or aching muscles. But when a migraine hits, my world shuts down, and liquid pain relief capsules that are supposed to begin working within fifteen minutes only manage to take away a tiny portion of my suffering, and that, only after an hour and a half. A swollen fist of pain sits in my temple, putting so much pressure behind my eye that it tears for hours. And there is nothing I can do about it.
It's at times like these that I wonder why this happens to me and so many others. There are obvious factors: stress, anxiety, skipping meals, sleeping too little or too much, and being over-exposed to bright sunlight. I admit my weekend was full of stress and anxiety, and my emotions were on a bit of a rollercoaster, but there have been other times when a migraine has hit for no apparent reason (and vice versa, when those factors were in place but no migraine appeared). What if invisible environmental factors have something to do with it?
Take for example this weekend. I drove out of town for a family reunion. Apparently the whole city had similar plans, this being a long weekend. Both the drive out and back in took two hours longer than usual. That's four hours of inhaling carbon monoxide, unburnt fuel, VOCs, and ozone from nearby tailpipes while idling on an eight-lane highway. Isn't it reasonable to assume that toxic gases + traffic-related stress = migraine for those of us who have a propensity for them?
What about smog? Toronto gets its fair share in the heat of the summer, and that's when I experience more migraines compared to the cold winter months. Since I don't have respiratory or cardiovascular problems, my body might react to smog by unleashing a migraine. I don't think poor air quality and headaches are directly related, but I wonder if migraines are a symptom of overall body stress? "You're polluting me", my body cries out as it pounds that fist into my temple. If you think about my reaction to the pain - going home to sleep it off and staying away from exhaust, toxic cleaning products in public buildings, and the nasty chemicals that hide in the perfume and cologne that so many people like to bathe themselves in - then maybe migraines serve the purpose of isolating me from these poisons.
What do you think? Could there be some validity to this theory, or am I sprouting nonsense because yesterday's migraine killed off some of my brain cells?
Photo used under Creative Commons from Deborah Leigh (flickr).