MIGRAINE by Kathryn Silver-Hajo

It thrashes its tail, head ducking and rearing, a Chinese dragon of electric colors scintillating in your skull, yellow and blue fangs snapping, twisting, writhing across your vision, prying you from work, from words, the world, pressing down until you’re a curled ball, the normally sleek super-highway of neurons, axons, synapses, of nerve impulses that hurtle around your brain, having cracked like a bridge in an earthquake. When the dragon snarls Surrender, you do.

The beast—mythic or not—is riding my optic nerve. It bends a long, curved claw around my field of vision, drags a bioluminescent trail around my line of sight, snaps its fiery tail across my pupil in an opposing direction, complicating the effect. Neon blue and saffron zigzag boldly where they don’t belong, overtaking a secret space in my head that should be mine alone. I consider grabbing the brute by its flailing whiptail, but in my confused state I am clearly no match.

How would the ancients have explained centipede-like hallucinations skittering across the eyes in psychedelic colors? Possession? Insanity? Picture the migraine sufferer of yore, in the throes of the searing pain that follows that wild prodrome. Like a caveman in a lightning storm, perhaps the poor wretch believed a vengeful god was striking him mercilessly while he huddled, brain a confused scramble of thoughts and images, convinced he’d lost his mind. Limp as sea grass, he’d have been at a loss to explain those beautiful, terrifying visions.

Curse the migraine gods, those drama queens! They hate it when you’re too absorbed in your work to notice them. That’s when they usually stage an epic performance on a split-screen, for one eye only. Naturally, you don’t need to buy tickets for admission. Nope. This event is choreographed just for you, requires you to sit back, close your eyes, take it in. And once in, there’s no excusing yourself to use the restroom or grab a bag of popcorn.
Once you fumble for and find your little pill box, hoping to avoid the much-hyped post-performance event, it’s easy to forget that your brain is not truly your own, that when you least expect it, the migraine gods will return, and you’d best be ready with the backstage pass that gets you out of the party.

Photo used and adapted under CC.