What Hurts The Most

Dear Reader,

A curious thing about the human experience is that something that is commonplace to one individual may never, ever be experienced by another. While this sentiment can be applied to a variety of situations — privilege, prejudice, etc. — I’m specifically, thinking about pain. More, specifically, I’m thinking about my own personal plight with migraines.

Do you get migraines, dear Reader? For some people, this is a somewhat regular occurrence, and for others the concept is understood, but the phenomenon is never experienced. I get migraines for a variety of reasons—I’m a fragile human—but luckily I am in good general health. Because I am well familiar with the particular torture of migraines, I thought I would share my top 4 (couldn’t decide on a fifth) worst migraine experiences to satisfy your lurking sense of schadenfreude.

4. Mountain Dew Kickstart Energy Drink

Trigger: Caffeine

There was exactly one period of time in my life when I drank energy drinks. I was in college and I had a class that met from 2pm to 4pm twice a week. The class was, to put it mildly, dull, and I usually entered my mid-day energy slump near the beginning of this course. To help combat the fatigue, a friend and I would regularly make a trip to the library vending machines before class to purchase these wonderfully tasty Mountain Dew Kickstart Energy drinks. These little treats actually made me look forward to class. However, anyone who has got themselves hooked on caffeine knows that withdrawal symptoms can be tough on the body. Mine was no exception. This particular migraine lasted about two whole days — bleh, meh, weeeh! I no longer drink energy drinks for this reason. Caffeine is the best example of a double-edged sword that I can think of!

3. Murphy’s Oil

Trigger: Scent

In high school, I was part of the musical theater crowd and got excited about anything “song and dance.” On this particular Saturday, I volunteered to help out with set painting. Although it was a long day, the painting for me was quite enjoyable. This all changed, however, when we moved from painting to cleaning the paint brushes. Moving all of our utensils to the janitor’s closet, we were instructed to wash the paint brushes not with normal hand soap, but with Murphy’s oil. What is Murphy’s Oil? I’m not entirely sure, so I am quoting Wikipedia here to explain why we used it to clean our brushes: “Murphy Oil Soap is also a favourite among artists as a brush cleaner. After removing excess oil paint from the brush with a rag and cleaning with a mineral spirit (optional step), the brush can be cleaned with a small amount of dilute soap.” While the smell of the soap isn’t terrible… it is strong. So strong that it triggered the third worst migraine of my life. This particular one lasted the whole weekend and featured nausea as an added bonus….

2. Pearl Harbor

Triggers: Heat + Light + Dehydration

Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world for one to fall ill in. Maybe I should feel so lucky to have experienced one of the worst migraines of my life from such a locale. It was a bright, beautiful (and super windy) day. We visited the Pearl Harbor museum. I remember looking out at the sparkling water, when bam! Something clicked in my head and a migraine rolled in like thunder. This migraine was particularly bad because of the heat and the fact that I couldn’t climb into bed. Nope, I had to stick it out and… pardon my language… it sucked.

Pearl Harbor Museum

1. Blue Man Group

Trigger: Strobe Lights

Have you seen the Blue Man Group? It’s an artistic act of three men, who, without speaking captivate audiences with lights, sounds, and skits reminiscent of vaudeville. Lucky for me, I was able to enjoy the overwhelming majority of this show. However, at the very end, there was a part where tissue paper confetti rained down from the ceiling, and toilet-paper-like substances were sent flying from above into the audience. It was a sight to behold especially with the pulsing strobe lights, which made the frantic energy in the auditorium seem like a stop-motion film. There was one particular moment, however, for me when things went from happy to horrible. Sometime in the middle of the strobe-light-fest, something clicked in my brain and a migraine crashed into the left side of my temple like a bullet train. I felt instantly hot, sweaty, and sick. Dear reader, I vomited more than once. Even afterwards walking through the New York City crowds, I felt like a total wreck. I for sure vomited in a train station toilet. Classy.

All in all, you have learned that I am a particularly vulnerable human; (pity!) but, also more generally, that migraines can sneak up on you. There are a variety of triggers; they can last just a few hours or even more than a day; they are nasty, and we all experience them differently.

So, the next time your friend cancels on you with complaints of a migraine, take pity on them, because the migraine surely won’t!

Wishing you all good health.



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