At times when I sense a migraine is on its way, I often find comfort in music. I’m not sure if it has any effect on the course of an attack, but it keeps me in the presence. By this I mean that my awareness of self does not disappear.
While migraine pain can be debilitating, other effects of an attack can create a surreal sensation where I feel I am no longer within my body, have no conscious control over it, and can only observe a shell which may or may not be able act human-like. It’s being aware of no feelings or emotions. No pain, although I am aware that the shell trembles with pain. No happiness nor sadness nor fear nor joy. Nothing. I’m not even aware of of sensations of light, sound or touch, although the shell reacts in fear or pain to them. The shell even responds to words spoken to it by others. But I, the observer, do not hear the words, only know that the shell is being spoken to, and it slowly, reluctantly tries to make an effort to respond. I’m aware that the shell is confused and disorientated. I feel no pity or compassion, no empathy at all towards the shell. I’m merely a detached and numb observer compelled by some force to hover nearby and observe, while mists of darkness come and go.
In all my 68 years I have never experienced a bad or frightening dream nor a nightmare. Apparently everyone gets them occasionally, or so I’m told. But then, I have no memory of any dreams since my mid teens, certainly not since I finished secondary school. I mentioned this fact when I was undergoing counselling for pain management, and after I had attempted to describe how I sometimes experience the “out of body” described above. The counsellor made the comment that those experiences must be more terrifying than any nightmare.
That puzzled me then as it still does today, as I’m not aware of any emotion at all during these episodes, and at lucid moments like now, I am, at best, ambivalent. I have no feeling or emotion about what happens to me during an attack. I feel no more about the attacks than I do about the fact that some ponds are deeper than others. I’m certainly not conscious of any fear or trepidation about an inevitable attack. Migraines come and go, just as night-times come and go.
While I don’t have dreams I have momentary glimpses that are very dreamlike (from what I remember of dreams), but they have turned out to be actual moments during a severe migraine attack, where the darkness momentarily lifts. For example I remember one dream-like set of scenes where there’s a moment of watching a person walking down a street knowing it’s important for them to be somewhere but not knowing where that is. There’s a flash where a person is sitting on a flower bed with people milling around, and another very short scene where bright lights come and go and a person is wanting to escape. There’s also a picture of a smart phone login screen, and a visually blank scene where somebody or somebodies are asking a person for a name (possibly that person’s name) but the questioning is relentless, not giving the person an opportunity to formulate an answer, let alone give it. There’s a recollection of a breeze and of bells ringing. There’s an awareness of something pressing all around an arm and another where wires are being attached to a torso. These were all actual events during one attack where apparently I was picked up by the police in a somewhat disorientated and confused state and taken to the hospital in a nearby city.
I’m not sure if music really keeps me in the present and out of the fugue-like state, but I can say that as long as I can hear the music, I am aware of the emotions that music can evoke. No, that’s not quite right. I feel the emotions. And I want to hold onto them. Here’s two very different pieces of music that are typical of what keeps the surrealism at bay during the early stages of a migraine attack. They might surprise you.
I find gentle soothing music, tends to draw me into that surreal state, but if I get past the window where that state might take hold, and a more typical migraine evolves, then such music played very softly does help provide some relief from the incessantly throbbing headache.