There are a million reasons to write. To express emotion. To tell a story. To create. To refine your thoughts. Or, in this case, to solve a problem. 

I started having migraines when I was 20 years old. I remember the first one clear as day. I was watching TV in the living room of the house where I was renting a room when I started having trouble seeing the screen. Being 20 years old and invincible, or so I thought, I closed my eyes and hoped it would go away. 

Ignoring it was ineffective. About 20 minutes later, it hurt to blink. Every beat of my heart sounded like an under-water kick-drum in my head. I have a reasonably high tolerance for discomfort, and that was hell. 

Mom used to say her migraines were debilitating. I’d say this qualifies.

I didn’t write anything down that day. Three is a trend. Two is a line. One is just a point, and I only had one at that time. I had a few more migraine headaches over the next five years or so; some caused only the visual aura, some caused a debilitating headache, some with both. I wrote them all off.

Mom got migraines. I get migraines. C’est la vi.

At 26 years old, I was working in a big dysfunctional shared office, replying to an email when I noticed that I couldn’t see the words I was typing. After trying to struggle onward for a few minutes, I stopped and noticed many red squiggly underlines indicating misspelled words in the text I had just typed, but I couldn’t see words I had just written. I looked at my coworker, and while I could see his figure and the color of his clothes, I couldn’t see his face. I could see it was there, probably with a confused look on his face, as I looked at him with a confused look on my face, but I could not make out any details. 

“I know I’m pretty, Steve, but there’s no need to stare,” he joked.

I smiled back, “You might be the prettiest man on earth, but I can’t make out your face for some reason. I think I’m getting a migraine.”

Another coworker, Karen, who was unfortunate enough to share that weird workspace, spoke up, “A migraine where you can’t see is not a migraine. You need to go to the ER.”

Had I been at home alone, I would have drunk some water, ate some food, taken something for the pain, and had a nap. My coworkers disagreed vehemently. Eventually, they convinced me to go to the ER, where I was given a prescription for Imitrex to treat migraine headaches. 

I don’t like the idea of taking a drug instead of solving a problem. Maybe Imitrex was the solution, but other than migraine loosely fitting the narrative I gave at the ER, I didn’t have a real diagnosis. 

Ok. I’m an engineer. I’m analytical. I’m a problem solver. This is a problem. I should write this down and see if a trend pops out at me.

So I started writing down my migraines. If I was near a computer when I got a migraine, I wrote down exactly what I saw and felt. I wrote down as much about the prior 24-48 hours as I could remember; what I ate, what I drank, how much sleep I got. 

I was looking for patterns. I figured that when I eventually did go in again, I’d at least have data. 

Karen recently reminded me that she prompted me to go to the ER, and when they sent me home with a prescription, she advised me to get checked out. She said that it’s not normal to lose the ability to see sometimes. Maybe that’s why I decided to start keeping a Migraine log. 

Regardless, it would come in handy.