Panic and the marching triangles

You don’t have to be a Boy Scout (or married to one, or mother to two) to be familiar with the motto, “Be Prepared.” It’s a common-sense sort of creed, and one that I pay attention to. But I don’t always pull it off.

Yesterday morning after talking over a bunch of official/academic matters that El Guapo had on his plate for the day, he rolled away on his bike, and I turned my attention to the various organizational/editorial/writerly/domestic matters ahead of me. “Shower” being the first on my list, I tried to remember where I had stowed the clothes I wanted to change into, and headed for the bathroom.

What I saw in the mirror stopped me. It’s true that my hair is a bit out of control these days, especially after the rain we’ve just had, but it wasn’t my reflection, but what was between me and my reflection, that caused my alarm. Up and to the left, just there: translucent triangles, moving in an uneven line.*

My Don’t Panic admonition met my pulse rate on its way up. I’m going to be fine. I’ll just get my meds, and–Wait. I don’t have my meds–How can I not have my meds?!

These days my migraines come infrequently, but I still keep stashes of the pills that help me get through one. For years I had a little envelope in my wallet, so I’d have them whenever I was out of the house. I’ve kept some in the glove compartment of the car, and in my traveling kit. I have a supply among the various toiletries that we don’t carry back and forth with us to Spain, but stow in a shoebox at the home of a friend here from church. The friend that we haven’t yet visited to retrieve our shoebox. The friend who I suspect might be in Columbia with her father as he recovers from open-heart surgery.

But she wouldn’t have to be out of the country for me to be in trouble; just being a 20-minute bike ride away would do the job nicely.

Sometime in the last three weeks I had had a passing thought about those pills, and did nothing about it. You often don’t realize when you’re being inspired to do something important until you don’t do it, and then find yourself wishing you had.

Back to the triangles, moving in a crooked line, and my attempts not to panic. I knew that from the arrival of the triangles to the beginning of the pain I had about 30 minutes, and the pills take some time to kick in. I slipped on my shoes and coat, grabbed keys and (pill-free) wallet, and headed across the street to see if my Canadian friends happened to have any of the meds I needed.† They weren’t home. Tick, tick, tick, tick.


I didn’t stop while frantic to take pictures I might need later; I went back after recovering, which is why the metal gate is closed over the door.


Next plan–head over to our friends a few short blocks away, and see if by any chance they had some. Another unanswered buzzer. Next, ask a random person where the nearest Farmacia is. I talked to a woman in a bright red coat, and in about a minute was inside a Droguería/Perfumería in the next street, where the man behind the counter told me that I’d need the Farmacia (right–forgot that they have things divided up into different market segments here–maybe my red-coated friend had forgotten too). Tick tick tick tick.

A hundred meters later I was inside a little boutique-like place looking at advanced anti-aging creams attractively displayed. I tried not to shift from foot to foot while I waited for my turn at the counter. When the woman asked how she could help me, I stumbled trying to pronounce the drug name in Spanish, but she understood, responded with a question I didn’t understand, tried again with “tablets?” and in two minutes I was back out on the sidewalk with my little box of pills. Tick tick tick tick.



I didn’t know how long I would have before the waves of pain started, but I did know that I’m most successful when I can get the pills inside me within a few minutes of seeing those triangles, and we were long past that. I didn’t run because I’ve been having some trouble with my ankle, but I wasted no time getting back home.

As I hurried, I tried to remember how many milligrams are in the pills I take at home, and what my equivalent dose would be here. I used a cleaver to cut up one of the pills and took what I hoped was about what I needed–my doctor at home had advised me to take four times the indicated dose, so I knew I had some leeway–and headed for bed. Willing yourself to fall asleep immediately is such a winning strategy, but what choice did I have?

I’ve been using this hurry-up-and-sleep-through-the-pain strategy for more than a decade. Recently I had begun to wonder if it was all necessary–maybe there wasn’t anything to sleep through? My speculation was idle; I wasn’t willing to go into a migraine unmedicated. But my experience yesterday gave me the data to answer my own question. I wasn’t left exposed to the worst of it, but my delay meant that I wasn’t asleep when I wanted to be. I’ve been reminded that it’s worth keeping pill stashes, taking the meds as soon as possible, followed by plenty of effort to get to sleep.

I did finally sleep, and woke, as I tend to do, feeling groggy and a little bruised. I moved tentatively around the flat, found my sunglasses to keep things nice and dim, and weighed my hunger against the odds of having trouble keeping food down. I was glad that none of the things on my day’s list of tasks had been urgent, as they would all be delayed.

As I got ready, finally, for my shower, I wondered what other emergency I was likely to be unprepared for. I’ll be pondering on that question. And I’ll be grateful that my migraines come infrequently, so the next chagrin I feel when looking in the mirror will probably be in response to my hair being out of control.


*Here’s a previous post about migraines and the aura that warns of their approach.

†I used to have various prescriptions for high powered pharmaceuticals, but at some point my doctor evaluated my particular pattern of migraines and told me that four Ibuprofen taken right as the aura begins, followed by getting to sleep as fast as possible, should help me through. It has tended to work pretty well. Side note: my new Spanish box of 600 mg pills has braille lettering; even in my preoccupation with impending doom I could appreciate that.

[Images: yours truly]

4 thoughts on “Panic and the marching triangles

  1. I don’t think I knew you suffered from migraines! Such a terrible affliction. I went to your older post about your auras and was very nervous when you said you were going to post pictures! I would’ve had to click away I know that. Haha I’m glad you got some medication

  2. I keep stashes of pills just as you described and have done so for about a decade. A month or so ago I ran out and did not replace right away causing me to feel the panicked adrenalin rush when I felt a migraine starting. I managed to get through it alright but I have also replenished all my stashes. It’s a little strange to live like that but so worth it to avoid a terrible migraine attack.

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