Citation: Samanthe. "Did Balloons Cure My Migraines?: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide (exp11245)". Erowid.org. Dec 25, 2001. erowid.org/exp/11245
When I was 20, I suffered from migraines. I attribute their onset to a battle with an anxiety disorder I was suffering [see “Terror Blossom
”]. I have heard a number of theories about migraines; the one that seems to fit for now is that repressed rage can be a root cause. I think I am exorcising repressed rage, so this is the theory I’m currently working with. After all, these are all stories we tell ourselves; maybe 200 years ago I would have thought that the migraines were evidence that I was possessed by demons. Maybe 20 years from now there will be a black and white biochemical explanation involving yet-undiscovered receptor sites. I don’t care. My theories on my migraines are part of my own personal mythology and not substantiated with hard data, but for the purposes of this story and my life, they work.
I was at university, and consulted a neurologist at Student Health for my complaints. My neurologist, a clearly physically unhealthy woman who barely talked to me, prescribed several meds to help keep the migraines at bay: propranolol (a beta blocker) as a prophylactic, ergotamine once I felt a migraine coming on, and Fiorinal as an analgesic once one hit. She also made me quit my oral contraceptives, because a woman can be at higher risk of stroke if she suffers from migraines and is on birth control pills.
I dropped down to 9 hours of classes. I felt utterly out of control and depressed by my dependency on my meds. I was constantly scanning my mental and physical landscape for signs of a possible migraine. When one hit, I would sometimes throw up from the pain. I developed a tolerance to Fiorinal, and generally felt like a slave to the meds. It was demoralizing. One day I followed my intuition and stopped taking all the meds. (I know now this is not recommended for beta blockers but I didn’t know that then.) I started to feel better. I still occasionally felt that grip of fear, the “oh no! is one coming on?” feeling of loss of control, but these were becoming infrequent, and I could generally control them. I didn’t feel I had truly gotten a grip on my migraines until I discovered nitrous oxide.
I had been afraid of nitrous, because the one experience I had had with it was during a painful dental procedure at the age of 16. I got nausea and the spins so bad that I violently wretched. I had a bad association with nitrous. Then I tried it recreationally, and it felt like an orgasm that began in the middle of my back and rolled over my shoulders and head like a wave. My attitude about it changed after that. The next day I had access to unlimited balloons. This is where I feel I “cured” myself of migraines.
I was sitting out on a blanket in the sun. I had breathed in about three large breaths of nitrous, making sure to get enough oxygen in between. And then I felt it, the familiar feeling in my head that spelled out, “MIGRAINE COMING ON.” Only this time, rather than being accompanied by the “oh shit!” and the fear response, I objectively felt the sensation as just that, a physical sensation in my head. I dissociated it from the pain and fear. I “unhooked” the response from the trigger. It felt like a revelation, a delightful liberating feeling. For so long I had anticipated migraines that I was conditioned to fear them. This conditioning was erased with one session of nitrous oxide.
I still get the funny sensation in my head, and I really wish I knew what it was. Sometimes it feels like it’s pulsing, like a vein. I don’t know what it is. But I don’t think I’ll get migraines again.
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