Are Zombies Really Just Migraine Sufferers?

The dazed, glassy-eyed expression; the shuffling, rambling walk; the moaning. Sound familiar?  Yeah, Zombies. It also looks and sounds a lot like me in the throes of a migraine. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that my interest in (dare I say fondness for) zombies happened to coincide with an increase in the frequency of my migraines. It also coincided with a resurgence in the zombie sub-genre of horror fiction. And thank goodness for that. I’d been waiting for the vampire sub-genre to die off and be replaced with something better (no offense to vampire lovers). How on earth can anyone who’s as pale as a frigging corpse be considered sexy?? Yuck!

I only know how disconnected I feel when a severe migraine strikes. Disconnected from what’s going around me (from humanity); and my brain disconnected from the rest of my body. Or rather, maybe I’m just wishing that my brain was disconnected from the rest of me. If it was, I could go about my day, accomplish the necessary tasks (my job, the grocery shopping, the visits to the veterinarian, etc.) while leaving my brain at home to wallow in its pain.

Instead I sometimes find myself a prisoner of my brain, the pain the center of my universe as it stabs through my head, radiating through one side or the other. It can even feel like it’s pulling my head apart, sometimes the left from the right, sometimes the top from the bottom. I can still remember my doctor’s expression when I described the pain as feeling like someone trying to saw off the top of my head (at the eyebrow level) with a semi-sharp spoon. He was probably thinking ‘brain tumor’ but didn’t say it, just sent me for a cat scan. (I hear Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “It’s not a tumor.”) Or lately, the pain is more likely to feel like it’s pulling one side of my face down, creating a bizarre numbness. I find myself poking my cheek, testing its sensitivity. I’ve even found myself in front of a mirror, checking out my face and doing the FAST Test (sometimes referred to as the Smile Test) to see if I’m having a stroke. BTW, those are symptoms everyone should know just in case you really are having a stroke.

When I’m watching a zombie movie like “Dawn of the Dead” or “World War ZImageor reading zombie fiction, like Brian Keene’s “The Rising,”Image I find myself picturing zombies as prisoners to their brains – the only body part still functioning, its errant and erratic signals jerking legs and arms into that shambling gait, pulling them ever forward in search for human flesh to consume. I find myself sympathizing with them, wondering if they’re just suffering from a really bad migraine. Maybe we could give them some medication instead of shooting them in the head? I know it makes me feel less of a zombie (after making me feel more like one for a while).

In the meantime, I don’t crave human flesh. Just a dark, quiet place to rest while my brain lives in its own zombie world, concocting new zombie ideas. (Soon to be found in the forthcoming second edition of my “Zombies and AliensImage e-book collection on Amazon Kindle.) And some new zombie fiction from other authors to read. Any suggestions? What are your favorites?


Slices of Migraine Pie..and weird dreams

The neighbors fighting; doors slamming; cursing at 1:00 a.m.

“Meoowwl” The cat howling way across the room for no apparent reason at 2:38 a.m. (Note to self: yelling at the cat to shut up does not make him shut up.)

“Fwap, fwap, fwap” The sound of a car with a flat tire driving down the street at 4:56 a.m.

The grinding and banging of the garbage truck at 5:35 a.m.

Its urgent mission now over, the distinctive engine sound of a fire truck returning to its station a few minutes later.

If you’ve been awake during the night, willingly or unwillingly, these might be some of the sounds intruding upon you. When you’ve got a migraine, and you’re waiting for the medication to take effect, they can be heightened to mere annoyances preventing your mind…your brain…from relaxing, or to the point of severe pain. Migraine sufferers will know what I’m talking about. Others will think “but it’s just a headache.”

It’s not just a headache. Migraines can be debilitating, interfering with your ability to live a normal life. But they can also be oddly…revealing. As your brain navigates its way through the twists and turns it feels like it’s doing, your thoughts alight – usually briefly – on the ordinary problems of the day or, if you’re a writer like me, upon ideas and story plots. Or maybe the pain (or is it the meds?) sends your mind twirling around in a bizarre series of dream images that will become mere flickers of memory the next day.

Do you remember your dreams? I usually don’t, but every so often one or the other will be so vivid, or repeat a theme dreamt before, that it outlasts the pain, the medication, or a much appreciated good night’s sleep.

About a week ago in the middle of a migraine came such an image. It was brief. I think. I don’t remember the details, but I do know that I was in a house. Again. It was my house, yet not my house.

It’s a recurring theme in my dreams (although not usually during migraines): The House. Or so I like to call it. I can’t say how many times this theme has cropped up, nor is it a regular – predictable – event, but it’s happened several times over the years, starting quite some time ago. Out of curiosity, I have searched online on some of those dream interpretation websites, for a meaning behind this dream, but of course, those sites are contradictory and not entirely useful.

All I really know is that I find myself in The House (sometimes it starts out as an apartment) and that The House continually expands. I discover new doors, new rooms. Sometimes it’s rooms off the kitchen, sometimes it’s extra bedrooms. And sometimes, like the last time I can most vividly remember this dream (maybe a couple years ago?) it’s hidden rooms off the basement.

I’m never afraid in the dream. It’s more like a journey of discovery and I’m thrilled to step into a new room I didn’t know I had. It’s sometimes exciting, sometimes wondrous. And, gee, I didn’t know I owned so many books! Yes, the last House included – down in that ever-expanding basement – a huge library. The kind of library you might see in fantasy movies where the library shelves climb the walls so high it’s dizzying to look up at all those tomes. I don’t know the names of any of the books on my library shelves. I recall not stepping that far into the room – only sensing how deep it was. Instead, my attention was drawn onward and outward.

The House finally did end (the first time I can remember an actual ending to The House in any of the dreams). But I guess it didn’t really end. In the last room was an open rear wall…and a beach. Yes, my basement opened onto a beach. It was a pale sand beach, kind of foggy. I could hear waves crashing onto shore somewhere close by.

I don’t remember stepping out onto the beach. I just remember thinking “wow!” And that’s all. The dream ended there.

Some days I still wonder what those dreams mean. But maybe it’s not important. Or maybe it’s just really simple. Suddenly I have this urge to go to Hawaii, or Tahiti, or Key West, or the Maldives….