I go to bed with that familiar pain through the side of my head, feeling the connecting lurch of nausea with every movement. With a sinking feeling, I know I am heading down the black hole. There is no way of knowing when I will emerge.
Later, he joins me in bed. My stomach churns with every movement he makes and I protest. His reply is sharp and although I know he is always upset when I'm ill and he is feeling down anyway, I'm too far gone to care. I don't think I can answer anyway. I put on my eye mask and find my ear plugs and try to sleep. I must fall asleep because at 2am I wake. It is a hot night and the bed is suffocating. The pain in my head is dreadful and my stomach heaves. I rush into the bathroom to grab the plastic waste bin. Something tells me both ends are about to erupt. I sit on the toilet, cradling the bin on my lap and let Mother Nature take her course. Eventually, trembling, I clean myself and the bin, moving as slowly as I can because of the pain in my head. I get back into bed.
I know he's awake but I can't help that. We don't speak. I lie in the dark and throughout the rest of the night the pattern is repeated until all that's left to come up is a green bile. It hasn't been like this in a long time. Between bouts, I worry about what will happen when he can no longer do things for himself and I am felled by a migraine like this. If he needs me to adjust his position, help him to drink something, help him to pee? This does not do my head any good. I try not to think, push two fingers against the pressure point of pain, try to take deep breaths, but nothing helps. I know he will be exhausted tomorrow, although he is asleep now. His snoring is much worse tonight and my earplugs don't seem to be helping. Maybe I'm just feeling more sensitive.
It's a relief when I notice the darkness in the room is lessening. After one visit to the bathroom I take a motillium for the sickness but that comes up too. Now I wonder if it's worth taking another imigran (I took one before I came to bed but that's long gone). It's over four hours now. Feeling desperate - the pain has not lessened - I stagger to the wardrobe and grope for the medication. Half an hour later I find myself cradling the bin again. This time there's an improvement as there's no longer any need to leave the bed and I'm grateful for this. But it means I'm disturbing him again with spectacular sounds of retching and heaving. Eventually I doze, the pain is still there but my stomach appears to be settling. There's a movement, it must be morning. He's getting up.
"Are you cross with me?" He asks.
It must be because I haven't spoken to him all night. Now I feel mean. "I just can't talk right now, it makes me want to spew." I explain.
"I was hopeless last night," he says. "I couldn't help".
"Don't worry," I say from the depths of the pillow. "We'll talk later."
And we do, when it is evening, and I have slept for most of the day, and kept an imigran down successfully. I have emerged from the black hole once again, totally drained and wobbly on my feet. To be without that pain is like a wonderful gift. I am so grateful to be free of it. Tom has been in to ask me to test him for his RE exam tomorrow, and I have been able to do it! Thank God Maura was here. She has taken my place for the day, and made the evening meal, intervened in the family conflicts, been there for them all - and returned from her trip to Richmond with a gift for me. Has there ever been a better sister?
And so we talk, he and I. He feels bad because he couldn't help me last night. I feel bad because I kept him awake and I tell him how I worried about the future in the long watches of the night. He had the same thoughts. We agree that we will find a way, that we will cope. Now we know, we have to plan for these times. Things seem a bit better now.
He sits on the bed and holds my hand. "That was a dark night," I say.
"It was. Let's not do that again." I smile at that. It's such a Roch thing to say.