September 9, 2014

Visual migraines. Sigh.

They're sometimes called "migraines with aura". They are migraines without the pain (hooray!). But they have to do something irritating; after all, they're migraines. So they obstruct your vision by placing sparkly shapes in your way. Aggravating, but as I say: pain-free.

For the past three days I've had one each day. Now, I really can't complain. I used to have cluster headaches, which are often referred to as the worst pain humans can experience. They come in bunches, two a day, eight in a week, 38 in a month, that sort of thing -- and then they disappear for a time. Could be for a week, could be for years. You never know. I used to have cluster headaches and then one magical day, they turned into visual migraines. Since I'd been thinking about killing myself to avoid the pain of cluster headaches, I was right pleased with this change.

So they mess my vision. Who cares? (Okay, I do.) The thing is they're pain-free. You can't buy the joy that comes along with that statement. When visual migraines replaced my clusters, I wanted to shout from the housetops: I'm free!

Well, maybe not. I still have these nagging visual migraines. And they come in clusters, just like the old painful cluster headaches. In other words, the same song is playing but in a new, delightful key. That's an image of what they look like, up top. It's a good representation. They always come in a set shape, often a crescent like the one in the image. At first. they're very tiny. But they grow and grow and grow. At one point, they totally obstruct your vision -- but that happens just before they disappear. While retaining their shape and continuing to grow, they eventually move "off the page". And poof, they're gone. Mine just ended, which is what made me write this post. As I say, pain in the butt. You can't do anything, can't read words on your screen, can't watch a baseball game. But there's no pain. Did I mention that? Woohoo!

Oliver Sacks, the writer/psychiatrist who gave us the delightful "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", once wrote about his experiences with visual migraines. As is his wont, he described the beauty of the images. True, they're pretty. But I'd still like to skip them entirely. (BTW, Artichoke Annie sent me a link to a new Oliver Sacks piece in the New Yorker. It's about autism and I found it fascinating. It's a long article; just saying.)

Anyway, migraine gone. Time to move on. Phew. Anyone else out there have these? How do you deal with them? (I get up and do housework until they're gone. Or I sit back with headphones on, close my eyes and watch the light show. What else can you do?)

Image from

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