The ramblings of a giant squid…

What does a migraine LOOK like?

Friends-Romans-Countrymen, Math and Science

[ed Dec 2014] The original site is gone, so I have pointed the links to the Wayback Machine copies.

Anyone who has known me for more than a year or so probably knows that I get migraines.  I used to get 1-2 a month and the nastiest ones could weird me out about 24 hours, but now I get a lot less of them since I’ve been on CPAP.  I’m still good for 2 or 3 a year, mostly when I’m tired and stressed out and exposed to a trigger.

I tend to get a warning when a really bad migraine is on the way – I’ll start getting weird visual “auras”.  Once, I had it so bad I went to the hospital because I thought I was having some kind of stroke, but after an hour or so in emergency I was left with a brutal headache and the doctor explained what was going on.

During that particular process, I was rather stumped trying to describe the visual symptoms.  Maybe a poet could handle that task, I don’t know… but my vocabulary really wasn’t up to it.  In fact, I gave up trying to describe it and asked the doctor for a pen and paper so I could draw it.

The author of “Known Johnson” has put together a short flash animation of what it looks like, and it’s pretty accurate.  When I see that sort of thing happening now, I tend to high-tail it for a dark room, grabbing a couple aspirin on the way because I know I’ll be in the hurt-locker soon if I don’t.  Odds are, I will be anyway, but the aspirin and dark room can help lessen the pain and the sick feeling.  My auras run like that too – they start kind of in the centre, but migrate to the lower right quadrant of both eyes, then kind of circle around to a strange scintillating tunnel.  In my drawing incident above, the drawing I produced for the doctor looked a whole lot like the final frame of that flash animation.

For me, from the first sparkly to the headache/nausea/dagger-through-the-eye is about 20-60 minutes.  Usually migraines are triggered for me, and I have two triggers that I am well aware of: flashing (bright) blue lights, and sun on the face.  The former will set off a migraine in only a few minutes, the latter can take an hour or two… but not always – the approach to my house from the usual direction is facing west and in the evening (when I’m tired after work) I have to drive 500m with the sun square in my face if I arrive home at the wrong time.  To avoid this I must come home early or late or have a pretty unpleasant evening.

So if you ever wondered what a migraine sufferer means by “aura” have a look at that flash.  If you ever wondered what it FEELS like, try to imagine being seasick while you have that aura and someone sticks a hot spike in your eye.

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