I had plans today. After my Sunday run, I was going to call my parents, then have lunch. I’d spend the afternoon by myself, doing a little life admin, some reading, and a lot of writing and reflecting, because that’s taken a backseat recently.
When I called my parents, I noticed that little blind spot on the right side of my vision. We talked for about 20 minutes while I watched it get bigger, turning into a sparkly curtain slowly being drawn over my eyes from the right to the left.
So I went to bed for two hours. I listened to some gong meditation sounds, then tried an audiobook. Gave up on that because I couldn’t make sense of it, put the headphones away, and listened to silence, waiting for my brain to restart.
I’m one of those people whose auras are so bad that the actual pain is a relief. Apparently, only about a third of people with migraines experience auras at all, and most of them seem to have vision symptoms, judging from this article that collects 16 people’s experiences.
Apart from seeing nothing, flashing lights, shadows, patterns or everything at once, a migraine aura can also cause disorientation, feelings of tingling and numbness, and loss of speech (aphasia), my favourite.
About a month ago, I had to travel home from work for an hour before I could lie down. In that hour, I experienced aura symptoms so bad it took me several days to breathe normally again. Today was a lot easier, but still I reached a point when I felt my system crash. There’s no other way to describe it: first my vision goes, and then my speech follows. Simple concepts stop making sense, and my mind becomes untethered from the outside world, unable to grasp anything.
Lying down in a dark room is like restarting a computer in safe mode. There’s no way I can sleep in these situations, so I just lie there with my headache and my useless brain, waiting for half an hour, an hour, until I get up and slowly try: to see; to read words, then sentences; maybe to speak or write something, see if the words come out in the right order. I try to say my name out loud, grasping for my identity to hold onto. All the system checks.
Then I usually watch a TV show or a movie; nothing to taxing, just something that’ll allow me to get my words back in order. (Today it was Adrift, which I recommend.)
I suppose I’m lucky in a way that the headache only lasts a few hours in most cases. But I would take worse headaches any day, if only I got to stay coherent. The sense of drifting away like Sandra Bullock in space is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.