“Nudge nudge, know what I mean, say no more” ~ Eric Idle
A wonderland/Python kind of day. Spent the afternoon on campus waiting for Brett and then spent the evening helping him to get his group project ready to submit by midnight. Felt like I didn’t get anything done that I wanted to do.
Ever get the feeling that you’re talking but people are hearing something entirely different?
Spitzer Rosette Nebula* (Images from space look very similar to brain scans . . . Cue Twilight Zone music)
“We can describe the thoughts of Hamlet, but we cannot describe a Migraine.” ~ Virginia Woolf
“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence.” ~ George Eliot
This is day five of this migraine. I am in the midst of a lull, which I hope is a signal that this migraine is finally abating. Or it could be the vicodin . . .kidding, only kidding. Geez.
After consulting with my migraine doctors, I’ve decided to stop trying the preventive medications for now. I’ve had so many horrible side effects with the last three that I’ve tried that I just don’t think that the preventive medication is working out for me. And the reality is that I’m getting just as many migraines on the preventive medicine as I am without. The main difference has been duration, as in, does the headache last a few days or a few weeks.
Those of you who have never had a migraine probably cannot imagine having a headache for weeks, but believe me, it is a reality. And it’s not just a headache—it’s a migraine, and there is a significant difference between the two.
“At first every small apprehension is magnified. Every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes and I concentrate only on that.” ~ Joan Didion
With a migraine, which is a neurological syndrome, several things can happen, but they do not always happen. Sometimes, it’s just one or two; other times you get the whole bag. There are actually four possible phases to the migraine: the prodrome, the aura, the pain phase, and the postdrome.
In the prodrome, or the phase leading up to the migraine, the sufferer can experience several things: euphoria (never had that one), irritability (yep), fatigue, yawning, food cravings, stiff muscles (yep, yep, yep). The prodrome can occur anywhere from a day up to hours before onset. The aura can appear 5 to 20 minutes before pain onset, and can last for up to 60 minutes. The pain phase, well, that’s self-explanatory. And the postdrome can be manifested as euphoria (what is it with euphoria?), malaise, weakness, loss of appetite, stomach problems, and cognitive function impairment. Some sufferers liken it to a hangover. I prefer to call it the limp dishrag syndrome.
Most of the time, I get an aura before the onset of the pain. This aura can be blurred vision, spots in my eyes, or waves, accompanied by tingling in the limbs. The aura is usually a signal that the pain is about to errupt in the brain. This pain can be a band around the head, sort of like someone tightening a metal band around the circumference of your head until you feel that you skull is going to crack open.
The pain can be focused in one or both eyes. I tend to get the eye pain. The only way to describe this is as if someone is taking an ice pick and sticking it in the corner of your eye. Or, if the pain is behind the eyes, it feels as if someone is trying to push your eyeballs out of your head from the inside.
Too graphic? Now you know why I have a thing about my eyes, as in, I cannot stand the thought of anyone approaching my eyes with a laser, or anything sharp. Strike the laser eye surgery.
The pain is often accompanied by other wonderful symptoms: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, a sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis), sensitivity to light (photophobia), inability to bend over. There have even been occasions when I have had a migraine, and I have had a temporary blinding light behind my eyes, which in essense, makes me blind for a few seconds.
My postdrome phase is almost always the same: I feel very weak, achy, and have a dull headache for at least several hours after. Often I am nauseous.
“When there is pain, there are no words. Everything is the same.” ~ Toni Morrison
According to an article from ABC News, many doctors believe that migraines are the result of “a genetic disorder that makes one person’s brain more sensitive to certain stressors that other people would barely notice—like missing a meal or a rainy day.
I think at this point, I should count as at least two people in that statistic.
In essence, people who suffer from migraines do not deal well with change (I’m not talking about my emotional dislike for change). Migraines can be triggered by changes as innocuous as not getting enough sleep. According to Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, “Any change of the norm, any stress to your system, and your body will produce a headache.”
Triggers for migraines (outside and inside factors) include many different things: bright or flashing lights, certain smells, chocolate, caffeine, bananas, cigarette smoke, fresh paint, hormonal changes, climate changes (e.g., rapid drop in barometric pressure), lack of sleep, too much sleep (http://www.relieve-migraine-headache.com/migraine-trigger).
In other words—life.
“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” ~ Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
Triggers vary from person to person. I am sensitive to certain colognes and bright lights. Caffeine, which can be a trigger, can also alleviate a migraine, so I have not given up my Pepsi or coffee. I do know that certain foods can trigger my migraines, but I don’t think that a banana has ever set off my pain.
One of my big triggers is MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is a flavor enhancer that used to be a major ingredient in spices and packaged foods. Individuals who are sensitive to MSG, as I am, routinely scan the list of ingredients for this additive. Corey is particularly diligent in checking labels of any new foods that we may be trying for the first time.
Unfortunately, some of my favorite snack foods contain MSG: cheese puffs, Cheetos, Ranch-flavored Doritos. Even fast foods contain MSG: McDonald’s used to use MSG to enhance the flavor of their french fries. Chinese food used to contain MSG routinely; however, most Chinese restaurants have become aware of the large number of people who are allergic to MSG.
Adverse reactions are not limited to migraines or headaches. People who are allergic to MSG can have asthma attacks, nausea, vomiting, arrhythmia, rash, facial pressure, tingling and warming in the face, arms and upper body, to name but a few of the possible reactions.
MSG is actually an excitotoxin, which means that it effects the brain by exciting it. Excitotoxins include MSG, aspartate (which is found in Nutrasweet), and hydrolized protein (http://www.ezhealthydiet.com/excitotoxins).
Another compound found in food that can cause migraines is tyramine, which is produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid, tyrasine. Tyramine, which can cause blood vessel dilation is usually found in aged or preserved foods. For example, beef jerky. How do you go hiking without beef jerky? Other foods containing tyramine include olives, alcoholic beverages, aged cheeses, and soy sauce.
Okay. I’ll give up a lot of things, but I simply cannot give up soy sauce. I’m Filipina. My blood is probably 5 percent soy sauce. I was raised on soy sauce. I like soy sauce on cauliflower (weird, I know, but try it). Obviously, I’ve built up an immunity to soy sauce because I don’t have migraines every day of my life, and chances are pretty good that I’ll have soy sauce 6 out of 7 days a week.
Soy sauce? Is nothing sacred?
“Everything hurts.” ~ Michelangelo
I was reading an online article from Science News that contends that people who suffer from migraines have brain scarring, specifically on the cerebellum, which controls motor function and cognition. The odds of scarring for migraine sufferers who have accompanying auras are nearly 14 times higher than people who just have regular headaches.
Great. My cerebellum has infarctions or dead spots, and my brain is scarred—I don’t think that this is the kind of scarring that you can fix with dutiful applications of aloe vera.
“Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.” ~ Naomi Wolf
If you are a migraine sufferer (migraineur), you probably know that having migraines is not always looked upon kindly. In the workplace, there is often a stigma attached to migraine sufferers who call in sick, the reaction being, “I’ve worked with a headache before. Why can’t she?”
The Migraine Awareness Site had one of the best passages regarding this situation that I have ever read:
“. . .oftentimes people think that those with Migraines just can’t handle life or are drug addicts or alcoholics. Such perception can be formed when, for example, people see a Migraineur wearing sun glasses indoors due to sensitivity to light, lying in a dark and silent room due to sensitivity to light and sound, making frequent trips to the rest room due to nausea and vomiting, leaving work early, slurring their speech, or engaging in otherwise erratic behavior. According to Dr. Sheftell, “Historically, patients with the most intractable Migraines experience a downward spiral in terms of income and contributions to society at large.” (http://www.migraines.org/disability/impawork.htm).
I know that I had to attend a marketing meeting once when I was suffering from a horrible migraine, and I wore my prescription sunglasses during the meeting. Everyone knew that I had a migraine, but something was still said about it. I had one boss who was very annoyed when I informed him that if I had to share an office with someone, they would need to be able to use natural light and lamps.
We were relocating into a new building, and I had had a private office in the old building. I was not trying to be difficult, as I knew that there were two other migraine sufferers in his employ; I was merely asking for accommodations for my illness. In the end, I did share the office with another individual who didn’t like overhead light either, but my boss’s reaction exemplifies how uninformed people who do not suffer from migraines can be.
“Life’s sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.” ~ Emma Lazarus
Even though a significant percentage of the population suffer from migraines, it is still one of the most stigmatized disorders in society. Small comfort is the fact that migraines have been around for centuries, actually longer. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, wrote in 460 BC about shining light that was typically seen in one eye and followed by severe pain that started in temples and worked its way to encompass the rest of the head and down into the neck.
Ancient cures included applying an electric fish (related to a ray) to the forehead (Greek). Albucasis, an ancient Arabian doctor (936-1013 A.D.) advised applying a hot iron to the afflicted head, and if that failed, he recommended cutting a hole above the temple and inserting a garlic clove (what?) into the hole for 15 hours. Russian folk medicine recommends placing large cabbage leaves on your head and neck.
I can smell like garlic or like cabbage. Great.
Well, at least I know that I’m in good company: Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Cervantes, Tschaikovsky, Lewis Carroll, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elvis Presley, and President John F. Kennedy just to name a few migraineurs in history.
And the good news is that they don’t cut holes in your head any more.
More later sooner. Promise. Peace.
*All images are from NASA’s Spitzer or Hubble space telescopes, which are part of NASA’s Great Observatory Program.
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I knew that when Hillary Clinton threw her hat into the ring, she would have absolutely no problems holding her own with the big boys, so to speak. After all, this woman once worked for one of the biggest law firms in the country, out earning her governor husband by several zeros. She was already a proven speaker, and her knowledge of issues both domestic and abroad was as good if not better than many of the men she was running against. I also knew that the press would probably push her harder, expect more of her, and be less forgiving, forced largely in part by the public’s desire to test this woman who desired the highest office in the land. Hillary stood strong, and although I was an Obama supporter from the start, I was damned proud of Ms. Rodham Clinton and never doubted her ability to lead.
Which leads me to Sarah Palin, who has had two, count them two interviews, one with Fox news, so that one doesn’t even count. This is the woman who has the country “fired up” and “energized.” Explain to me exactly why. What has she said, on her own, in public, that has supported the idea that she could lead this country should something happen to John McCain if this duo were to win the White House. Even her own party won’t roll her out except for photo ops. There is something terribly wrong when the Republican party openly says that the press should treat Palin “deferentially” and there isn’t more of a hue and cry about it. Why should she be treated deferentially? Because she doesn’t wear pant suits? Because she is prettier and more stylish than Hillary? Because she wears lipstick? Excuse me but this is fucking bullshit. I want to know what this woman knows that makes her able to run this country, and I’m tired of waiting.
Putting Lipstick on a (pick your favorite animal)
Speaking of lipstick, I forgot to mention in my blog on obsessions that I am addicted to lipstick. I have to be wearing something on my lips, even at home. Okay, at home I don’t go around wearing Passion Red, but I do wear lip conditioner or chapstick.
I used to have very dry lips that were chapped all of the time because I didn’t intake enough fluids, and I had a very bad habit of biting the skin on my lips until they bled. I found that if I wore lipstick, that helped to keep me from biting my lips because most lipstick doesn’t really taste wonderful. I broke myself of the habit, and I also drink more fluids and more water. Now, I wear mostly glosses, but I don’t go out in public without something on my lips.
So when the whole issue of hockey moms and pigs and lipstick was raised in the campaign, I found it to be terribly insensitive to those of us with a lipstick addiction. I’m planning to write a letter of protest just as soon as I form the CLWASA (Compulsive Lipstick Wearers Anonymous Society of America). I’m hoping to get a grant, although, that may be a bit hard given the meltdown of last week.
By the way, one of my Jack Russells, Shakes, has a dark line around his mouth that gives him the appearance of wearing lipstick. I find it terribly endearing. The other one, Alfie, has one eye that looks like it has been outlined in black eyeliner. Makeup on my dogs and I didn’t even put it there.
Perhaps someone should hire a stylist for Todd Palin. I remember Bush I’s big gaffe of wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie on the campaign trail. He was told never to do it again because he wouldn’t be taken seriously. Roll up your sleeves and look like a working man, but never wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie because then you’ll just look like a sartorial idiot.
Todd Palin keeps showing up on camera behind the beauty queen in all manner of dress. If the Todders is hoping to keep his position as de facto chief of staff, he needs to put on dress shirts and learn how to wear a tie, kind of like Biden et al wore coordinating tie colors during the DNC. Very snazzy.
And Finally, a Word from Our Sponsor
It wouldn’t be fair of me to end my chat without mentioning John McCain, and so I have saved the best for last. Conservative columnist George Will of the Washington Post does not think that McCain has the right disposition to be president. In a recent column, Will compared McCain to the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who went around saying “off with their heads” before knowing all of the facts. I never thought that I would be agreeing with a column by George Will, but it’s been a strange year, after all.