“That no one dies of migraine seems to someone deep in an attack as an blessing.” ~ Joan Didion, The White Album

My Migraine Brain

Cannot shake this headache that trips into migraine territory and then recedes into just annoying headache land and then goes in for a full frontal assault, so I’m just sharing this very apt quote that appeared on my tumblr dash today:

“Why am I compelled to write? . . . Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger . . . To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy. To dispell the myths that I am a mad prophet or a poor suffering soul. To convince myself that I am worthy and that what I have to say is not a pile of shit . . . Finally I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing.”

~ Gloria Anzaldúa

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” ~ Joan Didion

The Golden Horse in Iceland by Stuck in Customs*

“and you will somehow
get through the slow days and the busy days and the dull
days and the hateful days and the rare days, all both so delightful
and so disappointing because
we are all so alike and so different.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “gamblers all”

Friday afternoon. Cool, high 40’s.

Most of this week has been quite mild, with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. I wonder if we’re going to have any kind of winter this year.

Stone Hut in the Morning Light, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Corey is not leaving this week. Another postponement, but with a twist: the company rep called and asked Corey if he’d like to go ahead and get on the Pacific run. Corey said that he’d rather wait for the ship he’s supposed to be on. He’s tired of all of the changes and just wants to go as planned. I told him that he made the right decision. Going to the Pacific would be a huge change, and one that neither of us are ready for. We had discussed the possibility of him shipping out in the Pacific one day, but not now. So more waiting . . .

I went to the neurologist on Tuesday, only for her to tell me that essentiallythere was nothing new that we could do, no new meds on the horizon, nothing, so we would just continue with the treatment that we’re doing, and try the Botox shots again . . . she’ll see me again in a year. Now this might seem like same old, same old, but what torques me out of shape is that the last time I spoke to her nurse, the nurse was quite adamant that the doctor had to see me on a regular basis to continue prescribing my meds, but the doctor tells me that she really sees no need to see me more than once a year.

So the shots are scheduled for February 21. Supposedly, they will be stronger this time. Let’s hope so, as I’ll be paying out of pocket, and I’d really like for them to last more than six weeks, which is all that I got last time. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see . . .

Waiting . . .

“I am a recluse at present & do nothing but write & read & read & write.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume 1: 1903-1917

I received a lovely surprise in the mail a few days ago: Leah, a faithful reader and commenter, send me a birthday card and some chocolate. She’s such a thoughtful person, and it was really a  nice surprise. I’ve already sampled some of the chocolate . . . I suppose I’m over my holiday chocolate overload.

Summer House in Isafjordur, Iceland (with elve house to left), by Stuck in Customs

Corey put together the desk that we got for our bedroom. We got it on clearance, and it’s very roomy as it has a hutch. Once we moved my corner desk into Eamonn’s room, Corey vowed that we wouldn’t be moving it back as it got stuck in the door and was a pain to maneuver. So now I have a new desk, and I’ve been moving things out of Eamonn’s room and into our room. It will be nice to have my little corner of the room workspace again. Of course, my computer is still dead as I need a motherboard that actually fits.

I have managed to find one from a reputable wholesaler that does not cost the three hundred dollars that it was listed for in several other place. (I love the Internet). But of course, I now must wait for the $100 that it will cost to install.

Waiting . . .

“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.” ~ David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress

One of my favorite poets passed away a few days ago, Wislawa Szymborska. I have a collection of her poems on my wish list for Amazon. Admittedly, I never had a real appreciation for Polish poets before I started my Tumblr, but I really love her work.

The Silent Horse in the Fog, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

I also have another Polish poet on my wish list, Czeslaw Milosz. I still have my Amazon gift card from Christmas, and I haven’t used it yet because I keep changing my mind. I really need to get a new dictionary, and the American Heritage one that I want lists for $37, so do I get the poets that I want or the dictionary that I really could use?

I know that the idea of a paper dictionary is foreign to many people, but I do so love having a good one, and after years of buying new editions, I know that I prefer the American Heritage version over the Webster’s. Personal preference, I know, but when I was in the graduate program at Virgina Tech, the department gave all of us brand new American Heritage dictionaries, and I used that thing until it fell apart.

So what should I order? All of it, preferably . . .

“The memory is cursed with what hasn’t happened.” ~ Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair

I was on tumblr until 4 this morning. Another one of those restless nights . . .

So last night I had one of those end-of-the-world dreams. I was in some town, and all of the people were contracting some kind of deadly virus. I wanted to leave the area, but of course, the military was shooting anyone who tried to leave, so I convinced a small group of people to leave with me. I know that at first there were six or seven of us, but by the end there were only three, two men and myself.

Sleeping In, Iceland, by Stuck in Customs

Somewhere in the middle was this really bizarre scene (more bizarre than the dream as a whole) in which Leonardo DiCaprio was deranged and trying to fight this battle on a rooftop, and then I was fighting him, and I realized that my c-clamp was not attached to my harness but instead, was attached to a belt loop, and I knew that wouldn’t support me.

Anyway, after the rooftop confrontation, I was in a big SUV with the original six or seven people, and I turned down a street, and we all heard a baby crying, and I wanted to stop and look for the baby, but we saw too many people, and realized that if we stopped for the baby, we had to stop for all of them, and we didn’t have the room.

Then, the two men and I were walking (don’t know what happened to the SUV), and there was a little snack shop on the street that hadn’t closed. The guy working there told us that we could have some water, but we ended up doing some food shopping, and I told the guy that I would come back on Tuesday if the world didn’t end and pay him for what we took. He seemed to be okay with that. Where does this stuff in my mind come from?

“The cloud is free only to go with the wind. The rain is free only in falling.” ~ Wendell Berry

Brett is having dinner with his father tonight. After last week’s funeral, Brett came home and told me that he and his dad are going to try to spend more time together. This shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I suppose it’s more of my misplaced righteous indignation on behalf of someone else—his dad has ignored him for years, so now he wants to make up for it? I need to get over it and be happy for my son. I know that it has had to hurt not to be in his dad’s life in the past few years. Perhaps I’m jealous? Insecure? All of the above? Who knows . . .

The Lonely Grass House, Iceland by Stuck in Customs

Anyway, I wanted to get this post up before I get back to sorting through old office supplies and doing other chores. My obsession with office supplies has not waned even though I no longer work full time. Books, office supplies, nail polish, black boots, squishy leather purses—things that make me happy and keep my mind occupied. It’s the little things, isn’t it?

Speaking of things that I need to do, I have told Eamonn and Brett that I’ll do their taxes for them. Eamonn really needs the funds to pay for his big traffic ticket, and I also need to do our taxes and this year’s FAFSAs. God do I hate doing forms like those.

So many different sites offer free e-filing, but what they don’t tell you until you are in the middle is that the state form will be an additional fee, so I’m doing free federal for the boys on one site, and then their state filing on the Virginia site, which isn’t too bad as they are both simple forms. It’s just a pain.

I suppose that’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck in Customs site, Iceland Collection (under a Creative Commons license)

Music by The Twilight Singers, featuring Mark Lanegan, “Be Invited”

                   

Sometimes, When the Light
Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood
and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows
or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,
you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows
something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous
that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

By Lisel Mueller

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small and the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.” ~ Grace Slick, “Go Ask Alice”

Spitzer Rosette Nebula

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

Hubble Pistol Nebula
Hubble Pistol Nebula

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.

Hubble Eskimo Nebula
Hubble Eskimo Nebula (resembles auras I have had)

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.

More than 26 million [up to 32 by some estimates] Americans suffer from the neurologic disorder,” according to the American Medical Association (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=4170218&page=1).

Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster
Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster

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

Spitzer Towering Infernos from Hubble
Spitzer Towering Infernos

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

Hubble M17 Omega Nebula
Hubble M17 Omega Nebula

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.

Headache expert Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City contends that “It’s pretty clear that migraine sufferer have more brain lesions [than people without the attacks] . . . That strengthens the view that migraine is a neurologic disease, a disease of the brain.”  (http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/41052/-migraines_leave_trail_of_scars_across_the_brain).

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

Hubble Eagle Nebula M16
Hubble Eagle Nebula M16

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

ESO Horsehead Nebula
ESO Horsehead Nebula

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.
Looking to generate more traffice for your blog? Visit condron.us where you will find a whole community of bloggers, writing about topics in all areas. Join the forum and add your opinions to open discussions. Or submit your blog to the blogroll and browse blogs from writers who are posting in your subject areas. CONDRON.US