Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


2nd thoughts

Migraine Much?

vermont-from-pinacle-peakStrangest thing happened to me last Wednesday after work: I experienced an odd gap in my vision. A scotoma, if you want to know the technical term. I noticed it first when looking at the branding for a Chevy Milan while parking. The first leg of the ‘M’ went missing. I couldn’t make myself see it, but I knew it was there. Testing my eyes on that word, I found I could lose parts of other letters as well.

I didn’t panic, but it wasn’t normal. It felt a little like walking from a brightly lit place into a much dimmer room. Dilation trouble, but different and my eyes weren’t adjusting to include the missing bits again.

I went into the bookstore I had driven to and the problem persisted in near and far vision. It was slight enough that I could function and even peruse a book, but damned if I could read one. I bought an ice decaf and left without a book (no, mean feat for me). My eyes righted themselves on my half hour drive home, but I felt a headache coming on.

By the time I pulled up the drive I wanted to find the asshole who had pounded the invisible train spike into my brow (literally the brow bone over my right eye) and do some pain transference. I popped a Tylenol but the headache just kept coming. The pain remained focused over my right eye, but soon my whole head throbbed. I wondered if and when I would throw up.

I started trying to rate the pain asĀ  the folks in the emergency room had me do when I showed up there a Memorial Day ago with my right wrist broken into seven small pieces. That was an eight-and-a-half to a nine (I very nearly puked and passed out). This headache hovered at a seven.

I yelled at the cat for yelling at me and went upstairs for another Tylenol, a cold cloth, and my bed.

I laid down and felt bad about the cat. I remembered something from Aldous Huxley’s book The Island. A character hurts his knee and goes to the local island doctor who tells him to breath and focus on the pain, not what it feels like to be in pain, but the actual physical region where it hurts. I’d tried it before (with the wrist) and tried it again with the headache. It almost never fails. It is a) something you can do when there’s nothing to be done, b) a great way to calm down, and c) the only way I’ve found that I can leave the experience of the pain and deal with the reality of it.

Truth is, most things that hurt us aren’t that big and don’t hurt much of us. Yet we contort ourselves around emotional reactions of fear and anger when we hurt ourselves. It’s bred into us as kids that Mom and Dad can make something better, but until then everything is a disaster. This breaks that dynamic and keeps us from tensing our entire being around a small area of pain and making it worse.

Fortunately, that and the second Tylenol put me out for 45 minutes and I awoke with just a dull ache.

A slightly panicked trip to the eye doctor the next day left me with two important bits of information: 1) it was an ocular migraine and not so unusual a version and I should only worry if they recur with increasing frequency over the next few months; and 2) I’m not handling stress well.

Doctor’s Prescription: “Get yourself in some Yoga classes.”

And that’s another reason to love Vermont, isn’t it?