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 as  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?