Friday, January 23, 2009

Explaining cubism.

Earlier this week, Morgan sent me a link to this slide show of migraine inspired art, with the warning not to look at the images for too long. As someone who's lived with migraines for nearly 25 years, I was fascinated by how closely some of the images mapped to what I see when I get migraines, and by how different some of them were. There's an article by Oliver Sacks linked to the slide show, in which he discusses the geometric patterns he sees when he gets visual migraines, and how consistent this geometry is among others who get them as well. I've never been lucky enough to just get a visual migraine - when I get them, I get numbness, light sensitivity, loss of vision, headaches, and nausea - and I'm intrigued by the notion of geometric auras. My auras are never geometric; rather, I've described it as a hole in my vision, always centered in my left eye, that seems to have running water around it. You know when its been raining heavily and your windows are steamed up on the inside and water is running down the outside and you just can't see out? That's what my vision looks like during a migraine. But the geometric hallucinations/auras go a long way to explaining cubism, don't they?

I'm pretty sure its completely coincidental, but I got hit with my first pregnancy migraine last night. Its actually something I was concerned about long before I was even pregnant. I've known migraine sufferers whose headaches complete go away when they get pregnant; I've known others whose headaches increase to daily during pregnancy. A few years ago, after resolutely believing that nothing could touch my migraines, a former boss kind of changed my world by handing me one of her Maxalts when I was getting a migraine during a board meeting for which I was supposed to be taking minutes. Within ten minutes, the aura had disappeared; it took me longer to shake the actual headache, but I never threw up, and after an hour or two, was able to drive home without putting myself or anyone else at risk. The problem? Maxalt is a Category C drug, meaning its definitely not safe to take during pregnancy.

So here's hoping this migraine was a fluke, and it won't become a recurring thing during the rest of my pregnancy. As far as severity goes, this one was both mild and confusing. I didn't get as completely wiped out as I usually do, but the symptoms arrived in entirely the wrong order. After 25 years of observing the onset of my migraines and knowing almost exactly how long I have after my hands go numb until I lose my vision, until the pain descends, until the nausea sets in, this one threw me for a loop. Nausea first, then the aura, then the headache. Oh, and a mild inability to talk for a while (sorry, Mom).

It seems to have mostly passed, leaving me just the lovely hangover headache, but I stayed home from work today because in the last few years, my migraines have tended to cluster, arriving right on top of each other. I am terrified by the idea of getting stuck in Orinda, in an office filled with fluorescent lights and no soft surfaces, and not being able to get myself home. For now I'm going to take advantage of Isobel's unprecedented affection and curl up with my girl in our nice, dark living room. Sleep is honestly the only remedy I have ever found for these things.

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