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Wednesday, July 20, 2005  

My Brain Hurts, Part Two: Electric Brainaloo

Yesterday at about 3:30, I was in a meeting at work. I glanced across the table at my coworker. I noticed that when I focused on his right eye, his left eye seemed to disappear. Closer examination revealed that there was nothing wrong with his left eye; it’s just that when I looked at him a certain way, that feature of his face melted into a blank socket.

Knowing from experience that when I’m getting a migraine, the first symptom is a blind spot, I excused myself to my desk and popped the Imitrex I keep stashed there. I returned to the meeting, smugly thinking I’d caught it in time. As anyone who’s ever had a migraine knows, it’s all about dealing with it before it gets too big and you find yourself being slotted into a CT scanner at two in the morning. I felt pretty confident that wasn’t going to happen this time.

And I was right, but I wasn’t entirely unscathed, either. The blind spot grew and the headache arrived as the meeting wore on. And then I realized that just like last time, my brain’s language centers were under attack. Last time I couldn’t talk; this time I couldn’t read. No matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn’t make the printed paragraph on the page in front of me make a lick of sense. And I’d written it.

I faked my way through the rest of the meeting, even managing to take a couple of notes that I was surprised to be able to read this morning. But when we got out a little after four, it became clear that I wasn’t going to make it through the rest of the day. Not as a writer, anyway, which is what I do. If I hadn’t already suspected that, I would have known for sure when it took me almost ten minutes to pinch out a one-line e-mail that I owed to a few vice presidents by the end of the day. What follows is that e-mail is in its entirety:

The proposal first draft of for [PROSPECTIVE CLIENT] is attached. Please response or feedback as available.

Thank god for spell-check.

And then I tried to tell my boss that I was leaving early because I was sick, although I’m pretty sure that I opened the conversation by introducing myself.

It wasn’t nearly as terrifying as last time, because now I knew it was only temporary. But as I walked to my car (reflexes, reaction time, motor control, and depth perception were all fine, thanks for asking, although my hands kept not being where I thought they were in relation to my head), I again found myself wondering what I was going to do with my life if my linguistic abilities had left me for good this time. I probably couldn’t go back to the call center I left two years ago. I’m too old to get into construction or some other kind of skilled labor. Really, I would have had no choices but to go on disability or become a rock star. And then I couldn’t remember if the song on the alternative station was playing on my drive home was by Possum Dixon or Harvey Danger or Foghorn Leghorn, and I decided that being a rock star is probably a lot of work anyway.

I really kind of wanted to try and write an entry in that state for y’all’s entertainment (“This freak of nature has English words, but can’t use them! Step right up and witness the Human Babel Fish!”), but when Trash met me at the front door I could barely explain what was wrong, let alone try to convince her to let me do something that she would have thought was a horrible idea anyway. I was able to get out the word “migraine,” and tried to keep her from freaking out as best I could once I’d accomplished that. I spoke slowly, to make sure I was choosing the right words. Even do, I didn’t bat quite a thousand.

“It’s okay, I took a poll in time.”

“You took a poll?”

“A pill. I took a pill.”

“A migraine pill?”

“Yeah, I keep one in my dick.”


“My desk at work. I keep one in my desk.”

“You’re going to lie down and go to sleep now.”


I woke up a few hours later with the remains of a headache and the ability to recite most of the Pledge of Allegiance. I was even able to spend a little time on this week’s recap before bedtime (and if it sucks, please keep it to yourself), although I slept late this morning just to be safe.

Try an experiment some time. Think of the one thing you do better than anything else. And then suddenly be unable to do it. Not well; not passably; not at all. Be scared shitless. Then get it back.

Then do it again nine months later. The second time, I promise you’ll find it a lot funnier.

Today’s best search phrase: “Pub quiz gossips.” Maybe some people need to find something else to gossip about.

posted by M. Giant 6:30 PM 13 comments


My migranes are just the blindness, and a bit of a headache.
Yesterday morning after my shower, I was dring myself and looking into the mirror. I suddenly noticed I only had half a face. The other half, though, instead of being greyed out like my normal migrane, was like an electic psychadelic swirl. As I continued to get dry, the swirl got bigger, and more frantic (with really jagged edges). I had some disolvable asprin, and the swirl turned to grey.
I took myself off to work, with no real side-effects, other than me forgetting to bring my yr 10 class's marked assignments.
Was fine for most of the day - happy that I'd avoided total blindness, and no headache at all. Yay me.
Then came playground duty.
I was standing, talking to a student, when I was almost knocked off my feet. I honestly don't know how I managed to stay upright. A yr 11 student had managed to kick a soccer ball directly into the back of my head. Now, I've been hit with balls before, both as a spectator and a competitor, but I have never been hit as hard as this.
And - the headache that I had successfully avioded that morning - hit me. Complete with dizziness, shaking, blurred vision, and vagueness. And it lasted all of yesterday afternoon and evening (I couldn't celebrate that my boyfriend submitted his thesis). It disturbed my sleep all night last night, and I still feel kinda odd today.

By Blogger alivicwil, at July 20, 2005 at 8:09 PM  

wow. I've had migraines since I was three years old, and I don't know how to react. On the one hand, it's so cool that you actually have visual warning signs; I've never been that fortunate. On the other hand, I can't imagine having a migraine attack my language centers in the way you describe.

Until a couple of years ago I would have a migraine every other week or so without any warning. Imitrex is a wonderful invention and I kept one somewhere on my person at all times for several years. Finally my doctor decided to try me on a beta blocker and I've been pretty much migraine free for two years...

What happens to you sounds pretty scary, but at least it has a humorous side to it!

By Anonymous Jennifer, at July 21, 2005 at 7:55 AM  

Beta blockers are wonderful! While I'm not quite migraine free, they help a lot. Although the first brand I tried gave me vocal dyslexia. I had to think about everything before saying it or all the syllables would be in the wrong place in the word. Also, I couldn't type, or read, or concentrate, basically. Try living with this, while being a literature major, during finals. The doc was finally convinced they weren't the right brand for me when I got into his office and he couldn't understand anything I said. (5 weeks later) You wouldn't believe how grateful I was to get the migraines back, if it meant me being able to actually live my life alongside my language brain components.

By Anonymous Kat, at July 21, 2005 at 8:45 AM  

I have seizures and when I feel one coming on, I can't understand what people are saying and I can't speak or read. It's so completely terrifying. Luckily I barely ever have them since I'm on medication, but still. I actually have learned to calm myself and not end up having a full seizure by counting or saying the alphabet--I can't really understand myself but the repetivity (is that a word?) is useful. I don't know if that would work for migraines, but they're definitely related--my medication (Depakote) is used for migraines as well. I hope it's a long while before you have to deal with it again!

By Anonymous monkeypants, at July 21, 2005 at 11:10 AM  

Damn - that's scary. I get blinding pain and I can't see straight and I thought I had it bad. I was wrong.

However, Google is here to help. All of your ads appear to be about headache fixers.

By Anonymous Geena, at July 21, 2005 at 1:37 PM  

Me again. I clicked through one of the ads on the right and found some of the symptoms and causes of magraines. Check this site out: http://www.relpax.com/relpax/relpax.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=sectionPage§ion=About+Migraine&menuid=Menu-About-migraines-switcher.xml
It sounds like you get *aura* migraines.

See? The ads are good for something besides making money!

By Anonymous Geena, at July 21, 2005 at 1:41 PM  

That is really, really scary. I'm glad this time was better than the last.

By Blogger Nancy, at July 21, 2005 at 1:56 PM  

Dude, is that normal? You write about it as though it's no big deal, so I'm going to assume it's normal, and not dangerous.

And as long as that's the case, your helicopter chicken stand by me artichoke.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at July 21, 2005 at 2:27 PM  

Yikes. I have migraines every now and then, but you're like in the Super Bowl of Migraines or something compared to my piddly-dunk high school versions. Mine are always behind my left eye, and I feel them coming on, especially under stress. Imitrex is The Drug of all drugs!! So say we all! Hopefully your med coverage didn't suddenly limit your prescription like mine did.

By Anonymous brian, at July 21, 2005 at 7:58 PM  

Dude. That's so not cool. I have migraines and I get bits blanking out of my vision, but mostly just extreme intense pain. What you just described is scary and I'm really glad it's never happened to me, though now I've said that it'll probably happen tomorrow.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 21, 2005 at 9:35 PM  

I can't believe you drove home in that condition.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 22, 2005 at 11:55 AM  

Hey man, sorry you had to go through that, but thanks for posting it when you felt better. Glad to know I am not the only one who's brain turns into swiss cheese when the migraine hits. I can't talk, think, or even walk straight sometimes. Imitrex is a life-saver, but when that doesn't work, thank goodness for Vicodin!

By Anonymous Sarah, at July 25, 2005 at 12:07 PM  

Today I experience something that was so crazy I had to come to the net and find out if anyone else had.
I have suffered with 3 migraines before in my life, however today was a mind blowing experience, I was gardening and started to get multi coloured zig zags accross my vision, and this intensified until I was at the point of not seeing properly, I thought 'wow' due to previous squiggly lines I knew a possible migraine was on the way.
However I got to lie on my bed shut my eyes and was subject to a phycadelic [spelling?] show.
It was truly amazing with all the colors and shapes of the rainbow, this continued for a full 15 mins..with my eyes tightly shut.
I then tried to use the phone and my my voice sounded so slow and distant..I actually managed to get a friend to take me to a chemist for meds...however I felt so stoned and so missing, I could not pronounce words at the right speed and my brain would not work..
To top this story off..I ended up with just a mild headache, which was a blessing..but man the side show that came before it....was amazing..and no I am not on drugs..just subject to a very colorful entertaining migraine, that left me feeling completely washed out..and almost the feeling like my brain was on holiday...somewhere.

By Anonymous Lila, at January 2, 2006 at 10:56 PM  

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