To Which Reality to You Subscribe?
In the Matrix Morpheus offers Neo a choice of the red pill or the blue pill, two alternative realities reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. These red and blue pills are my version.
For most of my life I have had severe migraines. I know, you’re saying, “Buckup, Boy! They’re just headaches.” Yes, well perhaps they are for you. Severe migraines though can be something entirely different. They may not even hurt. Or they may be felt in some other part of the body other than the head. The pain is not really a problem. After half a century you kind of get used to living with it. Pain just hurts.
Research shows that migraines shut down parts of the brain. I can go blind, lose other senses and functions or senses get misinterpreted. Smells become too intense, colors too loud, lights shimmer and blind, touch becomes hypnotic or agonizing, speech loses meaning, prioritization goes out the window, faces lose meaning, dizziness, nausea, spiders on my skin that aren’t really there and sometimes vomiting – that helps. It all depends on which parts of the brain goes dormant. It’s not a headache although that can be a component of the total. Mild migraines last for a few hours. Bad ones last for up to two weeks.
Until I was 21 I didn’t know I even had migraines. I just thought they were bad headaches and the other stuff was just weirdness. Then one day in the spring of 1986 I gradually went blind. It wasn’t black. It wasn’t white. It was something else. All I saw was a shimmer of all colors at once. That’s the best I can describe it. A couple of small patches were left that I could still see out of but gradually those were closing in. I went to an eye doctor thinking I had detached retinas or something, in both eyes. He examined me and said, “Son, you have migraines, there’s no cure, go sit in a dark room until it goes away.” So for the next couple of decades that is what I did. Three days later I could see again.
When a migraine is coming on the part of the brain being affected produces odd effects which are termed auras which come ahead of the intense effects. Think of it as the warning light on the dashboard. It gives a limited time to get somewhere safe. One of my auras is the smell of dog shit, when there is no dog shit around. It is very intense and non-directional. Smell is an important sense to me. If I smell dog shit and can’t find any I know I am headed for a migraine. Another is the edges of things in my vision begin to become overly sharp. Sort of like the sharpening filter in Photoshop taken to an extreme. Some colors may become violently intense, especially those with UV tones and in the pink part of the spectrum, fluorescing in my vision. It can make me feel nauseous to look at them. There are other auras, all warnings that systems are going down. Pull over and hang on.
In 1999 another doctor put me on Depakote, a trade name for valproic acid. Normally that’s used to treat epilepsy. Sometimes it works for bad migraines. It took a fairly high dose but the Depakote provided considerable relieve, lessening the intensity and frequency of the migraines. Before that I would lose days in a row to the migraines. With the Depakote it was reduced to hours or a day on rare occasions.
In 2015 I saw a new neurologist about the migraines because they were becoming worse. He said, “Oh, we’ve solved that. Nobody should suffer from migraines anymore.” After running a bunch of tests to make sure there was no other underlying problem he put me on Amitriptyline. One pill a night. It really works! I went from having multiple migraines a week to one or two a month. He also gave me Sumatriptan which aborts the few that got through in about 15 minutes. WOW! As time passed the migraines have further declined, something he said would likely happen. As it stands now I haven’t had a migraine for two months.
I find I still have to take some Depakote but not as much as before. When I ease off the Depakote I start getting spiders on my skin. They’re not really there. I can look right at the spot and there is nothing on me. But I can feel them. It is an intense sensation. A low dose of Depakote seems to keep the spiders up on the ceiling where they belong.
Other issues that I had not realized were migraine related have also vanished. I used to have pain in my lower left jaw like there were broken teeth. Dentists could find nothing wrong but they were quite willing to drill and poke around. Unfortunately even root canals didn’t stop the pain. It is a phantom pain. Turns out that was a form of migraine and it is now gone with the Amitriptyline. I also had pains in my shins. My mother always told me they were growing pains. I’ve had them since I was eight or ten. That too is now gone. A number of other symptoms have vanished. It’s amazing to be free of all of that. It gives me more focus, more time in my life.
Side effects you ask? Well, there are potential side effects of Amitriptyline like drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, weight gain, or trouble urinating but I don’t any of them so all is good for me. Frankly, I would probably put up with some of that for the benefit of not having migraines anymore.
This may not work for everyone. Migraines are probably one of those catch all terms that covers many different things. I know a woman who got kicked in the head by a horse which caused her migraines. She says that Depakote, Amitriptyline and Sumatriptan don’t work for her. You mileage may vary.
So why the red and blue pills? Recently the pharmacy changed the color of the pill. Perhaps it’s a different source. That’s all. It made an interesting composition for a photograph and that necessitated a story to go with it. No matter the color the pill, red or blue, I’ll take the clearer reality it gives.
If you’re wondering about the scallop seashell see the article Feeling Flushed.
Outdoors: 68°F/53°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/63°F
Daily Spark: To make tempered glass they heat the glass and then cool it rapidly. If it is done wrong you end up with bad tempered glass.