The Red Pill or The Blue Pill?

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.

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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.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to The Red Pill or The Blue Pill?

  1. Bill Harshaw says:

    Glad modern medicine has something which works for you.

    My mother had migraines, not quite as severe as yours (incapacitated for a couple days every 2-3 weeks at the worst). This was back in the day when medicine didn’t know for sure whether there was a physical cause or it was all psychological, which made things tougher for the family. As she aged into her 60’s, they gradually grew less common and finally went away completely.

  2. Chiral says:

    I take amitriptyline for this too. I still get them sometimes, but they are milder now and go away quicker. I had to do the research myself though. I find myself doing that a lot these days. I still have to pay the docs to write the script.

    When I saw the photo, I recognized the pills but couldn’t place them.

  3. Pitt 2500 says:

    U sure those blue pills aren’t Viagra???
    Having grown up on my grandparent’s farm in Murfreesboro, Tn, I really enjoy your site.
    We used to slaughter about 6 hogs after the second hard freeze as I recall.
    It was a long day that started before daybreak but the country hams & smoked sausage made it all worth while.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Julia says:

    I’m so glad you’ve found a regimen that works for your migraines, which sound just terrible. I get migraines, but they aren’t as disabling. If I wake up with a pain in my eye, I know a migraine is starting. I get you on how sometimes vomiting is a relief!

    I’ve had migraines for decades, but more recently I started having significant back pain which I figure is secondary to my (mild) scoliosis. I tried lots of different things for that, but what really works is yoga. If I make it to two yoga sessions a week, my back is good.

    A few weeks ago I was talking about how the yoga keeps my back pain away and a coworker pointed out that I’m having a lot few migraines. She was right! It’s hard to make a direct connection between the two, but the correlation is there. . .

  5. Leese says:

    Glad you have found relief, it is very hard to explain constant pain to people who don’t live with it on a daily bases. I have fibromyalgia & hemochromatosis (iron overload). My life severely changed after my fibromyalgia diagnosis. It’s difficult when on the outside you look okay.

  6. Ron says:

    Have you ever tried vitamin B complex? Most of my family has migraines in one form or another. My mom had severe ones when I was little. She discovered that taking one pill a day keeps them away. I’ve taken them for 30 years myself and don’t get migraines anymore.

  7. Lynn says:

    I’m sure you’ve looked into and tried quite a few different things, but in the interest of putting the information out there, I thought I’d list a few things that may (or may not) help various people with migranes, in addition to medication.
    Massage therapy
    Vitamins & minerals (magnesium deficiency can definitely contribute to headaches, as well as muscle and bone aches. But magnesium should be taken in conjunction with calcium and vitamin D)

  8. Peter says:

    The red pill/blue pill thing actually reminded me of an old Mission:Impossible episode, wherein (part of) the solution to the problem of the counterfeiting of the prescription drug was….to change the color of the coating.

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