silent but colorful

13Jan11

With enough distance, I am now fascinated instead of terrified of something that happened to me Tuesday morning. On a drive to an 8am meeting, I started to throw double takes at flashing lights in my periphery. I soon realized that it was in my eyes, and mused that it was probably afterimage from my 4-year-old’s headlamp (he’d been excavating under couches and stoves in the early morning dark). But as the visual feedback began to increase, I knew it couldn’t be that. Then I noticed that it wasn’t in only one eye, but in both– a disturbance in the right visual field. And that, to me, says brain. My grandfather had a stroke, and through that experience and the classic “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” I know that each eye is connected to both hemispheres– the visual center for the right half of each eye is in the left hemisphere, while the left half of each eye sends signals to the right. My grandfather, for example, would eat all the food on only one side of his plate, because that’s all he could see.

So anyway.

A few days before, I had knocked myself on the left side of my temple with a door. Totally laughable until this moment, especially as the flashes turned into zig-zags and started to shift rapidly through striated colors, sort of like a Jacob Magraw-Mickelson painting animated.


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By the time I arrived at school, I was suitably frightened. The curve of electric pulse was moving from the right periphery into the middle of my cone of vision. Looking at the computer keyboard, for example, was a spotty fog. And then, it faded away.

After some consultation and research (yes, google research) I deduced that the symptoms were probably not a delayed concussion from my super awesome door-closing blunder, but that they seemed exactly like the descriptions of pre-migraine optical feedback. I’ve had migraines, but never this light show. So I waited. But while I felt distracted and a little lightheaded, I never got the headache.

After a  little more google research, I conclude that what I experienced was a silent migraine– or a migraine aura without the headache. So now I wonder about artists like Magraw-Mickelson– have they experienced things like this before?

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5 Responses to “silent but colorful”

  1. 1 Aaron

    I have had this thing for years where distances and sizes get wonky from time to time. I will suddenly feel as if I am sinking backwards into a chair and getting heavy, or I will be looking at someone and their head will begin to grow and grow as the rest of them shrinks. Weird I know but even weirder is the fact that I never thought to wonder what it was, until one day my mom described these same symptoms to me and said it was a form of migraine. I kind of enjoy it when it happens.

    • i think if it happens again, and i’m not driving, i’ll be able to enjoy it. i kind of enjoy the memory of it, when i clear away the panic 🙂

  2. I have *totally* experienced ocular migraines before, and they’re very unsettling! I always think of Louis Wain’s schizophrenic cats. I wonder, too …

    • do you experience the garden variety (headache) version too? do you ever get the fireworks before pain? it was so weird waiting for it like an approaching tsunami… and then nuthin.

  3. Sorry to hear of it. I’ve heard as our brain ages, migranes can change and mutate. This happens to a dear friend of mine. She is a fully creative being from every hair to every heart beat and I sort of wonder if there isn’t a higher percentage of artists who suffer with this. . .some kind of awakening in the brain. Rest well, dear one.


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