Glow worm in your eye

Yesterday I experienced my first scintillating scotoma, and it was more than a little freaky.

It came out of nowhere. I’d clocked out to make myself some lunch, and as I sat back down in front of the computer I noticed a flickering splotch of color and light in my vision. It was relatively small and just a little to the right of the center of my vision. I thought at first it was the afterimage of a light burned onto my eye, but I looked around and realized there wasn’t any light source that matched the shape. And it wasn’t behaving like a normal afterimage.

I clocked in and realized that the shape wasn’t going away, and it was hanging out right in the middle of my vision, making it difficult to read text on the screen. This made me think remember the term “scotoma”, which I knew was some sort of malfunction in the brain causing an abnormality in the field of vision. I’d read about scotomas in the book “Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind” by V.S. Ramachandran. It had been a fascinating book, but it had dealt almost exclusively with findings observed in patients with brain injury, ie. stroke.

So I got scared, checked wikipedia for info on scotomas. I scrolled down on the page until I saw scintillating scotoma, clicked the appropriate link, and I was delivered to a picture that depicted pretty much exactly what I was seeing. So I began taking notes.

11:58am scintillating scotoma appears; both eyes but a little brighter in right eye; expanding;

By this time the abnormality had expanded from the size of a cheerio to something like a decent sand dollar. I found it very difficult to read things on the screen and more than a little difficult to think properly. I felt alarmed by the experience but also curious, hence the note-taking.

According to wikipedia, this was the precursor to a migraine. I’ve experienced a grand variety of migraines over the past 12 years that I’ve been having them, but I’ve never seen a light show like this. I felt slightly altered, but otherwise relatively cheery about it, and there was no pain, so I attempted to get back to work.

12:14pm expanded from small slightly off center to peripheral right, less bright in left eye;

12:18pm no longer in left eye

12:22pm no more scotoma but right eye feels “veiled”

The sense of bemused bewilderment increased, and even though I still didn’t feel a headache coming on, I could tell all was not well with my head. I let a coworker know via chat that something very weird was going on with my eyes and that I thought a migraine was on the way. And even as I was saying that, a part of me was doubting. It was kind of like an eerie calm, a haunted feeling that I was trying to talk myself out of. The confusion was actually so profound I didn’t even think to take one of the Maxalt tablets until 12:45pm when a weird stuffy head feeling began to set in.

1:00pm pain getting bad; nauseous; going to lie down;

I took a good bit of aspirin and tylenol on top of the Maxalt and went to lie down, but I was still feeling agitated and didn’t want to sleep, so I attempted to read more about the scintillating scotoma.

So the lights aren’t in the eye, of course. They’re caused by a malfunction in the occipital cortex at the back of the brain, in my case seems like the right occipital cortex since significant pain began to manifest in my left temple.

1:10pm left eye aching;

1:17pm spreading up left side of face above eyebrow to hairline

1:33pm second Maxalt tablet

I went to sleep for a while and had typical struggling migraine dreams, woke in terrible aching pain and sank into a weird depressive malaise for a good ten or fifteen minutes, lost in sad thoughts. When you’re in the throes of a major migraine and your eye feels too big for your face, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself you have a brain tumor. Just sayin.

3:03pm crying

And then I got restless again, and washing dishes seemed to help for whatever reason. I watched the aquarium for a long while and that seemed to center me a bit more emotionally. My eye still hurt and I felt heavy.

5:03pm third Maxalt tablet

I laid back down for another 45 minutes and then, feeling restless again, decided to sweep the floors and boil eggs. After taking the trash out, my blood sugar tanked, and I sat in front of the aquarium eating almond butter out of the jar.

By the time T got home I was starting to thaw out of that intensely fuzzed sick place. What a roller coaster of a day! Who knew a squiggly glow worm in your eye could be the harbinger of such destruction!

Oh, and T brought me a cookie from work, how funny. In my migraine hallucinations earlier in the afternoon I’d actually semi-dreamed about one of those cookies, the big sugar cookie kind that’s dipped half in white chocolate. And in that moment of dreaming I told myself that was ridiculous: he wouldn’t buy a cookie now when he’s on post- oral surgery soft food diet. But he did!

Awh <3


Further adventures in acupuncture

I opted to give acupuncture another go, hoping to help with the recent increase in migraine frequency, as well as to maybe take the edge off of the crazy anxiety that was the unfortunate side effect of the drug I had hoped would help me regulate my migraines. No more of that drug, but it’ll be a few days before it’s completely out of my system.

Acupuncture was intense this time around, more so than last time, though I was somewhat prepared for the hallucinations this time. I wonder how many other people have such wild sensations? I tried to document what I experienced as accurately as I could before I forgot:

A flash and pain when she did the needle between my eyes, and then a surprising throbbing pain when she did the needle on the back of my right arm just above the elbow.

Some interesting altering of perception: at first I had the distinct sense of my father sitting beside me. That changed as time flowed, becoming a less distinct sense, a feeling of someone else to my left standing beside and a little behind me, watching me.

A sudden sensation of fur, not on any particular part of my body, but definitely fur.

Scene, as if a very vivid memory: I’m rolling over in bed to playfully put my arms around T while he’s wrapped in quilts. I can feel the thickness of the quilts between us and the softness of the textiles. It’s all very vivid. A room lit with sun coming through a window to my right.

Another scene: I’m standing hand-in-hand with a small child who has the head of a black kitten rather than a human head. We’re standing together looking down into something, a grave?

I began to have an intense feeling of bodily weakness, feeling too weak to move but still with the giddy flip-stomach feeling going on. I tried to relax into it, let the feeling take me wherever it was going to.

The flute on the acupuncture room’s soundtrack transformed itself into a large translucent tulip-like flower made of pastel lace. I rubbed the fibers across my lips and cheeks, feeling the soft yet scratchy texture, again with amazing vividness.

A scene: an emaciated man, possibly an amputee lying in a disreputable hospital cot. My gaze catches him in the act of reaching over the side of the bed to pull something from under the mattress. He hesitates, looking back at me.

A flash of light in my lower left eye. A vibration on my right hand between the third and fourth knuckles (where one of the needles were, I later confirmed).

A recurring sense of being flipped upside down. One such scene, particularly vivid in detail: a tiled room with a staircase, insufficiently lit, possibly neglected, a feeling of sadness. Suddenly I flip upside down, an inversion, so my face is hovering inches from the tile floor. I can see it in such detail, the texture of dirt/dust on black/white checkerboard tiles. My feet are in the air where my head was, a sense that gravity has inverted me. It’s right this way, though it’s wrong.

An image of a forest, black under blanket of night. They poke tiny holes in the sky with their upturned branches, allowing light to twinkle through.

Scene: holding hands with the cat-child again, tears on my cheeks.

Waves of soft round sadness.

Recurring flashes of T’s face in hyper-detail. It’s like an image I can hold onto and examine with multiple senses, more solid than a normal memory.

I could tell when the acupuncture began to wear off because images become less-formed, more transparent, harder to hold onto, and less frequent.

By the end I was merely lying in a recliner again, in a softly lit room with some New Age music playing gently in the background. She came by the remove the needles, I gathered my things and left.