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.
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!