Friday, February 28, 2014

Pain Contingency

Migraines require contingency plans. Usually contingency plans nested inside contingency plans. I suppose any chronic condition does. It's just that this is the one I can talk about as I'm coming down off of a three day ice pick to the brain that did not want to respond to treatment. If this post is less coherent than usual, it's because while the pain is gone, the neurological impact lingers. In brief, here's what a plan looks like:
  1. Lifestyle management - food, exercise, sleep patterns
  2. Preventative measures - prophylactic meds, prescribed supplements
  3. Abortive measures - prescription meds (like Imitrex), heating pads, Tiger Balm
  4. Emergency measures - ER visits, big gun prescription meds, hospitalization
Naturally, the goal is to live in stages 1 and 2 so you don't have to step up to numbers 3 or 4. Especially not step 4. The higher up the chain of numbers you go in this plan, the more time you lose. Recovery takes longer. And if you're trying to get a story on a page on deadline, the last thing you want is a brain scrambled first by migraine pain and then by big gun meds. There are two problems with steps 3 and 4.

First: migraines are an electrical storm in the brain. Synapses are firing in weird, random patterns that have awesomely little to do with anything useful. Like thinking. Or making stuff up for stories that make sense. Apparently, Lewis Carroll was a migraineur and several of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were, in fact, migraine symptoms written and described in terrible detail.

Second: Once the pain hits, looking at anything with a back light is torture. Hell is not a pit of fire where the wicked will burn for eternity. It's an endless cubicle farm of migraineurs trapped amid flickering fluorescent lights and computer screens with visible refresh rates. And perfume. Just thinking about this version of hell is making me queasy.

Thus if any writing is going to be done regardless, the prepared migraineur/writer has: The migraine writing contingency plan.
  1. Glacier Glasses - in the early stages of a migraine, when the words must flow, a pair of polarized glacier glasses will buy a few hours of typing time. When that fails:
  2. Pen and paper - old school. Slow. And eventually, even looking at the contrast of white paper and black ink is more than my challenged neurons can handle and we turn to the last defense:
  3. The Alphasmart - no backlight. Typing. Very low contrast. If your touch typing is remotely trustworthy, this is a great tool. Someone wise put raised bits on the F and J keys so you always know where home row is. Even in the dark. I won't pretend that there won't be some mighty surreal typos to decrypt when you can see again, but hey. Words, right? The only challenge - one I failed this go around - keeping the Alphasmart battery charged up. Oops.


  1. I totally relate to this post, being a lifelong migraineur myself. It IS a storm. and even when it's over, I usually don't feel up to par for a day or true, I do plan my life around a lot of contingencies having to do with avoiding, averting or surviving a migraine.

  2. I have chronic migraines so I do understand. You might want to reconsider the polarized sunglasses for indoor use, especially on a computer (and other e devices). I have read a few articles (which of course I can't find at the moment..) that state that it can actually trigger a migraine. Have you tried migraine glasses? They have a specific tint that helps. I use it when I'm on the comp. It has helped me and also helped the light on the comp to not trigger a migraine. It also helps when I have to be around lights when I have one. I got mine at Axion Optics which worked with the doc who invented them. You can also look around to find others. Btw, also check out Spoon Theory because I think you would understand. :)

    1. Oo! Thank you, I had seen migraine glasses, but not tried them. Looking at the spoon theory, too - cause ANYTHING :D