"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 September 2009

Visual Migraines

This morning I showed up in the wrong classroom, planning to teach my 12:00 class at 10:00. Melissa and Rob finally straightened me out and I got to the right place only seven minutes late. And what a great class -- they were discussing their homework while waiting patiently for me to arrive.

Excuses for absurdity are always nice -- so here's mine.

I had been putting together the handouts for the 12:00 class (the 10:00 was already planned). A student came in to talk about an essay; when she left, about 9:20, I turned to my computer and saw strange lights on the screen -- the kind you see if you've been staring at a bright light and then look away. But I hadn't been staring at a bright light. I blinked and closed my eyes for several seconds, but the odd light remained. I got up, walked out into the department suite, and the light came with me: that was when I knew what it was.

The first visual migraine I had was terrifyingly amazing. It looked almost exactly like the top simulation at this site, except that the lines were all jagged instead of blocky, and the colors seemed a little brighter. It happened in the summer, sometime after we had moved here ten years ago. When it faded away, within 30 seconds it began again. Overall, it lasted nearly an hour. When it finally stopped, I got up, stumbled outside where K. was working, and wailed to him, "I'm going blind!!!"

Since then, I've had three or four, none so spectacular, thank the Lord. They've lasted about half an hour, and look more like the "Scintillating Socoma" at the same site I linked above, or the "Optical Migraine," except with color. The simulation half-way down this page captures the shimmering nature of the phenomonon quite accurately. This clock figure shows how they typically grow and begin to fade.

I've been blessed that these visual migraines are not followed by full-blown migraine headaches; for some people they are a headache aura. But still they wear me out, making my brain feel tired and leaving my body a little shaky.

So when the migraine started this morning, and the last thing I'd been doing before was preparing for a class -- that's the class I went to. The migraine itself finally faded out as I entered the wrong classroom. And when I finally got to the right class, I felt like I was slogging through deep sand to pull a thought up and put it into words.

And that, boys and girls, explains why I was more weird than usual this morning. Thanks for your patience and for laughing with me. And may you never experience migraines of any sort!


Stephen said...

Wow. I'm glad you haven't had to deal with those too often. And I didn't notice anything unusual about class this morning, once we started. :)

alaiyo said...

You are very kind!

GrumpyTeacher1 said...

How awful! I hope you don't have any more of those.

Lutestring said...

Oh, I am so sorry! That must have been so disorienting and frightening. *hugs*

alaiyo said...

Me, too, Scott -- though they are a pretty interesting psychedelic experience if you don't have to *do* anything for a while! :)

Monika, dear heart, were you on campus last week and I missed you? Thanks for the hugs!

Debbie said...

As I'm having one of those optical or visual migraines, right now, (it is finally fading away), I Googled "visual migraines" and found the simulator you referred to, and also your blog. The simulator is amazingly similar to mine, as well, only mine are more silver and iridescent. What the simulator does not show is how disorienting and disturbing they are. I sympathize with you entirely! These upsetting optical migraines started, out of the blue, about two years ago, and I have one, about, every couple of months. I had no idea what was going on, at first, but researched it and learned what the phenomenon is. However, it is still very disturbing, although supposedly harmless.

Debbie said...

Professor, I should have empathized with you! LOL

Lutestring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lutestring said...

I was - I am trying to go to the library every Friday and do some of my personal writing regularly. So far I have barely written anything in the several hours, but I have this strong feeling that just sitting there regularly with a specific intent is something! And I am seriously in love with those desks. :P

I did go in the English Department for a moment to return a book to Pam, but she wasn't there at the time and I didn't peek in your office because I had the feeling you were busy. I will pop in next time and give you a real hug though. I really hope you feel better! <3

Lutestring said...

(sorry for the delete, that is what I get for trying to write after midnight. Off to bed. :P)

alaiyo said...

Thanks for visiting, Debbie -- I'm guessing you teach, too? So weird to try to get anything done with these migraines!

Do pop in, Monika! I'm afraid I am often busy on Friday afternoons, but I am never too busy for a hug! You know what Flannery O'Connor said, right? That she spent certain hours always at her desk, and if inspiration wished to visit her, it knew where to find her. :)

Debbie said...

alaiyo, actually, I'm a health care professional turned newspaper editor. I just happened upon your site and found it so charming that I've come back to read your blogs!