There’s been a bit of a blogging hiatus here at small, quiet, pretty because: migraine. It’s a strange and fascinating phenomenon, the migraine, in all its many forms. My grandma had the vomity type. My mum has the type that makes you take a tablet every day of your life. I have the type with an aura, visual disturbances, and it happens so infrequently that it catches me unaware and I wonder what’s happening.
I was staring at a page on my computer screen at work and suddenly I realised that some words were missing, particularly in the middle of my vision. “That’s it,” I thought, “I’ve got macular degeneration despite a lifetime of eating masses of vegetables and not smoking and going to bed early like a good girl.” I looked away from the screen, out of the window, and all seemed as it should be except for some wobbly bits. Then I looked over at my co-workers and they had only half a face. Then I knew what was happening: “Aha! Migraine!” (When I told my boss that half her face was missing she said it was probably an improvement!)
Oliver Sacks wrote a brilliant book on migraine. It’s a long time since I read it, and I must read it again. One thing I really liked was that it had drawings of the visual disturbances and hallucinations that migraine aura sufferers experience, and one of them was spot on for me. I see a line of dancing prisms with rainbows glinting in them. They move around my eyes and disturb my vision because, while I can see all the colours of the rainbow shining through them, I can’t see anything else in that spot. It’s hard to put into words how weird and beautiful that is at the same time.
The first time I had a migraine aura, when I was at university, I was walking across a park in Sydney and suddenly the grass was made of winking, sparkling jewels and I felt that I’d seen eternity. I didn’t know what I was experiencing then because it wasn’t followed by a headache. I just thought I’d had some sort of hallucination but it was so gorgeous that it didn’t bother me. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I got a headache straight after the aura and realised that I was now officially a migraineur.
The aura tells you it’s time to take action before the headache kicks in because, boy, when that headache comes, it’s all over. I took some headache tablets and drank some coffee and went to lie in the sick bay at work with a blanket over my head. It kind of worked. I’ve had a minor headache ever since but it’s one I can live with. While I was lying with a blanket over my head, I thought about how much of life is screen based. My whole job is screen based. I communicate with people via a smartphone. I watch TV, not a lot, but little and often. The light from screens is so intense when you’re migrainey and light sensitive. It’s like looking into the sun all the time.
Over the following week, I worked on through the headache. I did neck exercises and gentle yoga and didn’t watch TV. And I thought about creating a different kind of life: moving somewhere where I didn’t have a mortgage and didn’t have to work in a screen-based job. I thought about a life of making things and growing things. I thought about trading in my smartphone for an old style phone without a glowing screen. I’m going to keep thinking about that life. It really does call to me.
I’ll sign off now. That’s enough screen time. Oh, and by the way, the photo is from the Design Museum in Denmark. If anyone knows how to make light beautiful, it’s the Danes.