Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Migraine PSA

I got a migraine this morning, and now I'm doing fine. I don't know whether I've just been lucky these past couple of times or whether I've finally figured out how to deal with them. But because I get silent migraines most of the time, which are fairly unusual, I thought I'd mention them in case any of you has the same symptoms and is looking for a solution.

A silent migraine is basically a migraine without the headache. Everyone has different migraine symptoms, but mine are always the same: a sort of motion-sickness-like nausea, oversensitivity to light, extreme oversensitivity to smell (it's a dead giveaway when I'm in a place I've visited many times and smell things I've never smelled before), and difficulty processing visual cues. I know that visual symptoms like flashing lights or jagged lines are common with migraines, and I don't get any of those. I can see fine, but I have trouble understanding what I see or responding appropriately to it, which means driving with a migraine takes 100% of my attention. On rare occasions, I've also gotten tingling in my extremities, particularly the toes on my left foot.

Migraines are really, really weird.

Maybe 15 or 20% of the time I get these symptoms, they're followed by a severe headache, of the moany-groany, can't-do-anything, please-kill-me-now variety. The rest of the time, the nausea just gets progressively worse until I can't do anything but lie on my back. Fortunately, I seem to have found a formula that forestalls or stops these serious symptoms most of the time. For a silent migraine, three Tylenol (aspirin works better, but I can't take it) and a glass of water, followed by a small dose of caffeine and at least an hour of quiet "down time" seems to work. For a migraine with headache, Tylenol and water, followed by a nap or at least a couple of hours of lying down in a dark room, and finally a hot shower and another glass of water. I have no idea why the shower helps, but it really does. Also, this may be just superstition, but I never touch alcohol until I'm sure that the migraine is completely gone.

Finally, I'm fortunate that one of the drugs I take occasionally for my stomach, metoclopramide, is also used to treat migraine-related nausea. This drug can, rarely, have nasty side effects, especially in large dosages, so I'm not recommending that you Go Ask Your Doctor necessarily, but it might be something to consider if you have severe nausea with migraines. (I haven't had any side effects from the tiny dosage I take.)

Finally, I would like to complain about how annoying it is that no one knows what causes migraines, or even what they are, physiologically speaking. It's obnoxious to have to treat a disorder by trial and error, without having any idea why certain things work and others don't. If anyone knows anyone who does research on migraines, let me know so I can give that person moral support and brownies.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Things

Yesterday I did two things I had never done before: I went to the public library down the street, and I baked bread. I guess technically I had baked bread before, but only in the bread machine on "auto," and usually with a boxed mix. This was a simple recipe, but it involved figuring out what it meant for yeast to be proofed, realizing that 6 cups of flour was not, in fact, enough on an incredibly humid summer day, knowing when each rise was finished, and testing whether the bread was cooked through. It wasn't difficult, but it was all new to me, and I enjoyed it. Plus, now I have a big ol' loaf of white bread in the freezer for later and a gallon bag of dinner rolls on the counter for the next couple of days. And I have conquered Fear of Yeast. It was a good day.

I would like to do some small new thing each weekday over the next few weeks. Trying a new recipe counts, but I'd also like to go new places. I've always been afraid to go to new places alone. I'm not afraid of the place itself, I'm afraid that I won't be able to find it, or that I'll get there but not know which door to go through (this is a huge fear and I've found that a surprising number of people share it), or that I'll somehow sense that I'm not welcome. The thing is, in a few months I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh, and Shawn isn't going to be coming with me, nor will I have my cadre of law school friends or my family to accompany me on new ventures. So I'm just going to have to get over it, or else I'm going to end up reliving my last stint in Pittsburgh, going only where I've gone before. And that would just be sad.

Anyway, today I think I'm going to try making a tortilla espaƱola for dinner. And sour cherry crisp, because my beloved translucent-red sour cherries were at the grocery store yesterday, in big quart boxes. Because I could lie on the couch all day and read things on The Internets, but then I really wouldn't be acquiring any skills. And I'd rather learn skills than facts any day.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I guess I am still getting my calm back after all that tension.

The bar exam is over and please don't ask me how it went. I guess maybe there are people who come out of that exam feeling like they knew the relevant law, wrote coherent essays and picked the best answer choice rather than the second best (or the "sucker choice," as the BarBri instructors like to call it). I am not one of those people. Taking the bar exam showed me in blinding detail just how much I didn't know. Now I just need to hope there were a sufficient number of exam-takers who knew even less.

We spent the weekend on Cape Cod, at Shawn's adviser's summer house. We ate delicious fresh food out on the back deck by the garden, I pored over cookbooks for hours, and I started reading The Secret Life of Bees, which got me so hooked that I'm about to leave for the library so I can finish it. I continue to be amazed at how deeply I'm sleeping. I guess I'm making up for lost peace of mind.

The things I thought I would want to do when I finished the bar were mostly mindless, like watching lots of TV and wandering around the mall. But those are the sorts of things you crave when your mind is totally occupied and taxed. Now, with brain waves to spare, I want to do things that fit in that sweet spot between total attentiveness and meditation: bake bread, sit in the shade and write poems, go for walks with the dog, knit a sweater from a new pattern. I'm going to let my intuition take the lead for a while.