I’m not stupid–its just a Migraine.

9 Nov
I've had a migraine/headache for 6 days straig...

I’ve had a migraine/headache for 6 days straight. Today was so bad I couldn’t concentrate on what I was saying. I’m not even sure I knew WHAT I was saying because of the pain. I even mixed up two people’s names and felt really dumb afterwards. Anyone got a migraine cure? ūüôā (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you’re a lawyer, especially a trial lawyer or litigator, you’re expected to be quick on your feet, to speak eloquently and dramatically, to have a quick wit and sharp brain, and to be all around intellectually intimidating. Most television shows¬†portray lawyers this way (if not busy portraying lawyers as slimy and unethical asses). Think of the quick dialogue from Boston Legal Law & Order (and all its spinoffs). The lawyers never pause in their speech, always know the proper case and citation, never stutter or mis-speak, and, more or less appear super-human.

Real life is different. Even taking migraine or other chronic pain out of the picture, real lawyers do not always speak perfectly. They pause. They use the wrong words. They forget what they are saying. They need to stop and read from their notes. They are, after all, regular human speakers.

Intelligence in our society seems to be a highly treasured characteristic, if slightly behind sex appeal and beauty. Intelligence is extremely valued in the legal community. The worst insult one lawyer can apply to another is “she’s stupid”.
Now lets add migraine to this variable.

When I have a migraine or a constant headache, it affects my speech and verbosity.¬† I speak¬† a little slower, often pick the wrong word, and sometimes have a terrible time just getting the sentence out.¬† Its terribly¬†frustrating and often results in me speaking and interacting less until the migraine or headache lessens.¬† This is common with migraine and is known as transient aphasia.¬† This is a great blog explaining another migraineur’s experience http://migraine.com/blog/migraine-symptoms-transient-aphasia/¬†Essentially, our speech is affected while our migraine is at its worst.

Here’s another explanation: think of the last time you were really sick and were trying not to throw up all over the place.¬† You spent most of your time holding your breath, keeping your mouth shut, and avoiding conversation until the vomiting passed.¬† When forced to speak, your words were simple and your sentenced shortened.¬† Your brain power wasn’t diminished any; you just were allocating your power and effort to the most important task at that time: keeping the vomit inside of you.

This is how migraine is for me.¬† When I am putting all of my energy and effort into making it through the day with migraine (including breathing, thinking, walking, talking, writing, and, sometimes, not throwing up) I do not have as much energy to allocate to creating eloquent wording.¬† I’m not stupid, I’m just surviving migraine.

The point: the next time you see someone stuttering, pausing while speaking, using the wrong word, appearing slightly spacey, or just ‘off’, before you make fun of them or judge them as stupid, consider that they must just be dealing with constant pain.

Sometimes there just isn’t a reason

24 Aug

Whenever I tell my father that I have a migraine or a headache, his inevitable response is “well, stop thinking! You’re obviously stressing yourself out!”¬† I inevitably get annoyed by his response and then change the subject.

Yes, migraines can be caused by stress or as a rebound after a very stressful event has passed.¬† I can get¬†a¬†migraine if I am ‘worked up’ or very worried about something.¬† But these are not the only reasons I get migraines.

Sometimes, I get a migraine because I am overly sensitive to a certain smell.¬† Strong perfume, cigarette smoke, rubber, the Yankee Candle store, and new car smell are all some of the odors I’ve discovered that can trigger a migraine.

But then again, sometimes I get a migraine because of light or sound.  Like an epileptic, flashing or strobe lights disrupt my brain processes and cause a migraine with characteristics of loss of vision or fading peripheral sight.  Headlights at night, camera flashes, and the eye doctors penlight always cause my headaches.

Imagine having a constant hang-over, in which sounds, smells, movement, and light are amplified.¬† This is how I always feel even without a migraine, but its ‘hang-over exaggerated’ when I have a full-blown migraine.

Sometimes its food that can cause a migraine.  The only food trigger that I have positively identified is wine, tequila, vodka, and Chinese food.  I avoid foods with significant preservatives, like sausages, pepperoni, lunch meat, etc.  Gotta avoid pesky MSG.

But then again, and to my utmost frustration, sometimes there just isn’t a reason that I get a migraine.¬† I just do.¬† Sometimes I wake up with one.¬† Sometimes I go to bed with one.¬† Sometimes one just hits me while I’m at work or driving down the road or exercising.¬† And the migraine will still come even though I’ve taken my vitamins, medicine, worn my sunglasses, ate healthy, reduced stress, and gotten enough sleep.

Medical research has shown that migraineurs’¬†brains are more sensitive and we may perceive things that others don’t.¬† We also interpret and experience pain differently than non-migraineurs.

The migraine monster has a life of its own and does what it¬†wants.¬† Sometimes I can keep him at bay.¬† Sometimes I can’t.¬†¬† Sometimes I can ignore him.¬† Sometimes I must succumb.

Maybe one day scientists and medical providers will know enough about the human brain, pain, and migraine so that migraines can be reduced or even eliminated.¬† Until then, I just need to accept–and get my father to accept–that sometimes there just isn’t a reason that I get a migraine.

Book Review: January First by Michael Schofield

28 Jul

People Magazine offered a review of Michael Schofield’s January First that caused me to order the book online.¬† (Actually, I asked my mom to order the book as a Christmas present.¬† Thanks mom!).

In January First, Mr. Schofield outlines his family’s harrowing journey with their daughter, January, and their attempts to have her obtain the appropriate medical and psychiatric treatment she so desperately needs.¬† Had January been an adult or adolescent, January would have easily and quickly obtained mental health services and medication.¬† People would have believed the Schofields that their daughter’s issues were not merely behavioral issues or the results of bad parenting.¬† However, as January exhibited her issues from a young age, the medical community refused to acknowledge that a 4, 5, or 6 year old girl could possible have bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia.¬†

While there are better writers, what draws the reader into Mr. Schofield’s novel is the fact that this is his story.¬† It is his voice and his pain that comes through–somehow his pain is more evident and visceral because the words are raw and simple.¬† I kept hesitating to put the book down because I had to see what would happen next.¬† Surely the medical profession and the psychiatric community weren’t so ignorant as to deny the symptoms that six-year old January was exhibiting? Surely someone in the mental health community would have compassion or professional interest in helping the Schofields to save their daughter.¬† The book is a frustrating journey in discovering that the mental health community, the State, and the psychiatric community often does not have all the answers.

January First also illustrates the disasterous consequences of defunding and eliminating all the State-run mental health hospitals.¬† There are so many families and individuals on the streets or in jails because of their mental health issues–these same people who would have once been in the state mental hospitals.¬† Had there been State mental hospitals, little January might have gotten treatment a lot sooner–and without as much pain.

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