We had been following The Election – you know, the one billed as the most important in decades – for months. Sifted thru dozens of mailings. Watched all the debates. Read article after article. Signed petition after petition. Seen hundreds of facebook postings about it.
It had all come down to this moment.
We were psyched!!!
And I utterly ruined it, for both of us!
But, in exploring what happened, I learned some valuable things that will help me, and also might help you, if you have migraines.
Let me explain…
It had been a long day.
First, voting – so important in this battleground state.
Then, Rhiannon & I headed to town for some errands. We stayed out a bit longer than we should have.
I was really tired when I climbed into bed & turned on CNN.
Generally speaking, I don’t watch TV anymore – too many migraines. Back when I could, though, I had designed & had had built a combination bed/storage loft/entertainment center. A very big TV resides right at the end of my bed, along with the Tivo DVR, DVD player, etc (this will matter later).
So there I was, exhausted but excited, anxiously watching the Red states & Blue states come up on the screen as CNN discussed them (this, too, will matter).
I had previously paused the DVR for 30 minutes so I could fast forward through commercials, but they weren’t having too many. As it neared 11:30PM, I started fast forwarding on the slowest setting, so I could follow along with what states they were calling for which candidate (this will matter a lot).
A succession of Blue & Red states flashed over the screen faster as I watched, and then I spotted the announcement we’d been waiting months for:
CNN was projecting a winner in the Presidential Election!
“Rhiannon, you’ve got to see this!!!” I called.
Rhiannon has been following the election as closely as I have, and I re-wound it a bit so we could see the crucial moment together.
Nausea, dizziness, and double-vision suddenly rose up out of nowhere as I hit PLAY on the remote. My eyelids wouldn’t stay open and I felt extremely confused.
Rhiannon watched the announcement, and turned happily to me, only to find…
I was out like a light.
But I had been talking to her a moment before… wtf? So she called my name, and my eyelids fluttered & I mumbled. Alarmed, she yelled:
I remember that – the concern in her voice, the fear. The rest of the next hour is pretty dang hazy. Some things I remembered after Rhiannon reminded me, but some things are a total blank.
Rhiannon took charge – she knows I have Neurally Mediated Hypotension (POTS), so she thought maybe my blood pressure had tanked. She loudly demanded to know where my blood pressure machine was, and I was able to point to the side of the bed… barely.
My arm was limp when she took it and pulled up my sleeve & took my bp. It was low, but has certainly been lower without causing unconsciousness.
I slowly started to be able to keep my eyes open more, to respond more clearly. I was only totally out of it for about 3 or 4 minutes.
But the incredibly distorted double-vision, dizziness, nausea, difficulty staying awake, incoordination, and impaired cognitive functioning, stuck around, slowly dissipating over the next hour.
By the time Romney gave his concession speech, I was back to “my normal,” and pretty sure what had happened.
I reassured the very concerned (to put it lightly) Rhiannon that I was okay, and that I thought it was “just a seizure… and I’ve had them before, although not for years.”
I’ve never been diagnosed with a seizure disorder or epilepsy. But some years back, the last time was likely in 2006, I had several similiar episodes. They did the whole workup – EEG, MRI, etc, and came up with nothing, so it never got officially diagnosed.
Some reading over at The Epilepsy Foundation helped me understand why it happened just then, just that night, and why it was always before at night, too, always when I was watching TV using the DVR.
It seems that some people are prone to seizures only when under certain visual stimuli – flashing lights, in particular. And even more particular (and fascinating), the colors red & blue are known to stimulate seizures more often than any other colors.
Remember how I said my TV’s location mattered? Well, it does. It takes up a lot of my visual field. And, it was dark in the room behind it, so there was a lot of contrast between the brightness of the TV and the surrounding area.
Just as important is the number of flashes per minute, and I was fast forwarding through the DVR on its slowest setting, while those red & blue states flashed up & down on the screen.
All things that mattered, as did the fact I was already exhausted from having been out that day. A perfect storm for a photosensitive seizure.
Interestingly, photosensitive seizures are related to photosensitive migraines.
They both seem to involve an overload in the visual processing center, although how this works is poorly understood.
Flickering or flashing lights can trigger a migraine or make one worse for many more people than will have photosensitive seizures – and not just from TV’s, of course. Flickering fluorescent lights, computer screens, or natural light can all cause problems.
The sun flickering through the trees as I drive or ride in the car drives me absolutely nuts, and can quickly trigger a migraine, or make an existing migraine much worse.
I’m going to try this simple trick to see if it helps with my migraine photosensitivity:
Cover one eye (either one) with one hand until the stimulus is over. Closing both eyes or turning your eyes in another direction will not help.
– from The Epilepsy Foundation – Photosensitivity and Seizures
This reduces the field of vision by 50%.
And, as is further explained:
Monocular vision (covering one eye) is a most useful practice because it works in most circumstances and still allows the subject to see. It is important to know that just closing the eyes does not prevent photosensitive reactions because the red-tinted light filtering through the eyelids will be just as provocative, if not more.
– from Shedding Light On Photosensitivity
The other thing I learned was that if you have a seizure and have not been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, you will be asked repeatedly by every person you speak with at your doctor’s office why you didn’t go to the ER or call 911. I couldn’t exactly drive myself, and Rhiannon did have her phone in hand contemplating the call.
But I was “out” only a few minutes, and recognised the feeling from previous experience – and told her I was okay. I did go to the doctor yesterday, and they’ve drawn blood for labs, but by the time I got there I had already diagnosed it myself as a photosensitive seizure. I’m to follow-up with my neurologist & get an EEG.
So, while my unexpected reaction to the Election results pretty much ruined the evening for us, it did provide an opportunity for me to learn not just about seizures, but also photosensitivity in general. This might help me and, hopefully, others, as we struggle with our migraines. Everything happens for a reason…