A Problem Of Lighting

In trying to properly document my beliefs concerning human morality, existentialism and justice I’ve had to write mostly about things that people don’t really enjoy experiencing – let alone reading. Things like suffering, loneliness, abandonment and mourning; important experiences to me but a little heavy on the negative.

I got in a bit of a tiff with my father the other night. I asked him what hearing the news of my spine disorder made him feel; I just want to get inside his head to understand why he chooses to dismiss the problems I bring to him, rather than comfort me and help me figure things out. He responded by telling me that I’m too negative; these events and problems in my life stress him out too much. And that got me thinking: am I too negative.

If the only picture of my life you had was this blog then you would probably think I’m a fairly negative person. Today I went to apply for a provincial benefit so that I could get a new bed. This past Saturday, on a whim, my younger brother and I decided to check out some beds in Sleep Country Canada. One of the sales-reps asked me if she could help with anything. Pushy sales-reps usually really get under my skin, but she was nice and pretty and most importantly not pushy at all. She helped me look at a few beds, and when I described the nature of my back problems she seemed to be genuinely concerned. All in all, it was a good experience. When she asked how long I was planning on keeping this new bed for (whether it’s a five ten or fifteen year investment makes a huge difference when it comes to price), I let her know that I had just purchased a bed from this store not three years ago; the bed I bought then was now broken – the sides collapsed, huge indentations from my body and uncomfortable springs poking through the mattress. Long story short, she spent a solid twenty minutes making phone calls to various distributors, and I ended up getting a full refund for my current mattress; a ticket to go towards the purchase of a new mattress.

So today I went down to start the application process; in two weeks I should have about 850$. To put that into perspective, my current bed costs somewhere around 600 dollars. That means I’ll have $1450 dollars to put towards a new bed. Awesome news, but not exactly the point of this story. The place I went is called the ‘Housing Stability Center’. People from all across Hamilton, Ontario come here when they’re down on their luck. The people you’ll find applying at any given time paint a scary picture of a future most of us fear having. And that got me thinking.

When I first applied seven months ago or so, the other people applying scared the absolute shit out of me. They made my fears real. They were homeless, disabled, forgotten and abandoned. They lived hard, hard lives. And even though I had a moral philosophy at that time built from the idea that the weakest and most at-risk are the most valuable and need the most help, I couldn’t bring myself to even look at them for too long. I’m not quite homeless yet. I’m still young, fairly attractive, and I still have my wits about me; I haven’t suffered for too long. But perhaps to someone like my father, or my brother, or even my old friends, I bring out their fears and make them real.

How do you shine a light on a problem without the illumination becoming uncomfortable?

I realized something as I was walking my dog tonight. I’d be having a fairly good day; I was thinking positively. But I heard something and for whatever reason that triggered this anxiety-response. And that too got me thinking. Chronic anxiety is so difficult to just ‘will away’ because it’s very compelling. Anxiety is like an alarm. Your body senses a problem and an alarm goes off in your head alerting you of that problem. That’s essentially what happens when you’re anxious. When you have problems, like I do, which persist, it’s hard to shut that alarm off. Right when you think you’ve accepted your fate, that alarm will start ringing and you find yourself again piercingly aware of what’s wrong with you.

Maybe I can be a trigger for others without even knowing it. The solution to that is obvious: don’t be a trigger. If you don’t paint a more positive picture, no one is going to help you. The problem with that solution is that it’s not very just to ask the person suffering to suffer more quietly because their pain makes others uncomfortable. But maybe that’s what I have to do. So I’d like to briefly acknowledge some things that I’m incredibly grateful for.

I’m grateful to be born to the family I was born to. I’m happy with the person I’ve become, and although there are many, many things that make my life very difficult (unsupportive parents and siblings, disease, pain, disability etc…), I know that things could have been so much worse. I’m grateful to be Canadian, and to have live in a Country that meets my basic needs for me. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to live, and to grow, and to help others.

I’ve always been grateful for these things, but I’ve never shown that I’ve always been grateful for anything. Even though it seems slightly unjust that I have to work even harder for attention, help and normalcy, It’s the only way I’ll ever accomplish the things I wish to accomplish.

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A Principle Bigger Than Us All

I’ve spent the past two years writing on this blog (often not well) hoping to find some answers and hoping that maybe others would find some truth in my truth. I’ve had some pretty crazy experiences lately that have made me realize just how contracted my life has been. In these twenty four years I’ve been given the privilege of seeing and living many different kinds of lives. I’ve been the athlete. I’ve been the jock. I’ve been the ladies man. I’ve been the rock-star. I’ve been the ‘genius’. I’ve been the inspiration. I’ve been the loser. I’ve been friendless. I’ve been despised. I’ve been stupid. I’ve been the cripple and the burden. I’ve lived with hundreds of friends, and an in-tact family, and I’ve lived with zero friends and no family.

There’s this Becket quote that I like: there’s man all over for you, blaming on his shoes the fault of his feet. We always try to look for some meaning in the madness; some purpose. It’s an inherently human thing to do. We all at one point think that there is some great purpose for us;  that we’re some integral part of this grand design. We all hop we’re that special, and that’s one of those hopes that’s truly difficult to break away from, and incredibly hard to lose.

When I think about my purpose, and how ‘important’ I must be, I think about the disabled children abandoned because their parents didn’t want them; something that’s less frequent now, but incredibly common in the past. What about the kids and adults right now starving to death. What about the people slain for no reason but to satiate some sick sadistic warlord or sociopaths desires? When I think about these people I find it very difficult to see the great meaning in their lives. And I find it even more difficult to justify my desire to find one in my own.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, but like everyone else I have a fairly general idea of the direction I’m headed in. I know that I’m going to have surgery on my spine to treat my Syrinx. I know that I’m going to remain disabled. I know that things are going to remain hard. When I think of my future I am stressed, but it’s not the surgery or the disability that make me feel stressed, it’s the lack of support and connection with others. And it’s the knowledge that the family I do have left aren’t going to make the world a much better place.

Recently my brother moved out, leaving me and my dog alone in this apartment. It’s made me really feel worthless, and really question the belief I used to have that I could find purpose and meaning. It was the hope that my brother would see my world and it would make him a better person that gave me purpose (I know that if I were magically cured right now I would go on to do wonderful things; the stuff that used to stress me out and prevent me from fulfilling my potential (the insecurity, the money-stress) pales in comparison to the stress of not being able to walk, or work, or really live. And so I thought perhaps it was logical to conclude that since he’s healthy, he could take that truth and completely transform his life; he could do the good things he is capable of doing). But now I  don’t know. It’s the actions that people make and the things that people believe and do that determine if the world is just and good. People make the meaning and purpose, not fate, not the ‘gods’, and certainly not ourselves. A person may be able to will themselves to greatness, but how you define greatness and the metrics you use to measure it might reveal that the greatest thing is to be good, not rich, or envied, or feared. Take the Kennedy family. Many revere them, and are inspired by them. But many people don’t know about Rose Kennedy. They had her lobotomized, and then institutionalized for life. She was very rarely visited. She was alone, to suffer and live out her existence; a causality for the greatness of others. And for what? Did the Kennedy’s change the world forever? Or was their greatness just as fleeting as the law student who passes his Bar, or my brother who gets the raise he’s been working towards.

The things we desire so much in this world are fleeting. I wanted nothing more than a nice car and fame when I was a kid. I pictured myself loved and wealthy. I am so far removed from that future I once longed for. If you had told my 14 year old self that in ten years I’d be disabled, in chronic pain, completely abandoned and alone, with too many scars to count, you would have crippled me. But I’m glad in some weird way that this has happened to me. It’s given me the privilege of seeing what it means to truly have a meaningful life. I am able to bear being sick and disabled and having such an uncertain future. I can find the good in those things and they are experiences and lives that I can use to paint a broader narrative with. It’s the lack of social connection. The lack of love and that opportunity to make someone better than yourself that comes with being in a family that makes me feel like nothing matters and I can’t possibly move on.

If my life has some purpose perhaps it’s to share that one small truth: being good (moral and virtuous – loyal, empathetic, temperant, prudent, just) and investing your future in others is the thing we need most in this life, and the thing we cannot live without. We can survive, and often thrive, without painlessness, without mobility, and without health. We cannot survive for very long (and we cannot really, truly thrive) without the meaning and the purpose relationships and connection to and with good people provides. It sucks going through hard things alone. But it sucks infinitely more going through them needlessly. Like Rose Kennedy, I don’t have to go through this stuff. It’s not actually going through it that stings the most (like I said before, humans are incredibly resilient), it’s the reason why I have to go through it that does. And that reason is the reason why people feel like the world is a harsh place filled with meaningless suffering. For me, that reason is that my brothers don’t understand that being good and moral means being there for others. It means just supporting them and loving them; calling them when they’re ill, trying to help them, and trying to learn from them. So that they can feel better, so that I can feel better, yes, but also so that anyone could feel better. It’s the principle that matters, not my particular happiness. It’s that my brothers don’t grasp that principle that makes me feel like my life is pointless and thus that life is pointless (their lives included, especially). I want to be happy, but I want them to want me to be happy more. Not just for me, but because it’s the right thing. I want them to get that one point. That being strong means going through hard things but remaining good. That the glory we can achieve in this life and the purpose we can find in some grand picture of some complex design cannot matter if there are people who are left in our wake starving, dying, and being killed. We can’t prescribe universal rights unless everyone has access to them. The world is harsh and life is often very difficult and unforgiving, but if people are good, and get that one main principle (being moral, and virtuous and supporting and learning from others) than even the most apparently meaningless fate can be transformed into the most meaningful one.

Feeling Ill

I thought I’d do something a little bit different today, and write something of a Journal, as opposed to an essay. Those of you who follow my blog probably know that I have a chronic illness. As with any long-term malady, the course and the outcome is often quite unpredictable; there are good days, and there are bad days. As a result of my Genetic mutation, my spine and the structures in my neck are quite compromised. I have known this for a while, but it wasn’t until the other day that my suspicions were confirmed – in a way.

I don’t sleep very well, usually; I have Central sleep Apnea and Insomnia, which tend to keep me up all hours of the night. As a result, I rarely have a normal sleep rythym . In an attempt to fix my circadian rythym  the night before last I only slept four hours- hoping that by the end of the day, fatigue would drive me to fall asleep at a relatively normal hour. It worked, and I ended up falling asleep at around 23:30.

I woke at 05:30 feeling pretty well rested, but decided it was wise to catch a few more hours sleep before starting my day. I’ve been taking a new medication for about a week now, and today was the first day I took the full dose (this certain medication requires a slight titration). So I fell back asleep and woke again at 09:30. Again, after looking at the clock I decided I should probably try to sleep just a little while longer. And again I took another medication.

When I woke up the second time I noticed my vision was disturbed- almost like double vision, or some nystagmus. It was noticeable enough that even in my half-asleep state, I felt alarmed. The medication I took was a narcotic pain reliever (I take a round the clock narcotic – once in the morning, and again in the evening). Within about 20 seconds of lying down, I felt this intense wave of euphoria rush through my body. Only not the good kind of euphoria. It was the rough, aggressive kind of euphoria; just tempting enough to remind you too much pleasure isn’t a good thing. Almost like when you’ve passed that point of enjoyable drinking, and everything around you starts spinning, and you know you’ve made a grave mistake. Or just before you pass out, and your vividly aware of what’s coming. It was all of those things and more, mixed into this amalgamation of competing emotions, and associations all pining for my attention.

I knew the feeling right away: I was about to pass out. The paresthesia moved down over my body, and I was coated in a cold sweat from neck to toe. Immediately (and quite reflexively), I sat up in my bed and ran for the phone. I expected standing to worsen the discomfort, and half expected to faint before reaching the kitchen where the phone is stored. Only, quite to my surprise, standing made things much better.

So I got to the phone, looked down in my hand, looked around the room and decided perhaps this was just an isolated incident – quick to go as it came. So I walked decidedly back to my bedroom, sat back, collected myself and pulled the sheets up to my shoulders.

Immediately I knew that was a mistake; the uncomfortable feeling of too much rye and not enough water, the cold sweat and the terror all set in again. I knew something was wrong.

My first thought was that I had somehow slept on my neck wrong and compressed the spinal cord. I thought about how standing made me feel better, and decided that there must be some disruption in the CSF flow to and from my brain – perhaps a Chiari Malformation.

So I contacted my friend Sandy from the ILC Foundation who is both a mentor and emergency contact. She helps people with my condition, and since no one in my family who could actually do anything for me was home, I called her first. Then I called my doctor, then my other doctor, then the telehealth-help line. They all told me I should already be on my way to the hospital.

I knew I couldn’t do that, though. I had no way of getting myself from my house to the hospital, or to the urgent care center (my personal preference). Well, any way except for calling an ambulance – which I would not do… that’s just too emberrasing.

So I contacted my mother to send my father money so he could gas up his car and drive the 40 minute drive to take me to the urgent care center.

After waiting four hours in the urgent care centre, having three needles (two in the hand and one in the arm), an IV and a whole lot of waiting, I was sent home with the sound advice to ‘be cautious’… it was probably the new medication.

This is really what I want to demonstrate, and to talk about. Our medical system is set up in such a way that the patient has relatively no say in the care he receives for his health. Once you report one set of symptoms and signs, you cannot talk of another with validity – whether competing or not. It’s honestly quite an odd thing to experience. It’s the only profession you will experience this type of forced compliance. If you speak with a mechanic and explain the issues you’re having, he won’t walk away. If you speak with a physiotherapist, they listen to all your concerns and take them into consideration. But you’re not even permitted more than fifteen seconds for an explanation concerning something as important as your own life. It’s absurd, counter-productive and incredibly frustrating.

I am under no delusion that because I can read a webmd article and happen to know my body fairly well that I am somehow smarter or more clever than a doctor – a sentiment shared by most of my peers. I understand how powerful a tool a medical degree is – they say on average a general practitioner knows one hundred thousand different facts concerning his speciality (diseases, symptoms, treatments etc..). I’m not advocating for patient oriented treatment (could you imagine if patients were given the power to write prescriptions or send referrals)?!. What I think has to change is the amount of input doctors allow patients to have in discussions concerning their own health. Am I wrong, or alone in thinking patience is a virtue?

I know that the medication I started a week ago is not causing these problems – I know it’s my neck. But if I contest and offer new information, I’m accused of malingering and wasting time. Now I have to wait until the morning to go back and see another physician, draining more money from our economy and wasting more time than was ever necessary.

At the very least doctors should moderate the input they allow patients to have based upon certain key factors – chief among them being the severity of the malady and the competence of the patient. They should be more patient and modulate with less of an iron fist.

Imagine a medical system in which ninety percent of the doctors didn’t have a cranial-rectal disorder?

Are you afraid of being afraid?

The property which causes that sudden feeling of dread when confronted with a painful or stressful situation is anticipation. We are very symbolic beings. Our neocortex alone dedicates millions upon millions of neurons to the task of recognizing patterns; and almost double that number are redundancy neurons which are tasked with recognizing patterns of patterns. When we experience a stressful or painful event, our minds work to symbolize that event, and encode context specific patterns. Any stimulus involved in that event is further associated into that symbolism. As a result, we don’t just experience one stressful and fearful event. We experience thousands of different versions of that very same event. Over time, we begin to consciously recognize this confluence: dread sets in.

We match up this event consciously with representative standards in order to solve the pressing problem stress is meant to create: can we overcome, or do we have to adapt? As a result, if the event (which is now more of a state) in question becomes a stable state of existence, and that state is grossly disproportionate to societal standards, we begin to mourn.

The initial assessment and span of time required to encode and regulate redundancies and consciously digest all the necessary information just simply must be endured. Yes it’s going to suck and it most definately will have a negative impact on your quality of life. All things being equal, I would hope that this wouldn’t happen to anyone. But all things aren’t equal, and so this stuff does happen, and it happens at an alarming rate – for some, at such an alarming rate they cannot find the ability to cope and instead take their lives. You cannot change the fact that it does happen, and you should not change the fact that you become familiar with it. Most people will catastrophize and admit defeat; they believe they are destined for a life of misery and pain. But the only way they can really ‘know’ what misery and pain entail is by matching what they’re experiencing with generic standards. They mourn based upon the difference between the two.

Let’s say it was the norm for a people of a certain society to be blind. In our world, we view blindness as a disability, but in this particular society, it is the norm. If a sighted person became blind in our society, but was informed of another society where it was the norm, is it possible his coping skills would improve? You can obviously make the claim that objectively having sight is better than not having sight, always. Healthy people living in our world with no visual disabilities are absolutely happy and content. Why? Well, because as far as they know, they are at the apex of what we call the ‘generic standards’. Lets imagine some time in the distant future we gain the ability to communicate telepathically, to see and think on a quantum level, and never die. A person living now at the height of his health is relatively satisfied. Lets further suggest even that this person knows he will probably live forever (life extension therapies are available which will ensure his foreseeable lifespan). We can all probably agree this is an ideal scenario and probably accurately guess at this persons sense of well-being. Lets take this person and place them in the future. In the future, remember, people can think telepathically, have incredibly advanced IQ’s, never die, have none of the pratfalls of human biology, and can think at a quantum level. Would that man be happy living there, and then? I doubt it. I think he would be as miserable as the man living in our world without eyesight, or the woman who cannot move anything below the waist.

What I’m playing at is an existential interpretation of illness and disability, rather than a cultural and societal one based upon norms and averages. When we are ill and afraid our minds conjure horribly unbearable emotions and force us into the darkest corners of the most depressing scenarios. The causes of these phenomena are varied and impossibly complex. But for once that complexity does not hint at a mindless fatalism. We think in averages and problem solve with patterns. We are symbolic and allegorical creatures with a knack for intuition and emotional reasoning, but we kind of stink at calculating the cold hard facts. We label realists as unemotional robots (a title I have been affably given, many times…) and praise idealists with their deep insight. The answer isn’t a ‘balance of the two’ – which seems to have become the catch-all category for people who don’t really want to think too hard about the problem. Offering a banal ying-yang response to a complex question fundamentally presupposes that the two poles in question are the only two poles… and further that they are also the correct poles. That’s not always the case, and particularly in this situation it is definitely not the case. In this situation, dealing with fear and with expectations and mourning, the answer comes in the form of a question: why is standard upon which your fears are based the only possibly and necessary situation? Is it really the only possible state of existence? Is it possible things could have evolved differently? Is it possible we could experience pain way differently than we currently do? And death? And why does the thought of death ‘objectively qualify’ feelings of absolute terror – possibly the most aversive feeling in the world. The answer is that it one hundred percent does not. Death is the zenith of symbolic thought. We have absolutely no clue, subjectively, what death entails. And so since we don’t have even a marginally accurate redundancy for death, our patterns will be based solely upon weak metaphor and general symbolism. When we think of death thoughts like darkness and night-time and space, and cold come to mind, accompanied by feelings like ‘where’s mommy’ and ‘someone save me’.

Death is further qualified by the notion that it is inherently bad. But how is it? If it weren’t for death, there would literally be no new life, or any life at all. You are hear reading this only because trillions of ‘things’ died so that you could be here, at this particular moment of terrestrial time. There’s a certain feeling of endowed responsibility and pride in that thought, isn’t there? Further, what is greater in our universe, life or non-life? Non-living things, to be sure. There are more atoms and molecules and mass collections of ‘stuff’ out there than there are complex life forms. There is also more ‘darkness’ than there is ‘light’ – which is another great example of our weak symbolism and metaphor. Darkness is not inherently scary. That being said, place the bravest man in a dark room with loud haunting, staccatto noises and he will surely experience fear.

The point is simple: you qualify your feelings of fear by searching for standards with which to compare your situation to. The problem is in the limited number of standards we can come up with and find, and the definition of standards itself. Human emotion plays us and convinces us that the proof is in the feeling. Next time you’re feeling afraid, think of how that situation may be not a bad situation, or may be a different situation. If you can think of a way in which the painful or stresful situation, in some possible thought experiment, could be good, or at least not as bad, than I assure you your fear will lose a tremendous amount of its potency.

At the end of the day, death is still bad and pain still sucks. We will all face those two things at one point in our lives or another. You do not have to give in to them and they are not the only states of existence out there. You have a choice to change the way you experience them, existentially and phenomenologically  by altering the way you go about thinking about them. Unfortunately society and religion have come together to define what good states of existence are and what negative states of existence are. To Christians, having a healthy body is good, and having an unhealthy one is bad – and usually implies some evil or past transgression. Let me tell you right now that that is fucking bull-shit. It’s a consequence of poor thought and an irrational attachment to cultural tradition. The standards society forces on us can have an unconscious  and profound effect on how you cope with just shitty situations. If you are courageous and strong, and you can bear out the initial stages, you will find a way to adapt. If you think about what I have written for a little bit each time you are faced with a shitty situation, you’ll find yourself adapting to different patterns and experiencing a higher level of peace and satisfaction.

Intellectual Growth: a problem with our modern health-care system.

“Scepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is of scepticism. To be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction; since, from the very gradual character of our education, we must continually forget, and emancipate ourselves from, knowledge previously acquired; we must set aside old notions and embrace fresh ones; and, as we learn, we must be daily unlearning something which it has cost us no small labour and anxiety to acquire.”

– The Odyssey of Homer

Today I had an appointment in Toronto with my primary care physician. Over the past two months or so, I have, in our meetings, expressely stated in no uncertain terms that I was afraid; I made it known that I have anxieties. I also established that I believe in many intricate ways that several of my pathologies are influenced by my own cognition.

I am a psychology major first and foremost. To me, psychology is both a passion and a promise. I have a gift. I am a very adept problem solver and listener. I have a high degree of integrative complexity, so when I match that up with my eclectic bank of knowledge, and my natural ADD tendencies, I can often find more than half a dozen novel solutions to any given problem. Although this talent extends to all areas, for whatever reason I find it works particularly well when applied directly to humans, and to human psychology. (Let the record show that for every virtue I claim to have there is a matching vice of equal tempo).

Now, the reason I say this is becuase in my meeting today I noticed that my doctor has developed an availability heuristic which he comes primed with when I make the long trip to come meet him at his office. He sits down and evaluates my complaints. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; he projects a scepticism towards my claims of illness and feelings of foreboding pathology, and I pick up on that and as a result respond in a timid, side-ways type of way.

Basically he thinks I’m kind of a hypochondriac. I pick up on that, and act like a hypochondriac would, thus confirming his suspicion.

I see this time and time again in the healthcare system especially. I wrote a paper for my intro to social psychology class last year (one of the most influential and benifitial courses I have ever had the pleasure of taking) on problem solving in the health-care system. I shared stories and integrated like four social phenomena. I got an A, but most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and doctors and the doctor patient relationship.

I explained to my doc. that I wasn’t returning to school this semester because I have an oustanding balance and its not their policy to allow students with an oustanding balance to continue with their education – at least not until their is proof of payment, or of funding, or if the balance is cleared in full. I don’t mean to make my school look badly; they quite graciously went against this very policy and allowed me to return to my studies in the fall semester with an oustanding balance on my account.

Anyways, my doctor told me that I was going to go crazy (faceteously, of course) with nothing do all day – which I fervently affirmed. He mentioned that I should try and set up some sort of project to keep my mind busy. I agreed; but in sort of the hollow ‘I’m only agreeing becuase I don’t really want to talk about it’ sort of way.

But the appointment got me thinking. And tonight as I popped open my Kobo Desktop software and started to read the Odyssey I started thinking. The line ‘to be content with what we at present know, is, for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction’ caught my eye. My doctor, as most doctors do, abstracted a general principle in regards to my character, and without question, applies that heuristic every time he evaluates my health.

The strongest force working against knowledge is the illusion of knowledge. My doctor is going to miss out on enhancing his diagnostic skills. He’s going to miss out on helping me the best he could. He’s basically going to miss out on opportunities that would have led him straight in the direction towards self-actualization.

I get the feeling that this situation isn’t unique to my relationship with my doctor. I get the feeling that its a widespread infection. An infection with no cure. Becuase when the patient revolts against the affronts he perceives directed towards him from his apathetic doctor, he meets a brick wall. Not to be too banal with this analogy, but our healthcare system, specifically ‘best care practice guidelines’ and ‘patient-doctor relationships’ require a fix.

I’m not so arrogant that I believe I am that glue that can hold everything together. But I have the resources, a certain degree of skill, and most importantly, the time and determination to really put a dent in this problem. I’m going to spend the next eight months really getting to the root of this problem, and finding a way to help solve it – for the good of both the patient and the doctor.

And this difficulty attaches itself more closely to an age in which progress has gained a strong ascendency over prejudice, and in which persons and things are, day by day, finding their real level, in lieu of their conventional value”. 

Ocular Migraines

In the past I have had the odd encounter with premonitory ‘aura‘ before a long, agonizing migraine. First of all, let’s get something straight, the term ‘migraine’ gets thrown around a lot in society; It’s become this bastardized, catch-all category encompassing the mild temporal discomfort that comes from listenting to a long, drawn-out argument to the full-blown, hysterically pain-full migraine. Any person who actually suffers from a real, full-fledged migraine disorder will tell you that even the word migraine itself carries such foreboding that it’s use is severely limited in every day speak. Migraines themselves last anywhere from 2-72 hours. They are felt uni-laterally (one ‘side’ of the head) as a sort of dread ‘pulse’. There are many accompanying antecedent and peripheral symptoms I won’t get into great detail describing here (I think I may have actually written another blog on this… if I find it, I will link it here).

As the title suggets, I’d like to talk about ocular migraines. First, I’d like to share a few personal anecdotes on the topic of ‘weird eye vison-ey stuff’.

This year has been a great year for me, relatively speaking. Although looking from the outside in, you’d think such a statement indicative of severe cognitive decline, from the inside looking out I can tell you that the positive definitely outweighs the negative – especially when matched up against the previous year.

I have gotten my pain under control… relatively. I am back in school and, I’d like to think, I’m doing fairly well. I have a new focus and determination about me that I can only say has come about directly from the varied aversive experiences I’ve had, and had to endure getting to where I am today… cleansed by fire and all that. As a result of all this, though, I have fallen into some less than ideal patterns. One, which bears direct relavence to this blog, is staring at a computer screen in a poorly lit room for hours on end… a sure-fire way to induce an ocular migraine in the ‘ocular-migraine-prone’.

To make a long-story short, I have experienced three mind-bogglingly, eye-crushingly confusing events in a matter of just two months; two of them resulted in almost full blindness… I literally couldn’t do anything but lie down on my back, close my eyes and wait for it to run its course.

From what I can remember, it started in one eye, than progressively took over both eyes… at least I think. After a drawn out night staring for hours on end at my computer screen, I would start to see sort of peripheral flashes of light just outside my field of vision. The flashing, lightning zig-zags eventually took over until my entire field of vision was affected; however, quite anti-climatically, within thirty minutes everything was ‘back to normal’.

The term ‘Ocular Migraine‘ can refer to one of two conditions. migraine with ocular aura, and ‘retinal migraines’. As you may have already guessed, migraines with ocular aura is the more benign of the two. The easiest way to differentiate between the two similar pathologies is to remember that retinal migraines effect only one eye, whereas migraines with accompanying ocular ‘aura’ can affect two.

The link provided below gives a concise and accurate account of all things ‘ocular migraine’. My own personal experience with visual ‘aura’ and retinal migraines has provided a subjectively truthful yet somewhat adulterate representation of this odd medical phenomenon. If any of you find yourself pulling the proverbial short stick, have no fear, you probably won’t permanently lose vision in your eye(s).

Here is a useful link http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/ocular-migraine-basics …

Emotional Cognition: Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDB)

A List of Some Common Self-Defeating Beliefs (SDB).

I find myself frequently falling victim to these beliefs. What I’ve found tremendously helpful is to read through this list when I’m going through any sort of significant emotional turbulence; anger, sadness, depression, fear etc…

C.S. Lewis said “It is not reason that takes away my faith. On the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and my emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side, and imagination and emotion on the other”.

Faith doesn’t have to mean a religious conviction (it isn’t so for me). You can have faith that your doctor is telling the truth when he tells you you’re going to be okay. Or you can have faith that when your significant other tells you that they love you, they’re not lying. You can have faith about virtually anything. The problems come about when we forget that the content of our faith is true, and we let our imagination and emotions control our beliefs and our reasoning.

  • Brushfire Fallacy
    • People are clones who all think alike. If one person looks down on me, the word will spread like brushfire and soon everyone will.
  • Spotlight Fallacy
    • Talking to people is like having to perform under a bright spotlight. If I don’t impress them by being sophisticated, witty, or interesting, they won’t like me.
  • Magical Thinking
    • If I worry enough, everything will turn out okay.
  • Entitlement:
    • you should always treat me the way I expect.
  • Fear of Rejection:
    • If you reject me it proves there’s something wrong with me. If I’m alone, I’m bound to feel miserable and worthless.
  • Approval Addiction:
    • I need everyone’s approval to feel worthwhile.
  • Over-generalization:
    • You view a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. You may tell yourself, “this always happens” or “I’ll never get it right”.
  • Mental Filter:
    • You dwell on the negative details, such as an error you made, and ignore all the other things you did right.
  • Discounting the positive:
    • You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count.
  • Jumping to Conclusions:
    • You jump to conclusions that aren’t warranted by the facts. There are two types:
  • 1. Mind reading: Assuming people are being terribly judgmental and looking down on you.
  • 2. Fortune telling:You tell yourself something terrible is about to happen. For example: tonight I’m going to die of Sleep Apnea.
  • Magnification and Minimization:
    • You either blow things way out of proportion, or shrink their importance. You see your negative qualities as huge as mount Everest, but then looking through the binoculars backwards, you see your positive attributes as tiny and far away.
  • Emotional Reasoning:
    • You reason from how you feel. Such as, I feel afraid of death, therefore I’m going to die.
  • Should Statements:
    • You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “oughts,” “musts,” and “have-to’s.” For example, “I shouldn’t feel so shy and nervous. What’s wrong with me?”
  • Labeling:
    • You generalize from a single flaw or shortcoming to your entire identity. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you label yourself as “a loser.” This is an extreme form of over-generalization.