Tag Archives: scared

My Brain Is Going To Kill Me

I often say quite flippantly that with my less-than-healthy lifestyle and exercise aversion, it’ll be a heart attack that ends my run on this planet. The truth is though, I’m genuinely scared that it will be my brain that lets me down in the end.

While I have been really fortunate to sidestep pretty much any other medical issues so far, I have suffered from migraines since I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, and my word, they are absolute  fuckers.

I feel lucky that the symptoms have gradually become less intense as the years have gone by, and whilst I don’t experience all of the symptoms all of the time, when I was a kid I used to get the full shebang. There’s the splitting headache which is always in the same place, running from the crown of my head in a straight line down to behind my right ear. The left hand side of my lips and tongue, plus my left hand get numbness, then pins & needles. Nausea and vomiting sometimes come to join the party; on one occasion a couple of years ago, my first delightful indication something was wrong was my recreation of that bit in the Exorcist with my morning coffee. They are all pretty nasty and it’s a complete lottery; I never know which combination I am going to end out with.

By far the worst element for me however – and the only one that I DO experience every time – is the loss of sight. You know those floaty things you get in your vision sometimes? Well, imagine those made of a jagged streak of light which prisms into different colours. When I was younger, that was how I knew I had a migraine on its way, because one of those would appear in the top of my right eye.

These days, it starts as patches of lost vision. When I was 9, we did an experiment in Science class to demonstrate blind spots;

Close your left eye, look at the cross, and then move your head slowly backwards and forwards.

Close your left eye, look at the cross with your right eye, and then move your head slowly backwards and forwards.

At one point, the dot on the right will disappear. That is exactly what happens in my vision when I am getting a migraine. One time I was driving on the M1 motorway up to Sheffield, and the steering wheel of the car just vanished. Today at work, my right hand started to disappear as I was typing. It is now my warning that I have twenty minutes to get to safe ground.

The loss of vision creeps over my right eye, then drifts across and causes my left eye to tunnel down. Once both of my eyes are impacted, that’s when the pain kicks in.

I work about 8 minutes drive from my house, so whilst it’s a harrowing experience, I know I have enough time to get home. Once I have recognised a vision spot, I take 4 ibuprofen tablets and I just leave. I get home, crawl into bed and stay there for about 4 hours until the pain fades off. After that, my brain just feels really sensitive and swollen, and I have to be careful not to move too fast. Or sneeze. Please no, anything but the sneezing.

Whilst I only get migraines once every 6 months to a year, I never know what is going to trigger them or when. As a consequence, I never go anywhere without ibuprofen. I have two packs in my kitchen, one in my drawer at work, one in the bag that I take my language books to London in, and one in every rucksack that I own.

I know myself that my migraines today are nowhere near as bad as they were 30 years ago, which may or may not be because now I know how to mitigate the effects. I also appreciate that I don’t suffer anywhere near as badly as some other people – my Nan’s next door neighbour is bed-ridden for 3 days normally.

Wherever I sit on the scale of effects, it’s terrifying. I lose depth perception, and reality itself seems like it has slid out of arm’s reach. I stumble around with my hands out in front of me like a Scooby Doo zombie, I quietly start to panic and I don’t feel like I can’t even speak properly. There is something happening inside my brain that I have absolutely no control over.

No-one has been able to pin down exactly why migraines happen, but as far as I understand it; chemical changes in the brain stem cause the brain to react in an unusual way to usual things. I still don’t really know what triggers mine, but it always seems to be things that I am looking at. So – my body spikes my brain’s drink, and instead of looking at my display screen and going “Oh hey, look at you – all reading shit and typing” my brain sees the monitor, gets over-stimulated, freaks out, and goes to sit shivering and rocking in the corner.

My brain happens to be my favourite thing about me, and the idea of anything happening to it really does scare me. Strokes, Alzheimers… every time I get a migraine it reminds me how delicate a balance there truly is inside my head and how vulnerable I am to things that I am not in charge of.

10 Things That Scared The Crap Out Of Me As A Child

As an adult, I find a lot of reassurance in the dark; it’s comfortable, it feels like home, and it’s often funny as hell. That wasn’t always true though – a lot of the things I love now once paralysed me with fear as a kid.

Here’s 10 of the biggest things that used to scare the crap out of me as a child.

1. Venger from Dungeons & Dragons

Venger was just nasty. And persistent. However hard the heroes fought, however right they were, whatever new skills they mastered, he would always use his terrible magic to get away, and you just KNEW that you couldn’t let your guard down because he’d be back at any minute.

venger_&_nightmare

“So…you know the 80’s one-sided thing only works for ponytails, right Venger?”

Nowadays, he just comes across as annoying and stroppy and slightly boss-eyed.

2. Volcanoes

Lord of the Rings has a lot to answer for. I was petrified that a volcano would erupt in the middle of my town and the whole place would be engulfed by lava and I would have to run and hide and try and save my family.

…in Northampton…England.

volcano2

It’s fair to say that I didn’t have a wonderful grasp of Geology.

3. Ozzy Osbourne

I shared a room with my sister. We had bunk beds, and I – of course – claimed the top bunk. On the wall opposite the foot of my bed, my Mum put up an Ozzy Osbourne poster. I haven’t been able to find the exact poster, but I have found the same face in other pictures. Every night when I went to sleep, and every morning when I woke up, THIS was the visage that greeted me.

Ozzy2

Cheers Mum.

4. Sharks

When I was a child, I was terrified of crossing this precise bridge near the Carlsberg brewery in Northampton, because I was absolutely convinced that one of the paving slabs would drop out from under my feet, dumping me in the water, where I would then be eaten by sharks.

…in the River Nene…in Northampton…England.

Bridge

Geology, Biology…none of it was really a strong point for me back then.

5. Michael Jackson in Thriller makeup

The funny thing is that he became proportionately more scary in reality as the years went past.

Thriller

Now recognised as the least terrifying face of Jacko.

6. Words & Pictures

This was a kids TV show from the 70’s that filtered through into the 80’s, and it had a horribly dark and dystopian feel to it.

Wordy

Say hello to Wordy; the disembodied floating orange head was the least odd thing about the whole programme.

Magic E, anyone?

7. Critters

Critters – and in fact every horror movie that had nasty icky puppets hell bent on being thoroughly unpleasant; Gremlins and Ghoulies are two other notable sources of terror. I always used to weigh up exactly how badly I needed the toilet whenever I saw the lid was down.

Critters

“…you’ve got summat in your teeth dude.”

8. Shogun Assassin

Another questionable choice of poster for a small child’s bedroom. I couldn’t find the exact one we had up, but I am not in the least bit surprised to find this movie cover in a Google search, stating the film was actually banned in the early 80’s.

I was also quite frightened by the scene in David Carradine’s Kung Fu where he grips the hot copper pot with his forearms and melts the imprints of the dragons into his skin… Martial arts were not a favourite of mine in my early years.

Shogun_Assassin_(1980)

Again, cheers Mum.

9. Zelda from Terrorhawks

Terrorhawks was a brilliant show, classic Good Guys v Bad Guys puppet series, following the same essential theme as Thunderbirds. It was set in the year 2020, largely in space, and the bad guys were all aliens and robots/androids. Zelda was the leader of the aliens with powers of teleportation and she was just upsetting and…ICKY. The way she spoke, the way she moved just wasn’t RIGHT.

Zelda

Way less scary when you realise that it’s just Rod Stewart.

Incidentally, Terrorhawks is actually really really funny and cleverly done when you re-watch it as an adult.

10. War of the Worlds

Both the 1953 film and Jeff Wayne’s musical version left me almost immobile with fear.

One night, my Mum’s friend Joy was babysitting me while Mum was (I think) at work. She put the War of the Worlds records on for me to listen to while she had a bath. I sat – at night, in her living room, alone, with the curtains open, and the blackness of the night outside staring in at me – with this music soaking into my skin and my awareness. I loved it, but was utterly terrified at the same time. I had to walk back down the street when Mum got home and I slid the whole way with my back pressed against the wall.

WarOfTheWorlds_370

There’s probably a good reason for age certificates on films…

The things that terrified me as a child I now either really like or find really funny in their own right. I am no psychologist, but I am in no way surprised by this.