Ceiling fans can seem like strobe lights to my migraine brain

A few months ago, Jim and I decided to try out that lovely little Italian restaurant down the street.

You know, the one that was an Italian restaurant, and before that was an Italian restaurant, and before that was the Italian restaurant with a different name? Well, this one seems to be holding its own and may just be the restaurant that will last in this location.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is we went to this restaurant for a nice date.

The hostess sat us at a table toward the back. We had a great view of the authentic brick pizza oven and, though the restaurant was crowded, it was cozy enough to be a great date spot.

Except for that strobe light. What the heck was happening? The bright white tablecloth was flashing, and the same strobe was reflected in the glassware and plates. I looked around. Were there cops or construction workers out on the street passing by? Was there some disco dance party beginning?

No. It was the bright overhead light as seen through a rapidly oscillating fan.

Those of us migraineurs who are sensitive to light, particularly fluorescents, know that the buck doesn’t stop at any particular kind of light. Even the most gorgeous fall afternoon can be migraine-triggering when you’re driving down a lovely road in your car: the sunlight flickers rapidly through the trees, hitting your periphery just so and aggravating your sensitized brain.

In the Italian restaurant’s case, a lovely environment was made suddenly intolerable to me because of someone’s decision to put track lighting above the fan.

We asked to move to the front of the restaurant, to the slight confusion of the waitress. You can probably guess by now that I take most opportunities like this to explain to people why I’m making an odd request, especially after having told the hostess that the table was “perfect.” I told the waitress about how flashing and bright lights can trigger migraines for me, and she seemed genuinely interested and actually said she’d keep that in mind. No judgment, no eye-rolling.

Our new seat had a view of the street, so we watched passers-by as we dined. I looked over at our old table and now couldn’t ignore the way the whole back portion of the restaurant looked like it had been dipped in nightclub lighting effects. It’s often a wonder to me that even able-brained folks don’t notice the effect.

Have you ever needed to change seats because of a migraine trigger? Do you speak up about it?

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