Like anyone in this world, I have times when I need to seek comfort. I’m an affectionate person, and nothing beats a hug from my family or Jim or a good friend when I’m feeling vulnerable or tired or sick. My list of comfort foods changes as time goes on, but a grilled cheese and a cup of soup are always welcome when I need to feel cozy and loved. (A cup of tea works pretty well, too.)
There are lots of things in my house that bring me comfort, and for that I am lucky. Especially when migraine has me down (even if I am not in a lot of pain I can get bummed and/or totally fatigued with this chronic condition), I seek out those things that make me feel cozy and loved. I’m thirty-four years old and still have a little stuffed lamb (her name is Lamby, obviously, and I have a photo of her in her fluffier days lying next to me in my crib) I might hug from time to time. There are books I return to over and over again because opening their well-loved pages feels like coming home.
Happily, I am a migraineur who, except in my level-ten attacks, can watch certain TV shows when I’m feeling down.
At the very top of my list is The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hands down, it’s my favorite series and one I have never tired of since starting to watch it on Nick at Nite when I was in seventh grade. I own the series on DVD and will watch episodes repeatedly—as I watch, I feel comforted in the same way I do when I read a favorite book from elementary school or have someone play with my hair. (Okay, slight exaggeration there, as there is NOTHING better than having someone play with my hair, as long as I’m not in the midst of one of my really terrible migraines wherein my allodynia is through the roof and I can’t tolerate any touch.)
Jim, who also has migraine disease, has also watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show during an attack. I have some other chronically ill folks who feel the same way about the show. That got me thinking: what exactly is it about this show that makes it good “sick TV”? Longtime fans love the familiar storylines, the humor, and the nostalgia factor. But I think there’s something more at work.
You see, this show (and many other classic dramas and comedies) is easy on the eyes and ears. The lighting is pretty consistent scene by scene, and there are no action sequences that feature loud sound effects or flashing lights.
Think your average modern-day TV show doesn’t have lighting that affects you? Try this trick: sit on a chair while you watch TV in the dark, but instead of looking at the TV directly, look at the floor or at your lap. Notice how the light is flashing many times a minute. Advertisers figured out that people’s brains are attracted to near-constant stimulation, so the more frequently the angles change and lighting alters, the more the average brain wants to keep watching. Loud noises and sound levels that vary dramatically moment to moment are also designed to keep us watching and listening. Unfortunately for those of us migraineurs who are particularly sensitive to sound and light, this is NOT a good development in technology.
What do you think? Are you able to watch TV or movies during an attack? If so, what sort of programs are you most attracted to?
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