My Worsening Photophobia Through the Years

The title of this entry may be unfamiliar to you, but you can probably guess the definition of photophobia. Basic vocabulary rules are forming in your head, and you've come up with a few options. Scared of...scared of...photographs? Photographers? Photons? Light?

Sensitive to light, not afraid


No. Not quite that. But I am abnormally sensitive to it, and this sensitivity has only worsened over the years.

Classrooms and fluorescent lights

Since I was a wee little thing, my classrooms have been lit with overhead fluorescent lighting, which has proven to be bad lighting for anyone (in terms of energy level and productivity). For us photophobic migraineurs, the indiscernible flickering of fluorescent lights can trigger an episode. Unfortunately, our eyes and brains do discern the rapidly vibrating blue light when the vast majority of people are fine with it.

Are there solutions for photophobia?

Thus far, there are no solutions for photophobia, as people think you should treat the cause (in this case, migraine, which I'm doing my damnedest to treat) and avoid the triggers if possible. For me, this is not possible. It's come down to my having to ask professors if we can dim all the lights but one row. After I flick the light switches on and off at the beginning of each class session (to my unwittingly ignorant classmates), I sit in the darkest area of the room and don my hat and sunglasses.

Adapting to avoid triggers

Unfortunately, I have to look up from underneath the brim of my worn baseball cap in order to see others while they speak; I have to adjust my reddish-brown-hued glasses (to counteract the blue of the lights) in strange formations so that reflected light from our white working tables doesn't flash into my eyes. In looking up from under my hat bill, the ever-sore left side of my neck starts to get tired and sore. Soreness of the neck? Yep, another one of my major migraine triggers.

Do people think I'm being overdramatic?

The entire time I'm trying to manipulate my eye shields, I feel like a total drama queen. Logically, I know that people don't mind my needing to mold the environment a bit in order to adapt to it as healthily as possible. At the same time, I feel as if they're all thinking, "Oh, god. Here she goes...the 'migraine girl,' being overdramatic as usual."

I'm tired of working around migraine

Regardless of my classmates' opinions, which I'm sure are less intense than I posit here, I am sick of having to adjust myself so that I can sit in class while worrying the whole time that the migraine is going to rear its ugly head no matter what. Usually, it does flare up. As I write, the laptop screen is leaning way back, so the whitish-blue light doesn't glare into my worn-out eyeballs. My neck and left shoulder are tight and sore. Once in a while, the throbbing, dull pain worms its way up from my shoulder to my temple and cheek, where I feel a strange fizziness in my jaw. Then it's back down again to the shoulder until I manage to forget it for a few minutes.

My treatment complications

Because I have chronic daily headache in conjunction with migraine disease, I'm not supposed to take my Relpax until the headache has started progressing. So I'm left with a half-headache almost every day, one that has recently become full-fledged on weekend nights, presumably because my week's stress has been lifted. (Yes, stress can be a factor as well as the lifting of it.)

I've turned from storytelling to complaining, which might be another sign the pain is worsening and I need to get off the computer.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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