Finding Relief from Light-Sensitivity
Last updated: November 2022
“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” a classmate asks.
I understood that it was strange that I was wearing dark sunglasses indoors; there were no windows in the small school library. However, the lights were bright fluorescents and I was staring at a large computer screen trying to write my graduate thesis without my migraine worsening.
Making light of the situation
Sometimes I’ll take a punchline over the truth.
I opened my mouth to answer when another classmate interjected. “Because her future's so bright!” he said.
I laughed, shrugged in agreement, and turned back to my work. The classmate who had asked the question still looked confused. Not my problem, I thought.
Constant light sensitivity
I had been diagnosed with migraine only several months prior but had dealt with attacks throughout my life. The attacks had started to bleed together and I was never completely free of symptoms. I was seeing a headache specialist regularly, trying new treatments and strategies, but the light sensitivity was constant.
Wearing sunglasses inside
Some situations just called for the socially awkward choice of wearing shades indoors. I was often asked if I was hungover, even though I didn’t dare touch alcohol for fear of worsening symptoms.
Fluorescent lights indoors
In my studio space, I had the fluorescent lights above disabled. I had a nice big window which let in indirect sunlight most of the day. But every time I entered one of the classrooms, my head threatened a migraine. I often had to apologize to the teacher and leave the class. Since it was my final semester, the main focus was on my thesis project and paper, but I still lost some points in my grades for the classes I could not attend.
Bright lights outdoors
Being outside of school wasn’t much better. I was in New York City so it was either bright sunlight during the day or bright headlights, streetlamps, and store lights at night. I walked on the shady side of the street and wore my sunglasses in the subway and to the grocery store.
The only places I felt safe were my home, my art studio, and the yoga studio.
Trying rose-tinted glasses
One day I saw that the author of a migraine blog I followed was trying a new type of rose-tinted glasses that her husband had engineered based on research on migraine and light sensitivity.
I didn’t have the money to buy them right away (did I mention I was an art student?), but I had some extra cash upon graduation from thoughtful relatives. While others may have bought new clothes, a new gadget, or even squirreled the money away in the bank, I bought myself a pair of those glasses.
I felt instant relief
I felt relief the second I put them on. They weren't dark like sunglasses so I could wear them indoors and still see well, but they subdued the light that was painful for me. It was like I found some freedom I have been missing. I could shop at the grocery store, go on the subway, look at a computer, and be comfortable.
People on the street complimented me about my cute new glasses. I wasn't looking for attention, but at least it was positive attention, and it still felt a lot less conspicuous than dark sunglasses. As soon as I could, I saved up and bought a second pair with a darker tint for wearing outside.
I wear my rose-tinted glasses daily
My migraine attacks are much less frequent now, but I still wear them almost every day. I don’t find regular outdoor sunglasses adequate compared to my outdoor migraine glasses. But with them, I can take walks and enjoy nature and drive and shop and work without as much worry. If I look at a computer screen without my glasses, I can still very easily get a migraine, so I even have an extra pair in my drawer at work in case I forget my regular pair.
Even though I’d rather not have a migraine attack ever again, I am thankful for this tool.
A note from the author: This article is meant to describe a personal milestone moment in my journey to a better life with migraine disease. I'd love to hear about any milestone moments in your own journey; feel free to comment below!
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?