Crazy Theories: Brain Lateralization and Music for Migraines?
I got migraines sporadically in my teens and 20s. I didn’t know what they were at the time, some I even interpreted as a ‘break from sanity’. When I was 32, I suddenly had them everyday. I would take Advil gel caps which I learned later exacerbated the issue as I also had tremendously high blood pressure. My readings were somewhere near 185/120 with fits of angina. I would suffer through migraines 5 days a week followed by one day of complete disorientation and one day of feeling alright before the cycle repeated. I would only go out at night and blocked all my windows – no blood sucking though. Since then, and after a battery of tests, different meds and various personal experiments, I’ve been able to better control my migraines. I have them for maybe a third of the year in all but rarely with an aura anymore.
I lose my words and am only able to visualize the end of sentences I’m trying to create. I experience extreme sensitivity to light, sound and smell. I get very nauseous and dizzy and though I come close, I don’t vomit thankfully. I tend to become highly irritable around these times and generally don’t like being touched. When I get an aura it’s visual, sometimes dots, sometimes electric plasma shooting out and sometimes hallucinations stemming from my environment.
I initially try to close down my world as much as possible. Any sensory information tends to aggravate matters especially when it is unexpected. When out, this means I need to find a quiet place and wait for the meds to kick in. Then, wearing sunglasses and in-ear buds, I keep my focus on the smallest area around me that I can. Once home, bed is good for me. I try to sleep it off at that point.
During these times I’m generally very unpleasant to be around, mostly because I feel terrible. If I become at all functional then I can become a complete jerk, even feeling like a different person and even having different preferences and desires. I can be very critical of everything and as a result don’t enjoy things like TV or movies.
Once that wears off, there’s the depression which I’ve been struggling with since my teens. Even with meds I still go through my bouts. There are good times, with hints of mania, that I know I’ll pay for soon after. There’s a correlation between these and the migraines though I don’t know which way the current flows.
I’m now taking Citalopram, Atacand and Relpax and have been for years. My neurologist says that the Atacand has a dual benefit of reducing blood pressure and helping with migraines. I don’t eat chocolate, peanuts (instant trigger for me that I don’t see mentioned on this site anywhere) or old cheese and don’t drink red wine. That’s helped me tremendously. I make sure I sleep enough and try to be regular about my hours. I still seem susceptible to changing barometric pressure which accounts for the bulk of my migraines now.
I have a couple of theories that I’m curious about. To be clear, I’ve never studied medicine. One theory has to do with brain lateralization. It seems like an important component given studies on white matter lesions (connecting left / right with proven ties to language) and the aphasia I face at the onset of a migraine. I also think it’s supported by some of my tendencies where I close one eye at particular times and the eye I find myself closing depends on what I’m doing at the time. I have a sense that this all comes together in some way that helps explain my condition, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Anyone have more info / anecdotes?
Here’s another one for you. I rarely get migraines when traveling. Could it be that everywhere I go has a better climate than my own? It seems unlikely at a certain point especially given the range of places that I visit. I know that new experiences (like new environments) are processed by one side of the brain in particular, could there be a relation there?
I think there’s also a tie from migraine intensity to blood pressure, though I haven’t seen a study that supports that. Taking a stab, the similar risks of stroke with high blood pressure and the long term risks of stroke for migraine (particularly with aura) make it feel like there’s something there. I understand the rigours of science and the lack of my own, but working theories are alright, yeah?
Ok, I’m done.
Wait, one more thing. I put up this song called ‘Music for Migraines I’ at musicformigraines.ca. It seems to help me in interesting ways and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. I understand that the idea of music or sound in general might repel you. I also understand that we’re all different but, if you’re up for it, give it a shot on headphones.