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Monday, June 13, 2011


One of the things that I can no longer take for granted now that chronic migraines have reshaped my life is the ability to run errands at will.  Although from a cognitive stand-point I am capable of driving at this time (unlike a few months ago when being on a slightly higher migraine medication dose was causing some serious brain cloudiness and slow thinking), visual information is my biggest trigger and if you're looking to be bombarded by a lot of visual information, get behind the wheel of a car.  You probably don't even think about it, but my brain sees every bit of scenery whizzing by and can quickly get overloaded.  Various types of light exacerbate this problem, including the kind of glare you get on bright but overcast days (that type of light is my nemesis!), too much moving in and out of sun and shade, as well as light coming in at a low angle, be it from a setting sun or simply because it's winter.  And forget driving at night: the extreme contrast between the darkness and car headlights, streetlights, lighted signs, etc., creates instant migraines.  I avoid riding in the car at night, much less driving.

That means if I want to go somewhere, I'd better be feeling really strong, with no twinges or existing migraines.  It's also inadvisable for me to drive if I've already been doing a lot of visual work even though I'm feeling fine, since driving can be the tipping point and I really don't want to drive with a migraine.  I'm also very careful about driving if I've taken my acute migraine medication, since sometimes it makes me drowsy.  Likewise, I don't want to be driving a couple hours after my weekly acupuncture appointment, since I frequently get suddenly and extremely sleepy.  With all these limitations, I don't have a lot of opportunities to run errands.  I've also found that my tolerance for the demands of driving (the stress, so to speak, of needing to pay such close attention behind the wheel can also exacerbate my headaches) means I'm best limiting myself to staying within about seven miles of my house, keeping off the freeways, and an absolute maximum of three errands.  It doesn't matter how good I'm feeling: if I start in on a fourth errand, I'm asking for trouble.  (Errands are not stress-free in the least.  Stores can be very visual taxing--think display shelves--and noisy and involve making decisions and doing a fair amount of walking, all things that can make conditions ripe for a migraine.)  As you might imagine, I sometimes go weeks without driving!

It also means that anything that requires freeway driving or stretching my distance limit is out of reach.  I'd love to photograph Mouse at one of saltwater beaches, but they might as well be in Europe.  (I'd say on the moon, but no one can get to the moon, and while it is possible to get to Europe, it isn't happening for me any time soon.)  I used to love driving and thought nothing of hopping in my car to head to any far-flung point in the greater Seattle metropolitan area.  Not anymore!  My family drives me places, but between not wanting to disrupt the things that they must accomplish in their free time as well as the fact the frequently I don't feel well enough to go anywhere anyway, I don't get out much.

Yesterday was an exception.  I've long been wanting to get over to the novelty store Archie McPhee to stock up on props for my upcoming Alphabet with Mouse book.  I was there back in September and noticed they had a great variety of items for super low prices that would be perfect for the book's photographs.  Progress on the book stalled over the winter when I was really feeling lousy, but over the last couple of months I've made a lot of progress and hope to start taking pictures by the end of this month.  I've collected quite a few items and the time had come to see what they had to offer before I started spending more money on hard-to-find objects.  Getting there, of course, was the hard part.  But yesterday afternoon my dad had some downtime, so I broached the subject and off we went.

And did I ever hit the jackpot!  I walked out of there with 60 items obtained for $63! They had some awesome stuff, things I'd assumed I might need to fork over bigger bucks for at the zoo store or a dollhouse store.  They had aardvarks, echidnas, otters, baboons, and porcupines; eyeballs and mustaches; boxers, brides, vikings (hurray!), nurses, pirates, fairies, zombies, and wind surfers(!) among many, many other fabulous things.

A gavel, hard hat, hot air ballon, ice cube, ice skater, impala, lantern, lemur, 
and motorcycle are visible in this partial glimpse of yesterday's haul.

So what does that spell?  Success!  Of course, when I was awake for a while in the night, as, lamentably, I so often am, my brain was busy thinking of more items to add to my alphabetical list and where they might be obtained...  The bottom line: while I may not be able to drive all that often, I am most definitely driven on a daily basis!

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