For those who don’t personally know me, which is pretty much everyone who reads this blog, there is another dimension to life that I have dealt with off the mats. I have suffered with migraine headaches for most of my life. They began to occur at about the age of thirteen and they continue today.
My condition is referred to as Migraine with aura, because immediately preceding the pain, I experience a disturbance in my field of vision that is still there even with my eyes closed. This aura is caused when a part of the brain shuts down because the neurotransmitter levels are so out of whack it just needs to reset. Over the course of thirty to forty-five minutes my vision returns to normal and the pain slowly fades in.
Luckily there are now medications that help to abort the migraine, provided I am able to take it immediately at the first sign of aura. When the medication works (about 80% of the time) by the time my vision clears, I am left with a really bad headache and not a full blown migraine. A vast improvement!
On September 21, 2006 however my condition took an interesting turn and my migraine presented in a wholly different way.
It was a Friday morning, I was getting ready to drive down to Anaheim for the graduation ceremony for my MBA. This was to be a great day. All my hard work was paying off. As I was getting ready, printing maps on the Internet, my wife asked me how I wanted my eggs cooked……I couldn’t answer her.
Something was terribly wrong, I could think of the words, but when I tried to speak it was gibberish. When I tried to write, it was a scribble. This was the day I was to receive my Masters Degree and I could not communicate. It was absolutely terrifying.
In short I experienced a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) in which blood is cut off from a section of the brain for a just a short amount of time. TIA is normally caused by a blood clot traveling thru the system and getting caught up briefly in one place where it blocks the flow momentarily. In my case, it was the spasms in the brain caused by my Migraine condition that actually pinched off the blood vessels.
Luckily, the effects of TIA are generally temporary. And in this case, I was just fine by the end of the weekend. I am now on medication to try to keep Migraine and TIA at bay but I have had a total of 5 TIA’s (none of the subsequent being as bad as the first) because the understanding behind the why and how of such neurological conditions remains largely a mystery.
When I saw my neurologist again for a follow-up on Monday afternoon, I received a piece of news from him that, while not surprising, still gave me a moment of pause. I had always had some quirky ticks. I spoke to the Doc about these things and he casually said, “Well, yeah…you have Tourette’s” like it was something that I should have already known as a fact. He explained how I have a very mild case and he also explained that there is a substantial link between Migraine and Tourette Syndrome.
As I said, I had always kind of suspected, but it still caught me off guard. When I asked him about my BJJ training specifically (something I had never done), his advice was to take things easily, not to allow myself to get overly exerted and to tap quickly on blood chokes.