Whatever you do, don’t think about a pink elephant. It’s nearly impossible, right? Well, that’s the challenge I’m facing every day.
You see, last November, at age 29, I got my first ever migraine – a visual migraine.
For those who haven’t had one, it starts (at least for me, anyway) as small, white, sparkly spots in my vision that grow bigger and bigger, until eventually I can’t see anything but a white aura for around 30 minutes. Ultimately my sight returns but in its place comes a sensation that can only be described as a baby elephant – a pink one, of course – sitting on my head for the next 3-4 hours. For the rest of the day I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.
My GP was sure it was ‘just a migraine’ but "we’ll book you in for a brain MRI just in case", he said. If I’m honest, I’m still figuring out whether that ‘just in case’ was a blessing or a curse.
The scan picked up a lesion on my brain – a completely incidental discovery, entirely unrelated to this sudden, random migraine. Lesions are a characteristic of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and I was urged to see a neurologist to find out whether I was a candidate for MS.
Like many Australians, I didn’t know a lot about MS – but what I thought I knew was bleak. In my panicked ignorance, a diagnosis meant severe disability and a life confined to a wheelchair. I would later learn that, like anything, there is a spectrum, and many people lead rich lives while managing the condition with modern treatments.
I was fortunate, with the help of a friend, to see a neurologist within two weeks. That fortnight of ‘not knowing’, however, was the darkest of my otherwise unshaken life.