On Wednesday I was surprised and alarmed to re-experience an ‘aura’, a shimmering distortion in my vision like ripples on the surface of water. The fancy word for it is ‘scintillating scotoma’.  It can herald a migraine. I immediately took some Motrin.  Happily, no migraine developed, possibly from my quick intervention.

I had auras starting in childhood, when I was fascinated by the patterns they produced. They were very infrequent. Even more peculiar : only once did they evolve into actual migraines. For one week in 2003 I had daily migraine headaches for the first  – and only time? – in my life. The medical side of me was fascinated. “Wow!” I thought “ I have studied and treated migraines and now I am experiencing them from the inside!”

This scientific excitement was contrasted by the emotional side of me in so much in pain I was down on the floor in a fetal position, in tears. I have never felt such pain. It was the ice cream headache from hell; an ice pick between the eyes. Then, mysteriously, they never happened again. I did not have another aura until today.

I vaguely remember attending a lecture on migraines in which I learned the reason we have them is due to some sort of evolutionary advantage gone haywire.  I thought this great nonsense: possession by demons slam dancing in my sinuses is a far more likely and sensible explanation for the etiology of migraines. At least this was the belief once upon a time.

St. Theresa of Avila apparently had frequent migraines and thought them demonic. She also had great ecstasy in her pains. In her writings she wrote about an angel impaling her with an arrow:

“In his hands I saw a large golden spear and in its iron tip there seemed to be a point of fire. I felt as if he plunged this into my heart several times, so that it penetrated all the way into my entrails. When he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out with it, and left me totally inflamed with a great love for God. The pain was so severe, it made me moan several times. The sweetness of this intense pain is so extreme, there is no wanting it to end, and the soul is not satisfied with anything less than God.”

 All I will say is, if this is divine love, I have experienced it frequently.

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