Monday, August 16, 2010

Internetting With Migraine

My computer is a confirmed migraine trigger. This is less than desirable. Several months ago, I had to go offline for a whole week because every time I looked at the screen I had severe eye throbbing and temple stabbing, plus nausea, wooziness, exaggerated afterimages, and the sense that the words were moving on the screen. Since that week, I've learned a few tricks to keeping the migraines at bay.

Every computer I use, if even for a few minutes, I adjust to suit my needs. Toying with display colors, screen brightness, and setting the refresh rate at its highest are tasks that I am so comfortable with, I could make these changes with one eye closed. And have. On a PC, you can find these settings in your Control Panel, under Display. I prefer the High Contrast Black color scheme, which turns letters white and the background black, and I always have a dark-colored, non-patterned wallpaper in the background.

The next most important change I make to my computer is my internet browser. In both internet explorer and firefox, the colors can be changed by choosing the Tools drop-down and then clicking on (Internet) Options. In firefox, click the colors button, and don't forget to uncheck the option for pages to "use their own colors" which would override your settings.

Firefox: Tools-->Options-->Colors

On internet explorer, the colors button is under the general tab, but you'll also need to click the accessibility button to disallow webpages from overriding your preferences.

IE: Tools-->Internet Options-->Colors/Accessibility

Again, I go with a dark background and lighter letters, white or gray or light blue sometimes. If I'm feeling sensitive, I'll block the automatic display of pictures, and stop java from auto-running, which can help to cut down on nauseating animations and unpredictable bright colors.

I always make sure I've turned down the sound. Too often have I innocently stumbled onto a new blog or website only to be assaulted by music or advertising. Sudden noise can send me from a 2 to 12 in a matter of seconds, so I'm very careful about this one. I aim to keep the sound on my computer on mute, if it's not actually in use, but I've started just avoiding websites and blogs that have noises that load automatically.

Also really helpful, I have a volume control above the keyboard, so if I am taken by surprise I don't have to navigate the cursor to that tiny little volume button, I can just reach over and stab blindly at the mute button. I must say that one of my favorite things in life right now is mute buttons. On television remotes, car stereos, and on laptops, the mute button makes every day a (very quiet) holiday.

With all the potential for triggering my very sensitive head, one would think that I'd stay away from the computer. I'd watch TV instead (which, btw, is also somewhat triggering, but in a different way), or read a book (heh, also triggery), or stare at the walls vacantly (not a trigger, but very boring). Why would I subject myself to the possibility of pain?

Because the internet keeps me connected. Email, instant messaging and various social networking sites let me be a part of the world, even when I am forced to be so apart from it. And the internet keeps me educated: healthcentral (Speaking of, they keep an updated list of clinical trials for migraines and I just emailed about two that I am interested in!), webmd (symptom checker, anyone?), and google are my best friends when it comes to keeping up to date with chronic health and patient issues. Also, and sometimes most importantly, the internet keeps me distracted: Youtube (Have you guys seen Old Greg? It gets funnier every time I watch it. (Also, NSFW.)), Gamershood (when I can't escape my room, I play "escape the room" games. Har de har.) and my favorite drug in this entertainment cocktail, Hulu.

Even with these changes (and distractions), sometimes my eyes just can't handle the reading, or the light, or whatever it is that day that is just intolerable, and the computer has to be turned off. On those days, I kind of relish the quiet. My mind takes a long, lazy stretch and welcomes the break from the the usual barrage of information overload. The vacation is nice.

But I wouldn't want to live there.


Migrainista said...

I struggle looking at stuff too...but depend on my computer for all those same reasons. Well put!

WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

With video games, there was some research that it was the "refresh rate"(screen flicker) that was the worst offender. Wonder if that is a factor??

Were you the migraineur with this link?? - I use this quite a bit for searches...

Diana Lee said...

Great ideas!

jasminepw said...

Excellent post and tips. The computer, and reading in general, can definitely trigger migraines for me.

I even purchased a twitter app for my phone because it's difficult to read on the web, and the free apps didn't allow me to change the background color to dark.

steph said...

Thanks, ladies!

Winny, it wasn't me with the blackle, but that's exactly what google looks like with my mods!

Jasmine: Ugh, back when I had a working blackberry, I was really frustrated by the limitations of the apps, the colors and fonts were brutal. But I was really into the free apps, so maybe that's why!

Jessica said...

I torture myself being on the computer. But I just cannot stay away!!!