Yesterday had the quality of a bad dream. Not that anything
particularly scary happened, just that I lost touch with reality for a
It started with a "migraine"; I'm learning to ignore them because they
seem to follow a regular pattern of ten minutes or so of weird visual
effects, and then they go away. No pain, just inconvenience because I
can't do anything that requires me to be able to see fine detail
during them. I can see well enough to move about past the flashing
lights, so in this particular case I just carried on with what I was
doing at the time, namely travelling to work.
But this migraine seemed to have a long tail of weird cognitive
effects. Or perhaps the subsequent weirdness was completely
unconnected, I don't know. Through the rest of the day I kept
experiencing the sorts of sensations which normally lead me to
identify that I'm in a dream rather than reality. Everything seemed
vaguely familiar but slightly off, and I'm talking the lab where I've
been working for 6 months now so it should be completely familiar. My
short term memory felt like the memory of a dream; I couldn't fit
together into coherent narrative the actions I'd been doing for the
past half hour. I would be really surprised to see things that I'd put
in a particular place ten minutes before, and the sight of them would
remind me of a fragmented image of doing so rather than a normal
memory of my doing that action, as if I'd done it in my sleep.
At one point I had an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, just
couldn't shake the impression that I was reliving something that had
happened before. Something completely banal, mind you, just having a
cup of coffee with colleagues. I know that everybody has
déjà vu sometimes, but this was much more intense and
convincing than normal. Part of my brain was trying to reassure me
that it was just a dream and all I had to do was wait to wake up, but
in this case, unlike in any dream I can remember, I was absolutely
certain that I was not dreaming. This disjunct scared me rather, and
it took a lot of concentration not to panic. Obviously, being scared
didn't help me to think clearly.
After a few hours my brain started interpreting the world normally
again. It is most likely that this experience means absolutely nothing
(sleep deprivation, maybe?), but I want to document it. Does anyone
have any reassurance, (or reasons why I should be worried, I
I had an odd one yesterday when I was thinking "oh yes, I remember when I removed my own right kidney and replaced it with a different one". .. closely followed by "erm, no, that would be a dream".
What you're describing I'd interpret as a shift in consciousness, something like a trance state, which would also fit with you being more focused on spirituality recently.. but obviously that's only how it'd fit into my particular worldview.
I do find it a little worrisome, but can also think of many minor things that may be factors. First, always stay hydrated, dehydration affects functioning and even if it's unrelated, staying hydrated is good. Second, do you have low blood pressure? I do, and so weird vision issues, temporary vision loss for about 10 minute with lights that then comes back, that's much more a low blood pressure effect for me than a migraine effect. Plus, low blood pressure means less blood to the brain, so it could connect, although it's a bit of a stretch. If so, regular food and making sure you are both hydrated and having sufficient salt intake may help. It's easy to get too little salt if you dislike salt, and everyone worries about too much. Sure, too much is more common, but I've noticed several people having problems that seem to be insufficient salt. Mainly because they have the symptoms and when I ask about their salt intake, they mention how they don't really like it and eat very little. If so, easy enough to get a little more salt in your diet. And I want to emphasize this,I mean ~little~. It doesn't take a lot of salt to have enough. I generally eat one chip when I'm low on salt. It's just sometimes you can go through a good portion of the day with virtually no salt, and that can be a problem, but just a tiny bit can usually fix it.
Next, migraines... well, migraines do cause wonky mental things. It's why I've often compared painkillers for someone with a migraine to giving coffee to someone who is drunk. It doesn't make you any less drunk, just more functional. Get rid of the excruciating pain and you have a functioning migraineur, who is probably going to be a bit wonky. I can't really describe how I am when I have a migraine without excruciating pain, since I'm more familiar with the just lying in bed in agony version. But I think I tend to be sillier. Migraines can have all sorts of weird cognitive effects. And migraines certainly could cause the vision issues you describe.
But I'd also consider seeing a doctor. Since something doing weird things in your brain could be doing it. Well, a migraine is something doing weird things in your brain, but it could be something more disturbing. It's not that I'd leap to that conclusion, just that ignoring it if it is is likely more of an issue than looking into it if it's harmless.
But if seeing doctors is an issue, I'd recommend being hydrated, salted, and seeing if it happens again.
Oh, and it does remind me of one other experience, but it isn't a close enough match. Sleep paralysis is kind of the reverse. You are unable to move, because you woke up or are drifting off to sleep and the body mistimed the stuff that paralyzes you while you sleep so it's going when you're awake. But sometimes it also involves you being awake, but the dream kicking in, but you're awake and you know you're awake. So, it's a hallucination that feels exactly like real life. Which means it is often terrifying, because you can't move and it feels totally real and what happens is often scary. In my case, my episode of sleep paralysis involved me thinking someone was trying to break into my dorm room, but it was all in my brain. The reason this happens is that when your sleep goes all to hell (sleep-deprivation and irregular sleep schedule usually causes it) sometimes the different parts of sleep don't all kick in at the right times or in the right order. You may have had something like this where part of you was trying to activate dreaming parts, but you were staying awake. I'm not sure if that sort of thing happens, but it seems quite plausible. If so, it may just mean you should get more and more regular sleep.
I am, of course, not a doctor. But those are my late-night thoughts.
On a side note, if you were getting awful pain a bit after the aura (around a half hour later, but it can vary a lot), then I'd say the weird mental things were totally in line with a migraine. It's the lack of other symptoms, nasua (which I can't spell tonight), head pain, etc. that worries me. I thought i was getting migraines without the headache when my retina was detaching. I do regularly get migraines, and you can get a migraine without the headache. But most migraines do progress to some form of awful pain and discomfort. If yours aren't progressing and you're not medicating them to prevent the progression, then it worries me that it might not be a migraine. It could be. It just might not be. Because there are other things that can do that stuff.
I get regular migraines, and while I don't get much in the way of aura, I do sometimes get an odd sort of egg-shelly feeling. I get this fragile sensation, and feel almost like I'm superimposed on the world around me - like an animation cell overlaid on a background. I don't get anything quite as intense as what you're describing here, but it doesn't sound unfamiliar.
Though, yes, I'd also say it's worth getting the aura and other odd sensations checked out by a doctor.
The cognitive effects sound a little familiar as certain effects that one experiences if one has certain kinds of mental illness. Certainly derealisation is one, which is what you've described in your post. Derealisation tends to be one of the more serious effects of mental illnesses but AFAIK crops up after other mental illness effects throw one's mind out of balance first. In which case, if I had to say anything about your experience, I'd say that it's a freak one off event caused by the migrane disturbing certain balances in your brain and that you shouldn't worry about it, unless it happens two more times at regular intervals from now.
I know for people who are used to their brains functioning properly and never questioning the output, such an experience comes as a big shock, because it brings home the fragility of one's mind and the realisation that all the inputs could be correct but the output could still be wrong and that means being able to trust one's own cognitive abilities less. I hope you adjust well to it.
This isn't going to be very reassuring, but it sounds very similar to the kind of thing that I experienced during the going mad phase. What you are describing, and at other times my mind identifying connections between things in an "uncovering plot" kind of way, that I knew were not really there. With strong deja vu. How much sleep have you missed? That sounds like the most likely cause to me; not sleeping can have some pretty strong effects along those lines surprisingly quickly.
Have you been playing with the exciting chemicals at work again? ;)
Migraines are strange beasties. I get one or two a year, and the visual disturbances and nausea that go along with the intense unilateral headache really suck. My friend on the other hand goes blind in one eye temporarily. Others suffer from aphasia and other weird cognitive effects, all of which seem transient and benign, but pretty odd and scary at the time.
That being said, if the "migraines" you mention in the opening sentence are new, or if there are changes in symptoms or patterns, then yeah, it most definitely worth getting checked out. It may well be another one of those things where the GP or neurologist or whoever else shrugs and says "I don't know, but it doesn't appear harmful", but it's worth hearing that for itself. I doubt it's anything more than that, but still...
I agree with most of what leora had to say. Dehydration, mild hypoglycaemia, and mild hypotension can all have some odd cognitive effects. As can lack of sleep, and even stress. So go get checked out and see if any of those are likely contenders. And if it happens again (and you remember) ask people around you how you look to them. Skin colour changes1, or affective changes in mood and emotional response, are often useful signs to be able to take with you to the doctor.
1. You be be in EMS/nursing if... You believe that skin signs tell all.