The Experiment.


Tonight was a sharp reminder that the other thing I wanted to do with my life was: study the brain.

How many migraineurs out there? How many Imitrex-dependent headaches?

Any [of the aforementioned] classical musicians also take beta blockers?

Suppose you’ve ever mixed the two – not on purpose, of course, but of necessity. You know, you have the headache; you have to perform. You take care of the headache first so you can eat and then, then you take the beta blocker, an hour before curtain.

Now, we are not talking about the time you took an allegra and then a benadryl and THEN called the pharmacist to ask if it was okay. Nope. That was a dangerous mistake, and a stupefyingly enormous one at that. Even if the kids thought you were a laugh riot.

No; I’m talking about the “head game” the synergy of two powerful drugs plays with your pre-frontal cortex and your long term memory. That, even when the pharmacist puts you on hold and looks them up and says that they are safe when taken together.

You are strangely relaxed, in a really unfamiliar way. Then, you discover that your edge is missing, the part that drives your impetus. It takes noticeable effort to pull off the simplest maneuvers, the kind that is more unpleasant than the jitters you have to suppress without the panacea. This is because the serotonin levels in your brain are way too high, negating the customary angst, sturm, und drang that produces a work of art, and you have absolutely no blood pressure.

Somehow, you make it through all the tough passagework and the phrases in this rickety contraption that has become your body. Then, you hit the home stretch.

Fatal Mistake: you think you’re already there.

This is when your brain throws it.

Suddenly, no warning. Your auto pilot jams and tosses a garble that would rival Elmer Fudd, auctioneer. You hear it happen but, like an acute attack of PMS, you are powerless to grasp after any remedy. Your hand is a runaway spider on a greased monkey. And, the thing has no choice but to play itself out until, by some miracle, you reach the final cadence and the eternal mercy of the last note.

People describe your performance. They use words like “great!” and “Thank you for playing!” and “SO musical.” This is code for “You Screwed Up.”

But, you know it. And, this time, you know why. You just wish you could prove it. You wish you knew the mechanism that clogs the synapses and capillaries, that spits out some clunk version of a flawless rendition of the dramatic chromatic ascent that everybody recognizes as the pre-orgasmic hook in the Prelude by Bach. You only know it as the part you’ve played what seems like a hundred times, each one sexier than the time before.

And, all of this titillating sensation is lost on two lousy pills the size of one pinkie fingernail combined.

Those who know the piece make the mental note that you have about as much musical depth as that pinkie fingernail. Those who do not shift in their seats and wonder why they are feeling like they just don’t like this song all of a sudden. Either way, you’ve lost your chance. Your audience. Your moment to make the music.

All because of one lousy migraine, and the belief that you couldn’t do it alone.

Funny about beliefs. Some people stake their lives on them. I think it might be time to dispense with them altogether. There is entirely too much beauty and truth waiting in the wings not to be wasted.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

3/15/15   p.s. There’s a version of the piece in question on my blog. Keyword “Bach Prelude from Suite I.” It’s a tad plodding and indulged, but the hook will take you all the way. If you need to change your pants after, chalk it up to the least I could do and know that Bach did it for you. I was just along for the ride.

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9 thoughts on “The Experiment.

  1. Hello. I have migraines and I have to keep myself hydrated to not start one. The symptoms are diverse but usually are not helped by the fact that I have low blood pressure. My neurologist told me it’s better not to use medication. I’m supposed to manage my lifestyle: low stress, plenty of rest, etc. first. I hope you’re feeling better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How ironic. Dehydration, indeed. After going round and round the “food trigger” list, searching for something I missed, to fully realize this. And, of course, I usually chug the water after the headache has already begun, which is like trying to avoid the gun after it’s already been fired. I know this in principle, but to remember it when the time is right? Problem this winter has been: keeping enough bottled water in house when driving to get it prohibits.I bought a Chanson, but the pre-filter is still en route.(AND: Imitrex contains a diuretic, which burns all the water you drink and restarts the dehydration process!)
      ALL THAT SAID: WHO told you low blood pressure is a trigger?? Good God. Mine is chronically so low I joke that I don’t have any. Top number usually in the 90s; bottom might crack 68. I thought that was a good thing. It surely isn’t for anyone depending on a beta blocker, albeit intermittently. Who knew I’d find the cause of my vicious cycle from a fellow blogger? And, why don’t American neurologists know these things? Oh, wait.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t told precisely that low blood pressure was a trigger, but it drops even further when my migraines start. It is just a concurrent event. My blood pressure is like yours. I was told that I might be in a coma and they always have to read twice on a normal day. So imagine when I get migraines, I usually can’t even sit up and I’m needing to be in a dark room holding my head. American neurologists… tsk tsk. Aren’t they running for president?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are a breath of the purest air. (And, yes; I fully expect you to get many miles out of that one). I have.never. taken my pressure when the thing starts. But, barometrically, this would stand to reason, would it not – as the barometer pressure changes, so also would the body’s, compression/contraction/expansion? I always ask for a pediatric cuff, being of the smallest bone structure. I wonder what this indicates and portends, anyway? There’s so much huff and puff about hyPER tension….hmm. Only waited out the pain one time to know that addressing it immediately is the mode to take; I was actually pulling my hair by the roots in an attempt to crack my skull open to relieve the pain. Oh; and, that time, it was in the ER…..where they hooked me to an IV of Compazine. What.a.trip. And, I mean full on psychosis. It was like walking on the moon. I could no longer perceive time in space, and was just aware enough of that to get back there….by ambulance….for an IV of, you guessed it, Benadryl. Needless to say, the next day’s special visit by the Maestro to my elementary school composers happened quite without me present.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s funny actually, that they pumped you up with medicine without trying to help you. If I go to the hospital, they put me in a dark room with a nurse and tell me to cry it out. Thanks for the compliment by the way. Lots of smiles.

            Liked by 1 person

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