Migraines That Erase Color

Migraines That Erase Color

Chronic pain has its own devastating side effects, even in the absence of medication. Sufferers of migraine headaches sometimes report a phenomenon that amounts to color-blindness. Jeff of the Omegaword blog explains that chronic pain has a peculiar way of removing color from the world. He poetically describes his experience of a reality in which all color has been erased by bursts of red:

migraine"Red has never been my favorite color. Bolts of hot pain sear the world, leaving me colorblind but for the shards that stay behind — jagged red reminders of pain past, and pain yet to come. Through the window, beyond the mute interplay of light and shadow on a white kitchen wall, bare branches against a pale sky remind me that it's all in my head. What color are light waves, anyway?"

A new study of synesthesia confirms Jeff's observation that the colour of the world is all in one's head. Cretian van Campen, author of The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science (2007), explains: "A mysterious aspect of color is that it is created in the brain and seen to exist in the physical environment. But the physical environment contains only light waves and is in fact colorless. The colors are inside our brains, not outside."

Color palettes sometimes testify to hues that have been displaced or erased by profound circumstances. For example, COLOURlover Codename Gimmick envisions the frosty onset of winter as a time when "frequencies from red to yellow have been silenced." His "Frost-Over" palette celebrates red and yellow through their striking absence.


With the palette "Another Migraine?" COLOURlover Stefan depicts a reality reduced to lavender, punctuated by an occasional throb of neon yellow.

Another Migraine?

COLOURlover Manekineko envisions a world so desaturated that only dull grays remain.

Hello World Removed

Migraine-inspired palettes from the COLOURlovers library testify to the phenomenon that chronic pain can distort or dampen one's experience of color. Luckily, some artists seem able to retain a keen color sensibility even within the confines of a migraine headache. The following palettes from the COLOURlovers library speak of a creative urge dragged down yet not knocked out by chronic pain:

Migrained Once Touched By Pain

migraines blow. feeling the pain

migraine Migraine

Headaches migraine attack

[VCC]Migraine I Don't Feel So Good

not another migraine Migraine Aura

spike in my brain Migraine Headache

Migraine Migraine Aura

Migraine Some Pain Can Be Ok

Cover img by Spookygonk.

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Website: http://www.OneLetterWords.com
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

Showing 1 - 24 of 24 Comments
Great article! We've been studying color blindness in Psychology, and it's fascinating.
Very fascinating.

This is what mine are like. :(

Head Ache
My migraines send me to bed, so all I see is the inside of my eyelids.
migranes are the worst.
it's funny how a lot of 'artsy' people such as colourlover members have a high percentage of people who have migranes...

i think not.
After staring at an LCD all night long, a quick look out the morning window will give me a major migraine. Bright lights be damned.
there are a number of artists who depict migraines in their art. One especially famous one was Georgia O'Keeffe.

Try this link for several examples. migraine art

here's another palette about how all colour goes away when you have a migraine:
pounding head
Thanks for posting those links liz. I'm going to show some of those poems to my husband so he can have some idea of what I go through.
I get these all the time - Apparently Aries are prone to complications with the head... at least, that's what I'm sticking with because it takes the responsibility off of any personal behaviour that I have (ahem, working until 3am on the computer) that a doctor might suggest abstaining from... :p

I made this palette during an episode. It's interesting that you say the colour goes away as the colours are very desaturated...

anyhoo - great post!

Great article! I actually suffer from chronic migraines so this was very interesting to me. I have a migraine 24/7 but I've never noticed any kind of color deficiency.. I guess I wouldn't really know if I see colors differently than before the pain because I've had them for so long. Anyways, I thought I would post this, a palette I devoted to my headache issues so you guys can see another interpretation.

always sick
Hmm. That's odd, because when I'm in the midst of an episode, it seems the "volume" on everything is turned way up -- sight, sound, smell, taste, temperature -- colours vibrate painfully and light is too bright. I seek out darkness and cool for relief. I guess everyone experiences it individually.
i think laleh1979's palette is the most effective, pain-wise.

some of these devastating headaches are quite beautiful!!
I'm in the same boat as Dia, everything amps up when I get them (and all too often).

There are of course many different sub-types of migraine, all with different auras.
Thanks for listing my palette! :D

I have migraine with aura, which has been chronic in the past. The four colours are close to what I see when the aura gets bad, and during an attack - mostly contrasting green/purple colours in floating patches, weird grid patterns and flashing lights. Shapes move around sort of like a lava lamp and obscure patches of my vision.

More often there are tiny pinpoint white lights and fuzzy edges around things, and everything looks blurred, or it looks like it's raining (even indoors!). Sometimes I go colour blind, and sometimes the opposite.

I read somewhere that many people with migraine aura see different colours, but they're usually two contrasting colours.
My migraines are like Dia's. Bright light and any kind of noise makes it worse. I need it dark, quiet and cool. I've never seen an aura. And thankfully (I guess) I only experience them once or twice a month. I'm actually going to see a neurologist tomorrow about my headaches. Maybe I'll have a colorful CAT scan to inspire some palettes.
When you're like me though, you have to deal with lights and loud noises. I can't just go sit in a dark, silent room for the rest of my life, lol. It's interesting what everyone sees. I personally see flashing lights all the time and I've noticed some light/sound sensitivity but like I said, I can't always get away from it.
That was a very fascinating article. I also have migraine and sometimes just want to turn off the lights, no colors there anymore.
I have had chronic headaches/migraines for at least 10 years now, and getting steadily worse. I have a headache at least once a week and they usually last for about 3 or 4 days. I have an array of drugs on hand to conquer them, I try one and then if that doesn't work move onto the next...etc etc. I'm light sensitive all the time anyway, but every headache I have makes me super-sensitive to light, sounds and even smells! It's amazing what we creative people will put up with for our art/love/work....

And, I don't have the auras and I think I'm lucky for that! It's bad enough that I have an array of black floaties constantly in my vision (I call them my sea monkeys) that can't be fixed without draining the vitreous jelly from my eyes - eeeewwww!
And here are the floaters.... somewhat akin to migraines, they screw with my vision!

Eye Floaters
Ack - My Head Hurts!

I get these at least once a month and mine feel like bright colors that pulsate. I hate them!
Blasted Migraines
This was very crazy monkey! I was in the middle of the worst migraine ever when this was published! I am just coming out of it now!
Hi, I love this blog!
Very insightful articles!
I had a headache yesterday and I´ll create a pallete to celebrate my recovery!
I'm a documented synasthesia patient. It translates very much into my artwork. But I'm also a migraine sufferer with a very bad heriditary form of it. I've done paintings of my migraine auras and there are no colours, just shapes. The shapes themselves are a direct map of light and sound intensity. You can see the work here under the series titled Migraine www.deedee914.com

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