Posts Tagged ‘Headache’

One of my migraine stories, a headache translated into a narrative, as mentioned on this blog, as seen in Volume 4 of the Ampersand Review, as read tomorrow at Kieran’s Irish Pub, for Word Ninja’s house warming event.

Chronic Migraine

The Father, grandson of Heaven and Earth. Son of Flow and Time. Nursed in a cave. From womb to womb. He Waited. Timely flow. Time will flow. Time did flow. Rebirth. Now. After. For him there is no time, only flow. From woman to woman.

The vast sea of women coming and going, ebb and flow.

Forsaking the prophecy, he cavorts with Wise Council. Then panics. He consumes her. Sees the void, his undoing, anticipates the unseen, repeats the mistakes of Time. All should be still, but can’t be. Still it becomes too much. Too much to bear. The pangs. He cannot suffer in silence. Why? the sky shakes. Why? he bangs his head against a tree. Why? his mighty fists strike his own mighty belly. Woman’s pain flows into his crown. His head swells. He goes into the woods to hide. He sits near a river, pinching the bridge of his nose. He does not feel full, he feels threatened. Metal scraping skull. Empathetic exhaustion exhausted. He can’t concentrate. Double-vision. His skull cracks, hatches. He thinks of himself.

His only gender bender. He knows, and sees, and feels what he shouldn’t feel. A woman through migraine.

You will be more powerful than me, he thinks, I must endure! He thinks only of himself. This other, growing, grown inside him, is just an other, separate, made of other.

A silver goddess bursts forth. The Other. Cloaked, clinked, clinking, angry. Submerged in loss. Her Mother so wise, inside, as sister, as one, no more. Father as mother. Without milk. He cannot touch her, her figure, ready for children. She speaks, is speaking as he speaks. Ready for war. Two generations, face to face. All is there. And so is loss. They battle, head to head, like bucks. He, larger than himself, with her, a symbol, an unknown, a child that isn’t a child. A child without mother. He cannot consume her, not again. Nor annihilate, nor conquer. To no avail. Her loophole locked, guarded. There is no loophole he can wiggle through. She is not made for man. Things are lost between them.

She only knows man, can only mirror man. Controlling. Strutting. Wombless. She remains special to him. Daddy’s little girl, born from the head, the mind, the strongest sexual organ, the sexiest, the most looked at. Men look at her. Ogle. Threaten her maidenhood, her maidenhead. She wraps her head in furs, covers herself, covers her thoughts. She thinks she doesn’t want. But the silence, the stillness, the hiding, are unnatural, unrelenting.

Relent, her blood pumps. Reinvent. Change the word, alter the ideal, rename. She ignores. Offers an olive tree. Defeats her uncle, the amorphous sea. Erect the Parthenon!

Blood still circulates, pulsates. Bleeds a suffocating blue every month. Betrays the conception. The conceived notion. The past. Father without mother, daughter without lover. Never touched, never nursed, no need. Un needed. Self-sufficient. No one to think about her. They forget. Forgot. The ideals forgotten. Memories turned to stone. Ideals turned to symbols. Representing another time. So long since one uttered, in gesture. Her name, spoken as an afterthought. No one can really believe now. Now. Thousands and thousands of months. Now. Chastity, now a complex.

Someone thought of her. Someone prayed to her. Under an olive tree.

She came to him. As beautiful as the day she was born. She came with him. Bursting forth. Again. Re birth. A small death. Ecstasy. Love. Breaking rules, bending her name. Change. The past is dead. But she is not. The ebb flows within her, his seed flows within her. Shame. She comes again. She swallows him. Shame. Time circling back around.

Her secret ingested. Festering inside her like a wound. Growing. She can’t stall it, only move it. Womb to head. Walk of shame.

Then, she waits. The others can’t know. Daddy can’t know. No one will know.  She can’t undo all that she has done. Now and then. Now is not then. She can’t make them understand. She can’t make herself utter, tell them. Let her be full for eternity. Ignore the movement within. Ignore the pain. Ignore the slight cranial edema.

This can’t last forever, she thinks. But it must. Like her Father, she consumed her secret, and it turned on her. But unlike him this has lasted for fifteen years. Fifteen years of light, heavy white light, obscuring her sight. Asymmetrical scotoma. Imbalance. Sharp, penetrating pangs to the temple. Every ten or so minutes an interruption. It’s lonely. The baby’s lonely. The baby that’s not a baby. He’s like her. He can walk through her memories. Pluck objects he needs from her imagination. She writes stories for him, creates characters.

People, their walking, speaking images remembered, conceived, are the only toys he has.

He, too, fashions himself armor. He, too, clinks and clanks. Mother! Mother! He can’t see her, only feel her, ask her for sweets. He can only live vicariously. Asking for more memories of parks and teddy bears. Begs her to stand in the mirror, so he can see her face. Through the mirror. Through her brief glances, he can stand next to her. He can’t touch her here. He can never touch her. Mother. Mother.

His anger bursts forth. The mirror, the repertoire, the analogon, shatters.

She has a choice. The past is dead, for all, but for her. She must change. This. Cannot go on. She’s willing to sacrifice herself. Sacrificing her name is harder. Pride at what could be. Shame at what could be. No longer proud of her silence. Her head pounds, stretches, splits, hatches.

(She withstood longer than her Father. She split not for herself, not out of fear, but for the other, for the part of herself that is not herself. Out of love.)

A mighty god bursts forth.

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Virginia Woolf once wrote:

“The merest schoolgirl when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind, but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor, and language at once runs dry.”

Loneliness. Alienation. Isolation. Even guilt, shame as Paula Kamen notes. These are common symptoms of migraine headache.

For years, and still, even now, doctors do not believe patients when they come for help with their invisible migraine headaches. I’ve had MRIs, because it is imperative that a migraineure checks and makes sure their problem isn’t more substantial like a tumor, but once the problem is labeled benign, like migraines, it’s almost as if the medical world vanishes.

Having pain is to have certainty.

Hearing about pain is to have doubt.

Mcgill Pain questionnaires are generic. They’re designed to be. Because it’s impossible to communicate pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual (and I use this term very, very loosely).

I’ve been working on a collection of short stories, two of which will appear in Ampersand Review‘s 4th volume, where I translate my headaches into narratives. A couple of years ago I became fascinated with the language of pain, or rather the aphasia of pain. How it is impossible to really explain to someone what it actually is that I’m experiencing.

I’m forced to rely on empathy and translation because one has to use metaphors to describe pain. Metaphors that one hasn’t experienced. For instance, common descriptions for headaches are: It’s like my head is being stabbed with an ice pick. Or: I feel as if my head’s caught in a vice. Two things that most people have not experienced, two things that would fall under the category of torture and would certainly involve human agency. But, the migraine is self-generated. Meaning, the body causes this trauma unto itself.

Elaine Scarry ‘s Body in Pain and Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience were instrumental in my thought processes.

For Caruth,

Trauma seems to be much more than a pathology, or the simple illness of a wounded psyche: it is always the story of a wound that cries out, that addresses us in the attempt to tell us of a reality or truth that is not otherwise available. This truth, in its delayed appearance and its belated address, cannot be linked only to what is known, but also to what remains unknown in our very actions and our language.

Death. For most people, pain is associated with death. And, of course, as no one knows what death actually is, a gnawing, terrifying wound in the human psyche could be a very appropriate description.

When I have a headache it is if my head is literally crying out.

The wound steals my voice.

Help me. Help me. Help me. Stop. Stop. Stop.

My body others itself.

My body tortures me.

Everything is distorted when one is in pain. Pain is the annihilation of the world. Scarry discusses pain from the perspective of torture and war. If one ascribes to phenomenology, and I don’t really understand how one cannot, they would then believe that there is infinite potential within every object. Anything, literally anything, could be used against the victim in an act of torture: “The contents of the room, its furnishings, are converted into weapons.”

Physical pain leads to the destruction and the unmaking of the human world. Obversely, for Scarry, human creation leads to the making of it.

When one is experiencing a migraine headache creation, life stops, and one is forced into obsessive darkness, where one’s only thought is the removal of pain. It’s an obsessive compulsive loop. One cannot stop thinking about an image. For people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this image would be of the moment where they escaped death, and they replay this image over and over in their minds in order to understand it, to torture themselves over what could have been.

It’s an unproductive obsession, but the victim is left with no choice.

Such is the problem with pain. It is not productive. It is not for anything. It just is. (Unless the pain is child birth, the only productive pain.) And when you’re in the dregs of pain, it seems like it has always been and will continue on being for eternity. In other words, it’s torturous.

Emily Dickinson, Poem XIX:

PAIN has an element of blank

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there were

A day when it was not

It has no future but itself

Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive

New Periods of pain.

*Note, after four lines there is a break. Wouldn’t want to change Ms. Dickinson’s format. I know how poets are.

**For the definitive Migraine Ontology please read Oliver Sack’s Migraine.

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