Sunday, February 21, 2010


What I've gradually come to learn in my almost 25 years (birthday coming up- beware!) is that everything has a flip side. Well, almost everything. Some things just shouldn't happen. But in my case, if there is an advantage to having an ocean of pain sloshing back and forth in your head every other day, this is it: when the tide retreats, the ordinary pieces of life transform into something exotic, something luminous. Energy is boundless, the world hums with possibility.

The English language lacks an accurate term to describe the feeling of pain evaporating. Normal and ordinary come up far short. The evaporation of pain is extraordinary: blissful, beautiful, precious. It is the ecstasy of emerging shivering out of frigid water into a hot summer day, pulling your body onto a sun baked rock and feeling the warmth radiate through you.

Just the other day in Memphis, I woke up after a two week migraine to feel nothing. A soaring emptiness in my head. The previous day I had cut all my hair off, something I had read might help. That plus imitrex and hours of lying still and luck and begging and bargaining had payed off: in the middle of the night, the carnival had packed up its tents and disappeared. Its absence made me feel light as a biscuit. I floated out of bed, went running down the hall, crashed into the living room and shouted at my boyfriend, "HI! LET'S DO SOMETHING! LET'S GO TO THE ZOO!"

It's a mighty challenge, filling up each hour with as much living as possible before the hammer falls and you're sick again. I used to have auras- spots of vision blinking in and out, a sudden and severe aversion to sunlight. These warned me when a migraine was on the horizon like a tornado, and I could grab the dog and run into the basement, so to speak. Man, those were the days. Now the pain just hits from out of the clear blue, like a sucker-punch.

What I mean is- you never know when it's going to hit, so on your good days you better make it worth it. And lately, spending five or so hours each day interviewing Steph and writing her story has sharpened my awareness of my luck to have these miraculous 'good days'.

It's a give and take, I suppose, just like everything. Check out the jewel toned moments from the last few days:

See what I mean about the luminosity?

Then yesterday, as I was writing at the local library, I looked up to see the world tilt suddenly on its axis, and that familiar pressure began to pulse inside my head like a firefly gearing up for a sultry night of insect love. I hammered out the rest of the story, then packed away my notes and drove home to the familiar dark of my sleeping bag. (Yeah, I don't have a bed, but the floor is carpeted.) Three days without a headache! I thought to myself with sincere appreciation as I closed the blinds. Three whole days. It was a good run.

(RIP my hair)


emery said...

i want to see your hair!
love you em

Catherine said...

Mel, I came here from you post on Will and cannot help but ask about the migraines. I have been suffering from migraines for as long as I can remember and I still am struggling with them many times a month (especially effort migraines). I was wondering if you found a cure since you do not talk much about them on the blog lately... Thanks!