Migraine Nights

Pockets of breath indeed. Texting and smoking—both ways of letting a little air out of the tires to make it a smoother ride. The thing about headaches, which seem to be this Catholic soul’s way of smoking and texting: they are a little desperate-making. It hurts to think. It hurts to see. It hurts to hear. A friend mentioned Joan Didion’s essay on headaches, “In Bed,” which I don’t have the energy to look up but in which I seem to remember her describing the relationship between her and her headaches as adversarial until she gave in, and then a delirious kind of peace was struck until the thing passed, like a wave.

There’s something almost redemptive about that: there is comfort in thinking that it’s all just equilibrium, that it’s an adjustment, that there are times when headaches force the hard drive to shut down and you can accept it. Okay, body, you say, fine. You know better than I do.

But then there are the days when you’ve had enough rest. You’ve eaten reasonably well. Maybe you’ve even exercised. You’ve slept. And you want to (for example) read. Or write. You want these things badly, as you haven’t been doing them often or well. You haven’t done them with pleasure in so long that a rather constitutive part of you seems a little fake, like a lie you’d tell at cocktail parties if cocktail parties were still a thing.

You want, is the point, to do something that requires actual effort. And it’s on those days that the climb out of the well you’ve been living in is hard to give up. It’s hard to go back in the dark and let the headache win. Because the headaches, if they aren’t your body, are your mind. And you are tired of not knowing what you’re worrying about.



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