Journal

Migraine: What If I’ve Been Wrong – Part 7

by | Jun 30, 2014 | Editorial

June is Migraine Awareness Month. Throughout the month, I’m sharing parts of my journey and some things I’ve learned along the way.
I was well into my 50’s when I begin releasing the idea of migraine-as-nemesis and began meditating on the “what ifs”: What if, as I first wondered back when I read Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine, there is a link between migraine and creativity? What if my ability – such as it is – to write poems and stories is somehow connected to my migraines? Is it possible, and if so, then what? I begin to read everything I could to explore such a possibility. I spoke to healers, mentors and my intuitive friends. And, of course, I wrote poem after poem about it.

And then one day in 2007 my very intuitive best friend Deborah called me with a new insight. We had already talked extensively about migraine as a kind of malfunctioning of the brain. “What if it is a misfiring,” she said, “but what if your ability to write poems is the flip side? What if the misfiring mechanism opens something in the brain that makes the words come?”

What if, indeed? Oh…my…goodness… Could it be? I thought back to Oliver Sacks’ mathematician, whom I discussed previously. He went off the medicine that had cured his migraines because he had also lost his creative math ability.

What if I were to be given a similar choice? What if I could wake up every morning headache-free but when I picked up the pen nothing came? What then? Which would I choose? The answer was a foregone conclusion. It was really no choice at all. I could live with the pain. I’ve been doing it all my life, after all, but I couldn’t live without my writing. It’s my soul, my prayer, my connection to G-d. And maybe built into the migraine itself is a gift I hadn’t even thought about. Maybe my malfunctioning brain, or my soul, or G-d was saying, “Slow down. Stop. Close your eyes. Then pick up the pen. The words will come.”

Shortly after the conversation with my friend I wrote the following sonnet. The writing of it in itself was hugely cathartic, instructive and life-altering for me. Full acceptance would take a few more years, but this has probably been for me one of the most important poems I’ve ever written. It changed me forever.

What If I’ve Been Wrong
(2007)

What if for a lifetime I’ve been wrong?
I’ve always tried to fight the migraine pain,
But what if it’s a signal to my brain
Without which I would have no healing song?
What if when the pain invades my head
I’m meant to calm my body, seek the cave,
The solitude and darkness that I crave;
To still my mind, let Spirit speak instead,
Then through my pen to process what I’ve heard?
What if I could choose: the pain would lift,
But I would never write another word –
Would I relinquish my poetic gift?
No! My joy; my pain. Two sides; one face.
May I accept them both, dear G-d, with grace.

I was well into my 50’s when I begin releasing the idea of migraine-as-nemesis and began meditating on the “what ifs”: What if, as I first wondered back when I read Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine, there is a link between migraine and creativity? What if my ability – such as it is – to write poems and stories is somehow connected to my migraines? Is it possible, and if so, then what? I begin to read everything I could to explore such a possibility. I spoke to healers, mentors and my intuitive friends. And, of course, I wrote poem after poem about it.

And then one day in 2007 my very intuitive best friend Deborah called me with a new insight. We had already talked extensively about migraine as a kind of malfunctioning of the brain. “What if it is a misfiring,” she said, “but what if your ability to write poems is the flip side? What if the misfiring mechanism opens something in the brain that makes the words come?”

What if, indeed? Oh…my…goodness… Could it be? I thought back to Oliver Sacks’ mathematician, whom I discussed previously. He went off the medicine that had cured his migraines because he had also lost his creative math ability.

What if I were to be given a similar choice? What if I could wake up every morning headache-free but when I picked up the pen nothing came? What then? Which would I choose? The answer was a foregone conclusion. It was really no choice at all. I could live with the pain. I’ve been doing it all my life, after all, but I couldn’t live without my writing. It’s my soul, my prayer, my connection to G-d. And maybe built into the migraine itself is a gift I hadn’t even thought about. Maybe my malfunctioning brain, or my soul, or G-d was saying, “Slow down. Stop. Close your eyes. Then pick up the pen. The words will come.”

Shortly after the conversation with my friend I wrote the following sonnet. The writing of it in itself was hugely cathartic, instructive and life-altering for me. Full acceptance would take a few more years, but this has probably been for me one of the most important poems I’ve ever written. It changed me forever.

What If I’ve Been Wrong
(2007)

What if for a lifetime I’ve been wrong?
I’ve always tried to fight the migraine pain,
But what if it’s a signal to my brain
Without which I would have no healing song?
What if when the pain invades my head
I’m meant to calm my body, seek the cave,
The solitude and darkness that I crave;
To still my mind, let Spirit speak instead,
Then through my pen to process what I’ve heard?
What if I could choose: the pain would lift,
But I would never write another word –
Would I relinquish my poetic gift?
No! My joy; my pain. Two sides; one face.
May I accept them both, dear G-d, with grace.

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