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Migraine

I felt a twinge of empathy with that Republican nut-job, Michelle Bachmann, this week. She is a fellow migraineur, which has seen the media asking whether she should run for Presidency. This is despite the fact that Ulysses S Grant, Jefferson, and JFK suffered them. But the empathy comes from my being walloped by them since I was a child. I know it's a migraine when I'm being sick, like I was at Earls Court station the other week - and at South Acton station a few months before that, forcing me off the train and onto my knees on the platform, with the train driver shouting through his cabin window as the train left 'sorry, sorry' and then calling to the platform guard to 'get her an ambulance', before looking back at me again shouting 'sorry'. He obviously thought I was about to die. When I'm being sick with migraine I really wouldn't mind someone shooting me to relieve me of the pain and tides of nausea. They are truly debilitating. Thankfully I can often nip them in the bud with medication when I know there's one brewing, but sometimes even the specialist migraine tablets don't work. But I get 'tension headaches' far more frequently - or are they 'cluster' headaches, or can they simply be categorised as mild, garden-variety or bad? 

The best thing for me about having a migraine - the only thing - is the subdued feeling when I wake up and it's gone (sometimes that's not the case as I can wake up with it). It's the difference between a wild, stormy sea upon which no sailor would venture, and the calm glassy-surfaced sea that allows a boat to glide. Lots of writers have been migraineurs, most famously, Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. How else to explain the surreality of Wonderland? Big, small - near, far. Writer Joan Didion wrote many years ago - as have others - that the migraineur is a specific character type: perfectionist, rigid, ambitious, controlled, controlling. I'm sure there may well be elements of all of those, but it kind of smacks of someone saying 'lighten up', and there are many migraineurs who claim not to be any of these things. I know for me that stress has a large part to play. It simply writes itself on my body. When I was younger I suffered not just with the headaches, but stomach aches and skin conditions. All grist for the mill for a neurotic writer! But what would happen if, heaven forfend, Bachmann did get into the White House and she was, say on a foreign trip and the medication wouldn't work to at least alleviate it enough? In these days of 24/7 media it would be whipped up out of all proportion. Well, it's not something I need worry about - I'm not running for office anytime soon - but it can still have the same devastating impact on the life of a regular worker who is forced to take to time off work but who then spends time worrying about work.

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