I’ve decided to tell you some of the good things about having chronic migraine. It may be a short column (a columnín or a columnita) but bear with me – I’m going to give it a go.
Migraine brains are like bonsai trees: “more delicate than the average indoor plant”. In a YouTube interview, entitled Shades of Migraine, Dr Michael Teixido tells us: “The brain of a migraineur is exquisitely sensitive.”
My sensitive brain means that I will struggle to sit beside you on the bus if you are wearing perfume, or drinking coffee. It means I have to shield my eyes during trippy movie scenes. It means, I can’t eat your birthday cake because it has chocolate in it.
Having a sensitive brain also means that when I watch the swans swoop on the Royal Canal, I become breathless and want everything else in the world to pause for a moment while I take it in. It means that when I watch my friend sing opera, a swell rises in my stomach in an experience akin to falling in love. And it means that when I fall in love, the feeling is so big that I cannot contain it.
Migraine brains are sensitive brains. We must continually “pay particular attention to where you place it and how to water it properly”. But I’m okay with being sensitive. I like that I am attuned to sensing small things and that these small things can feel like big things.
I like that things feel so big.
When you are disabled, no one finds it odd when you become a writer. Being a writer fits within their perception of ‘normal’ for someone they already consider to be a bit weird
In a campaign launched by Brown Thomas to celebrate queer Irish voices during Pride Month earlier this year, PJ Kirby, one half of I’m Grand Mam podcast, declared: “What is the best thing about being queer? I think the best thing is you can kinda throw the rule book out the window… Already people are like don’t really know what to do with you in society. You can kinda do whatever you want, which is really freeing.”
When you are disabled, people are not quite sure what to expect from you.
Will you marry?
Will you get a job?
Will you live in a hovel in the woods?
Everybody is a little unsure.
When you do not fit into a prescribed box, you design your own shape. You build a box that fits you, and if you overspill the box, that’s okay too. No one knew what shape it was in the first place.
When I enter a new friend’s home, I like that I am instantly offered herbal tea. I like that no one expects me to eat “normal” food or drink “normal” milk. I like that no one shrugs when I leave a party early. Even if I am only leaving because I am bored.
When you are disabled, no one finds it odd when you become a writer. Being a writer fits within their perception of “normal” for someone they already consider to be a bit weird.
There are not a lot of good things about having migraine but there are a lot of good things about existing within the world in which I live. There are a lot of things I like about being me
My experience is perceived to be outside the norm, and therefore no one expects me to exist within it. I know if I got a job hand-carving spoons, my family would say, “great for you”, and share all my posts on Instagram.
I like being weird.
A number of years ago, my dad said to me, in reference to being single at the time: “I know you’ll make things work. Whether it’s with a man or a woman or a group of people, you’ll make things work.”
I’m not sure what he was anticipating but I sense that I will surprise him only by heterosexual monogamy.
Having this freedom is nice.
At this point, I must add that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to experience this level of acceptance. Many people are persecuted for their differences. They are asked to change who they are to appease other people’s discomfort with diversity.
When, on my 10th birthday I kissed a pig in Dublin Zoo, my friends and family cheered as though I had met my Prince Charming (I had, in a sense). I have always felt celebrated for being who I am. And for this, I am terrifically lucky.
There are not a lot of good things about having migraine but there are a lot of good things about existing within the world in which I live. There are a lot of things I like about being me.
Please note, however, this column was written about my experience. On a good day. If you want to kick and shout and curse your illness, do.
A lot of the time, being sick is pure crap.