Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day

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Sacks on migraines/the estuary of my mind

Up till now, everything I've read about migraines has been practical; coping strategies, off websites like The Migraine Society's so when I found Oliver Sack's Migraine on Jenny's shelves, yeah, cool, let's get some context, and it's a great book, though very technical (read with a big dictionary or a doctor to hand) and some of his conclusions are more pretty than convincing (as he admits freely enough). He has 100 case studies -- enough to tell you how mild your problems are -- a thorough description of the main types of migraine (there are different sorts?) plus social surroundings, perceptual and actual history of the syndrome, theories of causes, etc. etc. I got about half way there, I mean through. I suspect he's working towards a theory of migraine as self-inflicted purging of slowly-accumulated mental pain, necessary for some people, sometimes demonstrated as other "unexplained pain" type syndromes, "analogous to the annual sheddings of leaves and skins" which may actually be good for you -- "an alternative to neurotic desperation and assuagement". Consequently he occasionally comes across as very classical, with his description of water retention and constipation (a gathering of evil humours) followed by a stream of pain, piss and vomit (a purging of the evil). This doesn't really accord with my experience of a period of sensual exaggeration, aggravation and confusion, peaking to the extremity of the migraine aura and then ebbing to a bit of a sore head, irritation, nausea and tiredness, but I only got halfway through, like I said.

What did strike me was that it seemed a good explaination for why I feel so good (psychologically) after a drunk, even if physically I feel like shit. One of my my favourite models for how my mind works is as a hugely complicated estuary, hundreds of tiny channels, little rills of thought, attitude and mind which can be protected, eroded, diverted, dammed, dug out or silted. The drunk is like a flood, sweeping away the silt and deposited crap, the weeds and rot and lobsters and stagnant pools, so afterwards I feel (counter-intuitively) refreshed and cleansed.

I suppose Sacks would point out that this year, I've been drinking less, and maybe the migraines have stepped in to fill the gap. I wonder if he'd have any practical advice. Maybe that was in the later chapters.

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