A flashing Migraine aura shortly after waking has confined me, once again, to my bed and to my head. After meditation + medication + nap, I turn to the Internet where Google’s gorgeous birthday tribute to Virginia Woolf inspires my own brief tribute to a muse for Migraine writing.
Literature has always held the answers for me. Until I met Chronic Migraine, I hadn’t dealt with a problem or pain that a few hours of journaling wouldn’t heal. When I turn to literature for solace and guidance in my life – and eventually, my own Migraine writing – I’m greeted with few real options. Virginia Woolf noticed, too.
“Finally, to hinder the description of illness in literature, there is the poverty of the language. English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. It has all grown one way. The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry. There is nothing ready-made for him. He is forced to coin words himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other (as perhaps the people of Babel did in the beginning), so to crush them together that a brand new word, in the end, drops out. Probably it will be something laughable.”
– Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill
Love, suffering, pain, even death are explored deeply in literature again and again, but most writers have been afraid to look sickness in the face. It’s no surprise that an empathetic and raw look at sickness generally and headache especially came about when women finally picked up the pen.
Virginia Woolf, tragic Ophelian muse that she is, was one of the first.
Happy Birthday, Virginia. From one sick soul to another, creating from bed.