I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –
I can’t think of a better way to describe a migraine than this poem. I LOVE Emily Dickinson for all sorts of reasons: she wasn’t always the recluse she’s made out to be, you know. She was, in her early years, sociable and popular. It was only after a series of deaths and sadnesses in her life that she “took to the bed”, or at least stayed within the parameters of her family’s not too shabby estate in Massachusetts. She had been to university and had a mind of her own. Of course, her unorthodox use of punctuation is super exciting for an English teacher like me who gets supremely bored of well structured sonnets about beautiful ladies or a nice Keatsian ode. – and , everywhere. Random (or is it?) capitalisation. None of it really makes a lot of sense unless you give yourself over to the truest reading of poetry: don’t analyse every word and line: feel it, hear it.
I’m in the aftermath of a pretty bad migraine, with puking. I haven’t had a pukeygraine in a while, not one that wasn’t self-inflicted by two glasses of wine (I’m a notorious wine lightweight these days – a bottle to myself on a Friday night used to be no bother to me, no I feel ill even at the thought of it) or four or five G&Ts (I can still wake up relatively functional after a few Bombay Sapphires). I’ve had one G&T since Christmas, that’s the sum total of my 2015 alcohol intake mostly because I want to avoid wasting three days in Migraland which I’m reckoning is something akin to Purgatory (not that I believe in purgatory – full of unbaptised babies and people who once stole an apple but will make it through the pearly gates after a week or two of limbo). Migraland is a torturous valley of darkness splintered by blinding, excruciating shards of lights trying to gouge out you’d eyes and brains with their bright blades. Little PokerPixies scamp around your head with red hot (you’ve guessed it) pokers teasing you with bearable pain at first, around the crown of the skull, back of the neck, over your eye… “It could be just a tension headache” you tell yourself, “it might ease off”. Wishful thinking bitch.
Some people can sense it’s coming, they get an “aura”, I wish to god I got an aura because I’d know to decapitate myself in time. I usually just wake up in pre-full flow; it’s already set in, it just hasn’t decided to try to kill me yet.
It hurts to turn your head even enough to check to see if your head is still attached (you’ll wish it wasn’t), opening your eyes is like having your nerves endings sucked out of your tear ducts.
As the day goes on you don’t dare stand up, you can only lie on your back, you’d rather pee on yourself rather than stagger to the bathroom, you feel like your sea sick and someone’s painted yellow lines across your right eye (that’s probably fairly specific to me) in an act of cranial vandalism. Ultimately, the PokerPixies of Purgatory are out to get you, and you’re about to get Punk’d.
Emily Dickinson’s poetry unquestionably features plenty of death. I think I Felt a Funeral, wittingly evokes a migraine episode: “Treading”; “beating”; “breaking”; “drum”; “numb”; “creak”; “Boots of Lead”; “toll”; “bell”; “wrecked”; “solitary” – all of these painfully appropriate to the migrained brain.
That poor presenter at the Grammy’s, viewers thought she was pissed, stoned or rather more sympathetically, was having a stroke. This is what a migraine can do to your brain! All you non-sufferers who think it’s “just a headache”. NOTHING will shift it – forget those one pink-two yellow cures. Not even high strength shots from the doctor, all they can do is ease the sickness, the pain you just have to ride out.
I would rather birth half a dozen babies (minus the pregnancy and rearing bit) than experience another three day test against the PixiePokers, whom I have never beaten since our first encounter when I was fifteen. It happened during a Maths grind: maybe that’s why I still don’t see how mathematics is the basis for everything. Whatever, numbers geeks.
Honestly I can say that there have been times during a particularly bad migraine when I wished I were dead. I would welcome death of it came knocking as I could no longer stand the pain. I like to think I have a fairly decent pain threshold – I finished the back thirteen miles of a marathon with a torn ACL.
I wonder sometimes, are crazy people more prone to migraines than straight up, straightforward, just get on with it people? Maybe Emily Dickinson was combining cracking up with a crack in the skull and wishing she was dead all at the same time.
The only thing worth living for when you are in the throes of a deep dish, extra large, extra toppings migraine fest is that feeling when it finally eases. It is a rebirth. A reawakening. You’re so glad to be alive. To be able to move. To be able to open your eyes to the little birds in the trees… nah, I still hate birds. You’re like Wordsworth exclaiming on the joyous wonder that is the universe. And you don’t feel like you’re on an ancient trawler in a North Atlantic storm with a fog horn attached to your eardrum.
On that note, I think I’ve exhausted both my metaphors and my brain capacity, need to close my eyes for a bit in case this fucker comes back.