Book Review: Migraine Expressions


I wrote an essay, for a collection of essays, artwork and poetry, called ‘Migraine Expressions’, compiled and edited by Betsy Blondin. This collection was designed to have those with migraines share their experiences through various artistic means. I believe that it succeeds brilliantly and in a way it bridges that gap of personal experiences and the subjectivity of pain. Pain is not a shared experience by nature, yet I saw myself reflected so many times in these expressions. My frustrations, pain, emotions and triumphs were mirrored by others. I like that others know my experience, have lived it and are surviving it.

The forward is written by well known migraine advocate and author Teri Roberts In which she says, “Projects such as Migraine Expressions are rare, priceless, and sorely needed. They offer an intimate view of the impact of Migraine disease. The works of art in this book are deeply personal and revealing, while ‘both heart-wrenching and inspiring, filled with both terror and hope.” And indeed some of the artwork is vivid and tormented. To preview some of the artwork you can go here and view some pages.
My essay, ‘To All Those with Migraines: I too, share your brain cramps’, is not soul-wrenching or even inspiring. I would say it is more amusing, even giggle worthy. To which I have loads worth of advice such as; ‘You can try an elimination diet, where you start by eating nothing and slowly add things in, to find those sneaky food triggers. You may find that milk causes a migraine, whereas soy milk just causes an unpleasant taste in your mouth. If lack of sleep is a trigger, try sleeping. If it is hormones, try getting pregnant and staying that way, or more dramatically, change your gender. If it is sunlight, become a vampire. If it is loud noises, wear ear muffs.’ I know; I am super helpful. The second most amusing piece in the book is a poem by Kayt Hoch called ‘a comment on migraines and subtitles’, which I related to because it is so much like the fibromyalgia/migraine brain haze experience we all know so well.
The first poem that resonated with me is called ‘The Usual’, by Teresa Ramos. It is similar to the ‘I’m fine and dandy’ response we tend to give, even when we are so not. I find her poem about responding to sympathy, health inquires and such with ‘the usual’ even better. So much better than my ‘I feel like I was ran over by a truck, run through a shredder, with a vice squeeze on my head and my brains leaking out my ears’, which is a mouthful and as such I tend to avoid using. It is not surprising that the next piece I enjoy is called ‘The Mask’, by Melissa Bartosh, to which, with vivid imagery, she describes exactly what lies beyond that façade we employ to get through the day.
One of my favorites, that expresses the sort of war within struggle, is ‘Demon in My Head’, by Jessica Vitelli; the demon being seen as an attacker, a disruptive being lurking in the shadows ready to pounce. Similar in concept is the poem ‘The Angel of Migraines’, by Eugenia Toledo-Keyser. “Migraine is all this and more/ That encircles me/ Pulls me away from life,/ And finally leaves me dizzy and/ Hanging with an aura/ That doesn’t bleed.” I found in many cases the disease is referred to as some presence outside of ourselves or a storm afflicting us. Something we survive, yet chronic pain becomes something far greater than moments of endured pain. It is a lived experience. It is through pain hazed vision we see the world, move through the world and it is not an experience someone can relate to, having even endured a moment of tormenting agony, because moments pass. I like to think others who live a relatively pain free existence can read these expressions or see these images and grasp that weary wisdom the rest of us live with.
I could go on and would go on, except I would be quoting far too much. Either way I think this book spans the gap of subjective pain to a shared experience. For all those with migraines or for anyone who knows someone who does suffer and even those of us that know a whole lot about chronic pain, migraine or otherwise, all we have to portray our lived pain is through words and sometimes it just does not cover it, other times it succeeds brilliantly.
Migraine Expressions 2008 by Word Metro Press
Compiled and edited by Betsy Baxter Blondin
Art direction by Gina Giblin
ISBN 978-0-615-20197-9
$27.95! (Retail price: $34.95)
* A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be contributed to migraine research and advocacy organizations.
Book review written by: Nikki Albert © 2008

  • jamie

    This book is amazing, awe inspiring and at the same time chilling. If you’re a migraineur, or know someone that is, you NEED a copy of this book.