16 August 2011

Michele's Migraines

Politics aside -- I being liberal of the bleeding-heart-on-the-sleeve kind -- I quite naturally have a lot of empathy for Michele Bachman.  Living with migraine pain gives us common ground.  Again, politics aside -- she being conservative of the I-talk-alot-about-compassion-because-otherwise-it's-assumed-I-have-none variety -- I also feel some admiration for her.  Campaigning for nomination for president is rigorous in the extreme, but to do it with WITH migraines?  The mind boggles.

Of course, there is very little information from her about the migraines, their frequency and severity, what meds she takes, how she manages pain, when the alleged hospitalizations occurred, etc.  I'm no political pundit, but I agree with Judith Warner's opinion in the July 21 NY Times: leaving the information to speculation isn't helping. 

Finally, I do not assume that my experience with migraines, which caused me to leave my well-loved work at Miriam's House in 2009 and continues to render me unable to work, gives me any right to judge Ms. Bachman.  Migraine is an idiosyncratic disease, difficult to treat partly due to the varied ways in which it manifests itself in different people.  And it is not very well researched as of now. 

All that being said, and given that I live a greatly circumscribed life due to painful and chronic migraines, I cannot imagine how Ms. Backman could even begin to conduct a nomination campaign if her migraines are, as alleged by The Daily Caller, "frequent" and "incapacitating."  If she is having a level of pain and frequency that still allows her to run for the Republican nomination, then until I hear otherwise, I have to think that her migraines are wimpy, unremarkable things that are fairly easily managed by medication.

That makes me envy her.

All that being said, and given that I forced myself to work a good five years with ever-worsening migraines because I loved my job and could not imagine giving it up, I know the toll that ignored migraine episodes take upon health, vigor, mental acuity, memory, and patience.  I know the level of self-delusion required to maintain the fiction that one is well and functioning at top capacity.  If Ms. Bachman is deluding herself in this way and trying to hide her difficulties from others as well, I have to hope that someone tells her no one else is fooled, and that it will catch up with her in a big way some day.

That makes me pity her.

I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


  1. It seems like migraines are common. I know so many people who have migraines but I think there is such a difference between people who have migraines and people like us with intractable migraines that rob more than 1/2 of our days.

    I've had migraines since I was a little girl and it was never really an issue until they got all crazy and out of control about 5 years ago or so. I was a workaholic who somehow always found time and energy to volunteer, do theatre and even have a social life.

    I'm not proud of this, but...I find myself jealous even of those folks who have just regular migraines once in a while. Because when that was me I still had a life, I still could function, my brain still cooperated with me and I had plenty of energy. What I wouldn't do to have that life back again.

  2. I don’t think suffering from migraines is necessarily a disqualifier for the presidency. Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers who Joan of Minneapolis admires so much, had migraines.

  3. @ Migrainista: It is hard, I agree, from the perspective of chronic, intractable migraines not to be jealous of folks with manageable migraines. Chronic pain does limit one's life.

    @ Online Roulette: So many successful people have suffered and do suffer from migraines - it should never be assumed that a medical condition of any sort automatically exempts one from leadership positions, or any position for that matter.

  4. All the press about Bachman's migraines led me to Joan Didion's essay about the condition. I'm sure you've read it before, but here's a link nonetheless: http://brigidkaelin.blogspot.com/2009/09/good-essay-about-bad-headache.html I especially liked the circuit breaker analogy, as I've experienced that feeling myself!

  5. Hi, Meridith: No, I had not read the Didion essay, thanks for the link.

  6. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well.

  7. It used to be that Americans wondered if a woman could be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. They also questioned if modern society would ever elect someone who's been divorced. Hey, just last week, Larry David asked why we haven't had any bald presidents.