It is tempting for me to read some of the "can she be President if she has migraines?" commentary about Ms. Bachman as yet another example of the stigma of migraine or the extra scrutiny that comes with being a female Presidential candidate. And it may well be that such prejudices are behind some of it.
But I have just finished reading - actually, listening to, since reading and migraines do not mix - a book about John F. Kennedy (An Unfinished Life, by Robert Dallek). Besides being a fascinating, well-written and detailed narrative about JFK's life, it is a revelation of his numerous health problems and how they impacted his life and political career.
JFK, his family, staff and friends lied and obfuscated about his Addison's disease, intestinal difficulties, chronic back pain, and prostate problems during the whole of his political career. The very real fear was that his life in politics would be over if the facts of his health and/or the amount and type of medications he was taking ever leaked out. Indeed, the book raises questions and then speculates about how the pain and the medications may have influenced his actions and decisions as Senator and as President.
Had I not been reading this book at the time of the Michele migraine discussions, I would likely have allowed my comments to devolve into decrying the deplorable prejudice - against migraineurs, against women in and with power - evident in some of what I saw. I have enough experience on my own and have connected with enough women with migraine to be sure there is some political hay-making going on while the spotlight shines. I recall being infuriated, for example, by the snide and sly coverage and questions asked of Hilary Clinton during her run for Presidential nomination. So it is out there, and I know it, but that can be the subject of another post.
What I also know is that it is all too easy to cast ourselves as victims. Being a migraineur myself, I could cite my own and my cyber friends' examples of migraine bias and the painful ways it has affected us. To do so in the light of what has been said about Ms. Bachman would be justifiable and understandable. But sometimes it is just not right to revert to the constant, if true, refrain of victimhood. Sometimes it just feels right to be honest about how complicated it all is.
This is a blog about how living the limited life of chronic pain has influenced my spiritual life, and vice versa. In the case of Michele Bachman's migraines, the chronic pain encourages a dyspeptic monologue about migraine bias, while the spiritual living encourages a step back and a casting of a glance inwardly to that place of clear-eyed wisdom that is so attractive to me.
Both are real. And balance is what I desire, along with the peace that accompanies it, so I am compelled by my desires and my own blogging to be equitable about this. It seems inadequate, even to me and even as I write it, though. Aren't we supposed to take a stand and stay by it? Don't people decide what they think about things and then trumpet incontrovertible opinions to their world? Fence-sitters are not respected, after all.
Oh well. With apologies to all of us who want certainty and facts and categorical statements on which to rely, here is what I can say about Michele Bachman's headaches:
It may be that her migraines cause her little enough distress that she can manage a high-powered and influential career. It may be that the seriousness of her migraines are being shielded - a la JFK - from public view. It may be that persons with fear of and prejudice against powerful women are using the reports of migraines to derail a career that frightens them. It may be political.
All I can write with any certainty is that I hope - in case the migraines are truly and often debilitating - Ms. Bachman is realistic and self-honest enough, that her handlers, friends and family are brave enough, or that the terrible effects of frequent migraines become debilitating enough to end her run.
And I hope - in case the migraines are easily managed and inconsequential - that Ms. Bachman continues her career to the best of her ability, attentive to the noble and honorable possibilities inherent in a public service career.
More particularly, I hope and pray that she allows pain she has suffered - from migraine or whatever - to bring her closer in compassion to the pain being suffered now by people in America.
Next Post: Some discussion on stepping away from victim status and the power of honest vulnerability.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.