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Joan Didion

In Bed’, an essay by Joan Didion depicts her personal experiences with migraine headache, which she inherits from her parents. She presents something unusual about the disease in a more philosophical and meditative domain of thought.

Joan spends her day in bed there almost five times a month because of the migraine headache. She knows that she is going to be attacked by the headache when she feels some sort of irritation and flow of blood in the vessels of her brain. To avoid the attack she takes some medicines and starts to work. In her earlier days, she thought that she would get rid of the disease just by denying it. Sometimes she even tells lies saying that she did not have the attack frequently. But the truth was that sometimes the attack was quite violent and long lasting. However, she feels good that she does not have any other physical problems, such as brain tumor, eyestrain or high blood pressure. She also tries to do all her normal work in spite of it. During the attack her right temple (head) would suffer extreme pain and tears would roll down from her right eyes. She would also vomit. Generally the headache may also be caused by stress, allergy, and tiredness, an abrupt change in blood pressure, a flashing light or a fire drill.

It’s strange that no medicine works effectively in case of migraine, especially when the attack begins. Some people may have hallucination, blinding effect, stomach problem, tiredness and pain in all the senses along with headache. They are even unable to do their normal work. During the attack Didion can’t see and speak clearly. She looks as if she has drunk some wine. But the headache never takes anyone’s life. It is interesting to know what doctors believe about a migraine sufferer. They said that the individual is ambitious, inward, and intolerance of unbearable pain But Didion’s untidy hair and carelessness in housekeeping do not point out her migraine quality. However her great effort to write and rewrite a single paragraph for a week reveals some sort of perfection. Finally she accepts the diseases and lives with it. When she has it she simply concentrates on the pain. But after ten or twelve hours she gets some sort of refreshment and spiritual power. She opens the window and feels the air, eats gratefully and sleeps well. She feels as if she is blessed by God. Therefore she is happy.

Migraine: [extremely bad headachea recurrent, throbbing, very painful headache, often affecting one side of the head and sometimes accompanied by vomiting or by distinct warning signs including visual disturbances.

Symptoms of Migraine Headache: 
  • Headache is not continuous if it occurs it lasts long.
  • Migraine attack occurs almost four to five times in a month.
  • Flush (blush or redness) of blood in cerebral / brainy arteries / blood vessels. 
  • Vision is not clear (temporarily blind)
  • Mild hallucinations / false sense perceptions / illusion / nightmare 
  • Gastrointestinal / stomach / digestive / gastric disturbance 
  • Overpowering fatigue / exhaustion, tiredness, weariness, weakness, lethargy, etc.
  • Aphasia / lack of language abilities
  • Chilling / sweating
  • Nausea / sickness of the stomach / the unsettling feeling in the stomach that accompanies the urge to vomit

 Causes of Migraine Headache Attack:
  • Stress
  • Allergy
  • Fatigue
  • Abrupt Change in atmosphere
  • Flashing Light
  • Decrease of serotonin (neurotransmitter chemical) in blood
    Aura Period: the period in which symptoms are shown.
  • It has no symptoms in aura period.
  • It’s not disease and can be cured or treated.
  • It’s not physiological (body’s internal processes)error.
  • It’s not hereditary error.
  • Ordinary headache
  • It has no aura period.
  • Pain killer works.
                Migraine Headache:
    • It has symptoms in aura period of 15 to 20 minutes.
    • It’s disease and can’t be cured.
    • Migraine is a physiological error.
    • Migraine headache is hereditary error.
    • Migraine is chemical disturbance in serotonin hormone which is in brain.
    • It has aura period.
    • Pain killer doesn’t work.

The writer has chills, sweating, nausea, debility / weakness in her migraine headache. Non migraine patients think that the migraine patients are acting in the name of headache. They think that the headache can be cured by taking painkillers but in fact no painkillers act for migraine headache.

Perfectionist: Person who does each work in his or her life perfectly. Ironically, the writer has said that migraine headache attack gives remedy of stress.


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