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Migraine & Sex. . . and Writing About Them

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” I think of this advice so often that I’ve thought of having it tattooed inside my wrist in the abbreviated form of “open, bleed” with an arrow to a vein. The advice came to mind most recently while I was writing about sex and migraine for Migraine & Headache Awareness Month for Migraine.com. In this case, though, I felt less like I was bleeding and more like I’d hung my dirty laundry in the front yard and shined a spotlight on it.

Chronic migraine complicates a person’s sex life, to say the least. Not enough people are willing to write about it openly and honestly, but it needs to be addressed, so I agreed to try. I wrote a draft and put it away, thinking I could go back and take my relationship out of it, make myself feel a little less vulnerable. Revisiting the draft a couple weeks later, I saw that I really couldn’t remove myself and still capture the heart of the message. So I sent it to Hart and asked if he was OK with all that I revealed. I held my breath, simultaneously hoping he’d give me the go ahead and that he would say “no way.”

All this agonizing reminds me of a post I wrote about my homesickness for Seattle when I lived in Boston. I posted it, cringing as I hit “publish.” Even a year later, I couldn’t read it without feeling overly exposed. I saw it earlier this week and thought, “Oh, that’s no big deal.” What felt at the time like baring my soul turned out to be nothing more than truthful, sincere writing. This, I believe, is a sign that I’ve grown as a writer, that I’m willing to dig deeper in the service of my craft.

Opening a vein and bleeding onto the page can be gut-wrenching and cringe-inducing. It also produces the most profound insights and touches readers in a way that holding back never can. Not to imply I do this all for you. I, too, benefit from writing and publishing thoughts outside my comfort zone. But it still makes me squirm. (So much so that I can only link to the aforementioned post about sex and migraine by writing about how awkward it was to write!)

5 Responses to Migraine & Sex. . . and Writing About Them

  1. Sue says:

    Ok,open and bleed also squirm. I read this this morning and did not have the nerve to respond. Now I have had a glass of wine and I’m a tiny bit braver. I am the wife of a chronic migraineur so I’m coming from other side.I avoid sex at all cost.Hmm I guess I would call it fear and selfishness. Fear of hurting the one I love because I know it will cause a terrible migraine. Selfishness because every migraine affects me too. I want him to be upright not in bed even if it’s just sitting on the couch with me.He says sometimes it’s worth it to him..but to me it’s not worth it.”I’m going to have a migraine no matter what I do” I hear that a lot. Ok, this is too hard for me. I have to stop.I am not at all used to talking about any of this.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Sue. Your story brought tears to my eyes. What a terrible situation it is that you and your husband and my husband and I have to sacrifice our intimacy because of an illness.

    I hadn’t thought about the point of view that every migraine affects our partners (not in the context of sex, at least). Hart really hates that I’m mentally and emotionally disengaged during a migraine. Sex doesn’t only mean causing me physical pain, but that he doesn’t get to engage with me the next day… and I don’t make the phone calls I need to make or pay the bills or whatever it is I’m supposed to do.

    This illness takes so much of our lives, both for migraineurs and the people who love us. Thank you again for sharing your story. You’re welcome to email if you’d like to share more without it being fully public: kerrie[at]thedailyheadache[dot]com

    Take care,
    Kerrie

  3. Chris says:

    Sex, making love, being intimate… Whatever one chooses to call it this is something that becomes a bit more challening for those who suffer from migraine, or as in my case, chronic migraine. Not only is it challenging for the sufferer it is also challenging for the significant other.Sue speaks from this perspective in her comment. It is obviously something that is not quite as simple as for those who do not have to navigate through the migraines.
    From the point of view of the chronic migraine sufferer I can say that this is definitely a big obstacle to being intimate with my wife. I cannot begin to say how many times migraine has stopped passionate intentions. Most often migraine simply stops the whole process before it even begins. Other times my wife and I begin to move toward physical (emotional and spiritual as well) intimacy before migraine steps in and stops the process.
    Sadly, we have become somewhat use to the annoying, and devistating as it becomes chronic, interruption of migraine. Again, referring back to Sue’s comment, sometimes we choose to avoid intimacy because migraine is either present or looming. Over the days, weeks, months and years this pattern pushes our times of intimacy farther and farther apart. We work hard to keep our relationship close and supportive. The lack of intimacy is something for which we must compensate. Time simply being together while we watch a movie or sit, talking about our day on couch… these can help.
    As I write my comment I am free of migraine. I really do hope this lasts into the evening!

    Take Care,
    Chris

  4. Sue says:

    Chris,I agree that simply time spent together is what I hope for. Last night my hubby has good. He went to Lowes with me and we stopped and got an icecream. Most people would not consider it any big deal..but it was to me! Today he has not moved except to go to the bathroom. One thing that has hurt our relationship in the past is that I take on the roll of caregiver not wife.We have been working on that. If he is in bed for days on end sometimes all he hears from me is “did you take your meds?” “you have to eat something” “please drink something” or “ughh how could you forget to take your meds???!!!”
    Once again,thank you for this blog!
    Hugs!
    Sue

  5. Chris says:

    Sue,

    I agree, a huge “Thank you!” To Kerrie for this blog!!! I cannot thank her enough for this wonderful gift.

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