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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!)

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Finding My Spark

“I’m back,” I thought as I wrote Migraine’s Not the Boss of Me. “Kerrie’s back,” Hart said to me after reading In Gratitude for My Imperfect Body. Neither of us were excited merely because I’d posted or even that I’d written about feeling better and practicing yoga. We were both struck by the style in which the posts were written — we both heard my long-absent “voice.”

When I began to write last week, I experienced the same uncertainty as when I first started blogging. I felt awkward and unsure about my writing; not convinced I was presenting my thoughts accurately or representing my ideas in the “right” way. (I think this is pretty common when someone publishes their writing to a new audience.) My nervousness eased when, with Hart’s confirmation, I saw I’d fallen right back in as if I’d never left. The pile of draft posts I’ve written over the past few years is entirely different. Even the ones I deemed complete weren’t publishable. They all sound flat and hollow. There was a spark missing in those mediocre drafts.

There was, I realized in a sleepy haze in the middle of the night, a spark missing in my life. I rolled over, barely awake, and smiled as I thought of everything I could do today. I feel like I have options for the first time in years. The available choices in a day haven’t really changed — I could blog or cook or craft or clean — but anything seems possible and, even better, exciting.

I can speculate on reasons for this shift: Migraine has less of a physical, mental and emotional impact than it did. The episodes are less frequent and less intense. I am able to recognize the accompanying emotional fluctuations as a symptom of the illness instead of being carried away by depression. I no longer feel like migraine will suffocate me.

Whatever the reason, I’ve got my groove back. The passionate, creative, enthusiastic woman I thought I’d lost to migraine was only obscured, not destroyed. I’m glad I’m here to celebrate.