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Edgar Allan Poe, My Mental Health, and Migraine
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I’ve had migraine episodes since I was a teen – around the time I fell in love with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. As I sit here writing this, it’s the 173rd anniversary of his death. He was one of my favorite authors when I learned about him in school. I felt a little strange adoring someone who had such a “dark” personality and covered such heavy topics. Yet, I continued to enjoy him and other authors whose writing broke from the norm.

I remember reading about how many of his physical ailments contributed to his mental illness, and I remember being so sad for him. Poe and many others of that time didn’t have the access to the medical treatments we do now and seemed to suffer from the mental impact as well. 

I wondered how much more he would have written for the world if he wasn’t imprisoned by such significant health challenges. I also thought to myself: “Well at least you can’t go crazy now due to health issues. Our medical advances prevent that. There won’t be any more Edgar Allan Poes in that sense.” 

Well, I was a teen. As an adult, I now know that’s far from the truth. Today, plenty of people have such severe pain and medical issues that they have serious mental and emotional impacts. 

I can stand before anyone and say that I’ve had migraines so severe that I’ve wanted to just run out into the middle of traffic and sit there! Yeah, a little crazy! I wanted to remove my head and “let it rest” or just black out until the pain disappeared. 

There have been times when the pain wasn’t as intense, but the longevity of my migraines (30 years and counting) has really been depressing. More than 30 years is a long time to battle something. Sometimes, I’m just tired of it. If there was a store where you could trade one ailment for another, I think I’d go, “I’ll take one thingamabob in exchange for six migraines please!” Of course, that’s not how life works.

The upticks of stress in my life have also contributed to the duration and intensity of my migraines. I’ve had to become aggressive about how protective I am of my peace. 

I am aggressive about mental health now. I know I can do more, but no longer is therapy a luxury. I hope that’s changing in society. Therapy shouldn’t just be for the rich. In fact, the more you struggle – in any category – the more necessary it is, I think. So how do I protect my mental health with a life of migraines?

  1. Say “no” a lot. (It’s OK. You’ll thank yourself later.)
  2. Cut my to-do list in half each day. Something always comes up, and it’s helpful to have the buffer space. 
  3. Hang around an uplifting bunch. Haters don’t go away with age. Some of them are unavoidable. Where I have a choice, I connect regularly with people who are positive and encouraging and who I know have my best interest at heart. 
  4. I prioritize therapy. It’s in the budget. It’s on my calendar. It’s as important as hair appointments once were. 
  5. I play outside. I considered myself not to be an outdoor person for years due to allergies, sun sensitivity, and a body temp that seems to stay at 100. However, the beach, flowers, lake, the sky, and everything else Emily Dickinson wrote about have been healing and restorative.
  6. I pray. I pray a lot. I feel better afterward – like each and every time. 
  7. I move my body. This is one thing I’d love to be more disciplined about because it’s a tried-and-true mind fix for me. During the pandemic, I started taking “sanity walks” at a nearby park. It was so healing to walk and enjoy the fresh air while clearing my mind. They were so good, I kept them up. 

Poe once wrote: “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.” Living with migraines is beyond hard – both physically and mentally. Yet, I continue to see the beauty and blessings in the world around me.  

 

Tap into a community of fellow migraineurs on Facebook. Learn, share, connect in our Migraine Support Community.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: JGI / Jamie Grill / Tetra images via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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