Chronic Migraine, Random Ramblings

Where are all the broken brains? Neurological disorders in fiction.

How has it been 2 months since I decided to start this blog? I had so many good intentions about posting regularly and really committing to this blog and yet again, I’ve slipped into my typical ways of abandoning something before it’s really begun. But it’s not too late to keep trying, right?

I recently read two books that feature Migraine (more on this in a future post. For now, you’ll have to deal with me going off on a tangent!) and it got me thinking about Migraine in fiction. Migraines and other Neurological disorders aren’t “trendy”, they’re not experiencing the cultural representation that Mental Health issues and life threatening illnesses such as Leukemia and Cancer are. Writers aren’t penning novels about teenagers with headaches or seizures, Hollywood directors aren’t featuring broken brains in their latest films.

Why?

According to The Migraine Trust, Migraine is the third most common disease in the world, is more common than Asthma, Diabetes and Epilepsy combined and is ranked globally as the 7th most disabling disease and leading cause of disability among all neurological disorders.  So why is Migraine so under-represented in the media?

I don’t know the answer to this and for a few weeks now I’ve been digging around in the depths of my brain for any references to Migraine I’ve come across in film, tv or books. There are two novels that I’ve read in the past few years that fit the bill: ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart, and ‘The Blindfold’ by Siri Hustvedt. I’m not going to say a lot about either title right now as I’m planning on writing reviews of both novels in the coming days but from the point of view of a Chronic Migraineur, both represent the struggle with Migraine pretty accurately. In the case of ‘The Blindfold’ this has a lot to do with the author’s own experience with Migraine.

Siri Hustvedt has also written an autobiographical book, ‘The Shaking Woman, or A History Of My Nerves’ about her search for a diagnosis after experiencing a strange episode of seizure-like shaking while speaking at a memorial for her late father. While this work does focus more on Non-Epileptic Seizures (something which I also suffer from and the reason I was initially drawn to the book), Hustvedt does make mention of her history of Intractable Migraine.

Other than these three books, I’m struggling to think of any other literary representations of Migraine. I can think of three novels that feature Epilepsy although this will by no means be an exhaustive list, I’m sure:

When it comes to film, I’m sure there are plenty which feature a character suffering a migraine but this is usually a device to drive the plot forward rather than being a main element of the plot.

I’m thinking that I want to make it a personal project to find and read as many books as I can about Migraine and other Neurological disorders. My aim is to review them here and possibly gather together a list of Migraine media, in the hopes that anybody else who has conducted a similar internet search to my own will find it and discover a wealth of literature that represents the world they live in. Because we all need to see our inner lives represented in the media, we all need someone or something we can identify with.

If anybody has any recommendations for books or films that deal with Migraine or other Neurological disorders, I’d love it if you could leave me a comment with the details ❤

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