Songs for the Struggling Artist


Migraine and the F-ing Patriarchy

Warning: There’s a lot of swearing ahead. If swearing bothers you – just skip this one. There are very few sentences below without expletives. If you love swearing, keep going. This post is for you.

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This week, I watched a series of videos as part of the Migraine World Summit. One of the doctors asked a question that made me sit up and take notice. It was “What is the migraine trying to protect me from?”

I wrote it down. I decided I’d think about it, maybe write down some ideas, see what bubbled up in a long contemplative session with my pen. Maybe I’d uncover some deep secret about the migraines that came into my life in 2016. Maybe something about a food allergy or an environmental trigger. Maybe it’s my hormones?

On my way to go do this, as I was walking, I just sort of casually asked myself, “What is the migraine trying to protect me from?” And the thought came through like a shout. It was “THE FUCKING PATRIARCHY!”

I laughed out loud in the middle of the street. Oh. Okay. I guess it’s the fucking patriarchy – no long self-examination needed. I hear you. It’s the fucking patriarchy.

I can’t say I hadn’t thought of this before. My migraine situation kicked in in the summer of 2016 when the election was kicking up extraordinary misogynistic dust and I was sneezing a lot and every time I sneezed, shooting pains ran up the sides of my head.

But maybe it was my eyes? Maybe it’s my age? Maybe it’s the weather?

For almost two years, I’ve been wrestling with a mysterious migraine climate in my head, a world with seemingly no clear triggers, a world that has been disabling in many ways. Because I have been relatively healthy before this late onset patriarchy allergy, I have not been clear about how I want to talk about the experience. Because the American Health Care system is an immoral mess and we’re living in a surveillance capitalist dystopia, it felt like maybe keeping my diagnosis under wraps was the safest move.

But after listening to doctor after doctor on the Migraine World Summit describing the stigma their patients endure, I just can’t be quiet about this anymore. Not now that I know the migraine is trying to protect me from the fucking patriarchy.

“But Emily,” you may be saying, “how does a condition that compels you to stay home in a dark room with ice on your head protect you from the fucking patriarchy?”

Well, if I don’t go out into the fucking patriarchal world, my only exposure to it is what I let in via the internet and what not and even that is a little too much patriarchy for me these days.

“But Emily,” you say, “this is crazy. Migraine is a neurological disorder that people have had for as long as we have recorded history. It can’t be an allergy to the patriarchy, probably even some patriarchs got migraines!”

Well. Maybe those patriarchs were allergic to themselves. But seriously. I’m not saying everyone’s migraines are trying to protect them from the fucking patriarchy – but mine are.

“But Emily,” you say (and when I say you, I mean the part of me that is also resisting this idea) “just because migraine is mysterious in its causes and mechanics doesn’t mean you can just go attributing it to the fucking patriarchy. There are many possible factors, environmental conditions, foods, stress, etc.”

Yeah, see – it’s that stress component that makes me think it really could be the fucking patriarchy. Because you know what really stresses me out? The fucking patriarchy. I mean, sure, it always has – but before 2016, I really thought we were on a positive wave away from misogyny and sexism and the fucking patriarchy. It was very stressful to realize that was not the case. And I’m thinking the migraine was like, you know what? Fuck this. We’re out. Take a break, let’s see if we can skip this fucking patriarchal clusterfuck that’s coming down the pike.

Would I prefer to not have the migraine protecting me? I would. I would rather have strength and will and many pain free days to kick the doors of the fucking patriarchy down. However – the migraine just wants to protect me from the fucking patriarchy; it’s not a logical rational thing that can distinguish when the appropriate time to do this is.

One of the doctors in the summit described the migraine as the “Check Engine” light of the body. He described a car going down the highway and when it begins to overheat, you have to pull over, take it off the road and give your car a rest. In other words, migraine isn’t so much the problem as the response to a problem either within a person or in the environment. The problem can be inside or outside. One doctor described the migraine brain as being a RESPONSIVE brain. It’s not just sensitive, it’s reactive.

That is, if the fucking patriarchy kicks into high gear all of a sudden in 2016, my migraine brain has a fucking response. When the fucking patriarchy is having the best couple of years it’s had in my lifetime, like it’s having a fucking patriarchal parade/rave/party, my brain will not allow me to go on, business as usual. The fact that I do not like the response, that the response is disabling and frustrating and all kinds of upsetting is a bit beside the point. My check engine light is on and I have to do something about it.

The difficulty is that this is not a diagnosis I can bring to my neurologist.
“Do you have a sense of what brought this on?”
“Uh, the fucking patriarchy?”
I don’t think this would go over very well in my doctor’s office. And even if my doctor was like, “Damn! Another patriarchy trigged migraine patient!” I’m not sure there’s much they could do about it. But the fact is, they can’t do much about it now.

Migraine is already woefully under-researched and underfunded. And the fact that 75% of migraineurs are women suggests that the medical field tackling this already have their own battles with the fucking patriarchy. Probably adding “the Fucking Patriarchy” to the list of possible migraine triggers, next to red wine, aged cheese and cleaning products won’t really help our case.

For me, though, hearing directly from my body’s inner voice that it’s the fucking patriarchy really clears a lot of things up. And I start to realize that the stigma and risk around disclosing something like migraine is also a factor of the fucking patriarchy. The fucking patriarchy suggests we should all work ourselves to death, never acknowledge “weakness” of any kind, never have an unproductive minute. The fucking patriarchy is Jeff fucking Beauregard fucking Sessions the fucking Third telling people with chronic pain to just take an aspirin and get back to work and the entire fucking GOP who worked like hell to deprive millions of people of their health insurance. The fucking patriarchy thinks having health insurance is a fucking privilege – it thinks that only fucking wealthy white dudes should get to be healthy – and even then only when they “man up” and do the jobs they think are fucking macho enough.

But I digress. That’s one of the fucking symptoms of my fucking migraines – a lessening of my ability to focus, a brain fog, a blunting of my sharpness and an occasional swiss cheesing of my brain that happens when I try to deal with the fucking patriarchy.

And hey, all my fellow migraineurs (and there are a lot of you, I’m learning – 1 in 7 people) I obviously have no idea if the fucking patriarchy has anything to do with your migraines the way it does mine but I don’t think it would do us any harm to blame it anyway. If for you it’s red wine or dehydration and not, say, the fucking patriarchy, I mean why not just get a kick in for the fucking patriarchy. I don’t have a lot of hope that the fucking patriarchy is going down in my lifetime but I will happily kick it every chance I get.

When I’m lying in the dark with ice strapped to my head, fantasizing about a head removal service, I think I might just be able to muster a “and by the way, fuck you, patriarchy.” This morning, when I woke up with a different style of headache than I’m used to, one which I wasn’t sure was actually a migraine, I still blamed it on the fucking patriarchy. And you know what? I felt a lot better every time the words “fucking patriarchy” came out of my mouth. I blame the fucking patriarchy and I didn’t even care if this most recent headache was not its fault. But it probably was.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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