My current life feels put on pause. The Princess and the Pea: the smallest inconsistency can send me into havoc. Headache-prevention is my bread & butter, my salt & pepper. My sensory-system’s volume is tuned to high and I’m busy encasing myself in bubblewrap so as not to be exposed to any elements (triggers).
Even in moments when I’m migraine-free, I’m fretting over my next migraine. (Like a migraine-wetnurse, I’m stuffing its mouth with sugarcube-filled cloths, rubbing whisky on its aching gums.) I could be plummeting down the haunted elevator shaft at Hollywood Tower Hotel, or pacing the grocery aisles looking for digestive enzymes, or reading “American Housewife” by Helen Ellis (the book I’m currently imbibing) or attempting to respond to a text message that has gone un-responded to for days (screens = triggers), when BAM! all I can think about is finding an icepick to jam into that tender point between my eyes, that point where all the migraine miasma radiates from, that miasma that coats my body in a film of nausea, that film of nausea that sends me to bed: mouth all sour, jaw vibrating, fingers quaking, heart barely even beating anymore. I’m hunkered down in a dark room, feather pillows propped up against all my sharp edges, cats curled into the nooks and crannies of my body, I'm sniffing peppermint essential oils, and pressing cold washcloths to my brow.
So yesterday I took my first doses of two medications that I had previously sworn off. Medications whose laundry lists of side effects make ketamine or even mountain-climbing-with-a-migraine look enticing.
This is where I’m at: My Wit’s End.
My synapses have been dunked in the deep-fryer, their ends dangling and frayed, I am attempting to salvage and soothe. There is not enough balm. I must make do with the nubs, with the cold packs, with the ear plugs. With the Goldilocks "just right" mixture of sleep+caffeine.
One of the reasons that I write is to express the inexpressible. To attempt do describe my migraines would be a fruitless effort. Little monsters thrumming on the inside of my skull? Too cutesy. A concrete eye pillow that rests upon my forehead, ever blocking out the sun? Too gothic. Toxic chemical air enveloping my brain and choking it out? Too sci-fi.
But I can try to turn my hunkered-down life into something magical and mythopoetic and just different enough from my real sick-life to make it enticing. Here’s a fragment of my pretend sick-life:
I try to make the most of my quarantine (I heard Ma call it that when she was on the phone with Missus Johns from down the way, though when I asked her what it meant, Ma told me not to worry my pretty little head about it and went back to the dishes) but I keep checking the insides of my ears for corn kernels anyway. I have to be real careful not to muss up my bandages, though. Ma might resort to duct tape if I do, and we all know how tape feels pulling out those babysoft hairs that sprout from our skins.
Ma’s been bringing me all my favorite foods: porridge with honey and strawberry preserves, carrots cooked in brown sugar, noodles with nothing but butter, sun-steeped sweet tea, and peanut butter sandwiches in the shapes of stars—which obviously taste even better in bed, and make me sometimes secretly wish to never get better at all.
I’ve got coloring books, and a deck of cards, some dolls, a yo-yo and a slingshot, and I’ve been making up games that I can play by myself. Ma was nice enough to let me borrow some of her musty old books, and even though I’ve never been too keen on reading, now that there’s nothing else to do, I’m willing to give it a try. There are big nature-y things like whales and volcanoes on the covers, and pretty ladies that look distressed. I don’t have to move very much to read, so I’m not in danger of messing up my mummy-wrappers.
I actually kinda like thinking of myself as a mummy because it sounds both rich and tragic. Ma once taught me about how in ancient Egypt, really special royal people were turned into mummies so they could use the same body for their next life. This crazy dog-faced priest would fill their corpses with weird stuff like salt and sawdust and then surround them with special worldly goods like jewelry and pets and their favorite clothes and foods. The mummies had to be real rich to pay for this procedure; the poor poor folks just got dumped in the hot sand for the birds to pick clean.
Lately, I’ve been pretending to be a rich mummy princess, though I’m having trouble deciding which things I want to take into the afterlife. I’m mostly hoping that Ma will be there; some of the dinosaur bones I scavenged from the riverbed two summers ago when the water got real low; my button collection; and Missus Beasley, my favorite doll. Though I’m worried that the Egypt Mummy Gods won’t approve of Missus Beasley because some of my blood leaked through my bandages and stained Missus Beasley’s dress and now she looks all messy and not quite fit for heaven. Good thing Ma is so good at getting stains out.
Even though I can’t be outside to enjoy my favorite kind of rain—the kind where the sun blooms freckles on my face—angel kisses, Ma calls them—while fat, sparkly rain drops wash the whole world clean, the storm keeps bringing slews of baby froglets that perch below my window and sing. And, it sprang up these tiny, white, teardrop-shaped flowers all over the place, making the whole outside-of-my-window look like a wedding. The lick on the clapboards almost sounds like wedding bells too.