Posted by David Mc (188.8.131.52) on September 05, 1999 at 08:14:31:
I'm researching headaches in literature and I've come across the whole gamut of types including some excellent depictions of migraine and cluster headaches, but the best so far is in THE COLOR OF LIGHT by William Goldman (1984) pp. 248-9 published by Granada, London Toronto Sydney New York, ISBN 0-246-12395-8.
This book was recommended by a fellow CHer. Read through the following extract and see what I mean:
To his surprise, they did. They went to the door The Bone was behind and they began to claw there. Chub stretched out, thoroughly relaxed and more than a little smashed, wondering what nut notion she was going to come up with next, when he heard her voice, very loud saying, ‘’Night.’
Chub wasn't quite sure he'd understood - obviously, he had not understood, she had given no previous indication that their battling was coming to an end so he got up and walked to the bathroom and asked ‘Come again?’
Chub stood there. It was suddenly weird, the cats clawing and starting to meow, her voice far too loud. ‘What's up?’
Clearly, something was. Her voice was odd now, not just loud, and the cats were beginning to cry out.
‘Something the matter?’
‘No, nothing, nothing, goddamned, just get the hell out of here!’
‘Something I said bug you?’
Now, from behind the bathroom door, a cry of pain. Chub pulled the door open and saw her sitting in a corner of the bathroom on the floor, the right side of her face. pressed hard against the wall. Chub knelt alongside, took her hands, but she pulled away, pressing the right side of her face harder into the wall now and this time Chub used his strength, turned her towards him.
She resembled no Bone he had ever seen. The right side of her face totally contorted, the blood vessels in her temple protruding, her nose was running, her right eye was bloodshot, her right eyelid starting to droop. (Chub had never heard of, much less seen, a cluster headache before, but the next day he did some quick work in the medical library and read up on them. A cluster headache was vascular in origin, meaning they stemmed, like the migraine, from a widening of the blood vessels. But whereas the migraines gave warning, the cluster gave none. It hit in as little as three minutes, lasted sometimes a half hour, sometimes twice that. And because they came and went so quickly, there was little medication of use - by the time you took something and it got into the bloodstream, the attack might well be over.
But while the attack was on, there was no questioning the severity. More than one victim described the pain as if a hot iron was being pressed slowly, stoutly, in the affected eye, forcing its way, boring its way into the soft tissue of the brain, remaining there. Pain being impossible to quantify, there was no point in comparing the suffering of a cluster with that of a migraine. But probably the cluster was worse. People banged their heads against walls with a cluster attack. Or threatened suicide. Or attempted it. Or succeeded.
All this and more Chub didn't know until the next day. Most particularly why the name. He found out that night - the attacks came in waves, clusters, sometimes half a dozen before the anguish ended.)
The Bone had four that night, and Chub got her through them all. When she wanted to talk, he talked with her; when she wanted to press her hands through her eye, he applied the pressure himself, making sure there was no damage. When she wanted to crash her head against an iron radiator, he stopped her, lifted her up, carried her to her bed, trying to ignore her cursing and kicking, held her down so that there could be no permanent damage to that once famous face. Between the attacks he sat with her, held ice to the afflicted area because sometimes that helped. She wept and begged him to get away but he remained, and when at last, well after dawn, the last cluster attack had been beaten, he sat on the bed, stroked her dark hair. She was wilt with perspiration, and her face was splotched and she was almost exhausted enough to sleep. All the attacks had gone for the right side, and the area under her nose was raw from the running, the right eyelid drooping completely now, covering the perfect blue beneath. Chub held her until he could feel sleep begin to take her.
The novel itself is well worth reading, by the way.
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