Monday, 21 May 2012

A glorification of migraine?

Yesterday, prolific journalist Eva Wiseman wrote a somewhat surreal piece about her experiences with migraine. Specifically she described how her aura manifested and depicted something known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome which, as you may have guessed, is named after that famous work of fiction. Lewis Carroll suffered from migraines and many believe his visual auras influenced his work.

For migraineurs, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) is a specific type of aura where body parts usually seem distorted, becoming either much larger or smaller, hence the name given to the condition. While Wiseman's article is, I believe, beautifully written it has created something of a stir amongst the migraine community. Why? Because it appears to be glorifying migraine. One reader commenting on the article wrote: "I've never had a migraine. After reading this article I'd like to have it at least once. :-)"

As you can imagine, this was not well received. I waded into the debate when people started to question the decision of NICE to give BOTOX to chronic migraine patients on the NHS. I'm under the username Britred if you want to read my various comments. I tried to be as neutral as possible and direct people to The Migraine Trust and the National Migraine Centre, I'm actually quite proud of myself for not getting too heated...

Personally, I'm pleased that a young, popular figure like Wiseman is even writing about migraine at all. I hope she continues to do so. I think it's a vivid, pleasing description of what her migraines feel like - to her. Some people do feel euphoric before or after a migraine - oh that I was one of them! But I can completely relate to the Angel perfume and putrid rain smell parts of her piece. I actually want to slap anyone wearing Angel perfume (bizarrely it's the only perfume which makes me feel like tiny daggers are being hurled down my nostrils causing my throat to swell and soon I won't be able to breathe) so watch out. My view is that all publicity is good publicity, and I think it's great that it provoked such a heated debate and allowed a lot of us to share information and resources. So far there are 139 comments and counting...

And maybe now someone who doesn't find migraines quite so visually intriguing or creatively stimulating will get to write a counter argument? Guardian editors if you're reading, I'm currently available!

What do you think? Where you enraged or enlighten? 

Here is the link to the piece:

Information on AIWS:


  1. I think some people love to jump on people who write about migraine and criticize them. I agree with you that it's great that she's even writing about it, and I fault the idiots who are dumb enough to think a migraine sounds fun, not the writer describing her experience.

    1. Yes, careful what you wish for hey! Hope you're well and the heat isn't causing you too much trouble! We're having a mini heat wave here in the UK and everyone is going crazy x

  2. I think in some ways it was written a little tongue in cheek, almost throwing up of the hands in the air and saying, 'ok, I hate it but it has some parts that I have embraced and tried to accept as a form of art rather than to be feared'. She's lucky to have gotten to that place.

    I have tried to so hard to embrace the weird phase of migraine auras, I am convinced that by going with it, not being scared of it must help get through the process and be less traumatised.It may even sometimes lessen the severity, I'm not sure. However sometimes this works for me and the rest of the time I am as terrified now as I was 30 years ago when I had my first one.

    As Victoria says, it was really a rather clever article as it sparked a lot of different responses and debate. That is good. Newspaper articles rarely tick all the boxes as they are done with the motive of selling papers, not helping to educate others on us long misunderstood migraineurs.

    Wishing you all a migraine free Monday.

  3. I agree, Victoria.
    It is a well written article and it did spark discussion which is a good thing.
    What was missing was the fear and anxiety that an aura can provoke, especially the first one. Many people rush to the emergency room, convinced they are having a stroke. The way the author described her aura, it did sound fascinating, and almost desirable in a mind-bending sort of way.
    Don't hate people who don't know what it's really like. They really can't have an appreciation for it; empathy at best.

    1. Hello Dr Zitney, I know I almost wished I had a brain tumour as that would explain the agonising pain - which is a terrible thing. But yes, great that this article is out there provoking debate and the author is now supporting two great migraine charities here in the UK. I've actually been using your website and clinic to show to some migraine sufferers over here as to how a truly integrated/team approach is best for treating us migraine patients. We want you to come to the UK! Hope you're well

  4. Eva's article is accurate
    It is illustrative
    It depicts reality
    She tells how it is
    Alice in wonderland maybe
    But for those who do NOT suffer
    you cannot possibly know............

    Now seventy
    I still suffer from the dreaded M
    Retire they all said - I did
    Less Stress they said - made no difference
    What do others know?
    I lead a peaceful life
    I still suffer.....

    1. Hello Jill, nice to meet you! Thank you for your comment, I look forward to chatting more as I bet you have some interesting stories! You know I think stress as a trigger for migraine is a really interesting topic as I think its a big big misconception that it causes migraines for ALL sufferers. I know it does for many but I think if one carefully examines all factors in times of stress it might actually be postures/blood sugar/sleep etc and not necessarily 'stress' that is the trigger? I know I'm actually a bit happier when I've got more going on and more likely to get a migraine when the stressful event is over! Anyway, am going to try and enjoy a little bit of the sunshine, though being a red head I might combust! Victoria x

  5. now theres a surprise! i thought it was just me! i also HATE WITH A VENGEANCE angel perfume, and the women who wear it. sorry ladies! even if it doesnt spark an attack - it lingers FOR EVER. just what has thierry mugler PUT in his foul concoction? why on earth is something so foul and the entire opposite of a pleasant smell, as popular as it is?

    right! i shall go and read the actual article now ive got that off my chest! thanks!


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