by Annette Lyon
Something only a handful of people know is that I've been dealing with chronic (as in daily) headaches for roughly 5 1/2 years. In that time, I've dealt with a bunch of doctors and tests and medications, and I'm still on that journey.
But the headaches themselves aren't the point of this post. What a new specialist told me this morning is the point.
When he found out that I'm a writer, he took it in stride and almost considered that a possible contributor to my headaches. I was a bit confused, because I know from experience that if I stop writing, I get more stressed out (and hence get even more headaches).
I can't stop writing. That would be akin to chopping off a limb, and I can honestly say that my headaches would likely get out of control if I stopped writing.
But then the doctor went on. He said that artistic and creative people tend to have more sensory receptors. That we're more sensitive and aware of the world around them. That things simply affect us more. And that can lead to stress, which can contribute to headaches.
I think he's right. I know I'm affected powerfully by major life events. But then, I also get a lump in my throat from something as simple as a lawn with a fresh coat of snow or by seeing my child riding without training wheels for the first time.
I'm more aware of temperature changes than the average person. I notice subtle shades of color. I see cloud formations, mountain shapes, or clumps of trees and try to find fresh metaphors to describe them. I rewrite billboards in my head as I pass them on the freeway.
When I watch a parade, I think about all the time and effort that went into each float and try to catch every detail to make it worth the workers' time.
Music has a powerful effect on me . . . which is possibly why I sometimes avoid it, because I can't always predict what it'll do to me.
My emotions tend toward the extreme. If I'm happy, I'm happy. If I'm scared, I'm scared. There's not a lot of middle ground. It's a matter of constant intensity. (My poor husband . . .)
Basically, with all that activity going on in my brain, I'm more prone to headaches than, say, a neurologist like Dr. T.
I don't write this in an effort to support the theory that writers are miserable, starving creatures with horrid lives. Hardly. I think we can feel joy just as intensely as we can feel misery. I just think that creative people are simply a more intense variety of human being.
I'm still on a mission to banish the headaches for good, and part of that will be a new medication and finding better ways to manage stress (I'm thinking yoga . . .), but for the first time in many years, I'm looking at my condition with new eyes.
It's almost as if what Dr. T. told me today validated me as a creative person. He basically told me that I have the ability to see beauty and detail that others simply lack. And that ability gives me an advantage over those who don't have it. It helps me imagine and feel and write.
So when all is said and done, I'd rather live with headaches if it means that I can find more beauty than others, if it means having the ability to feel an overwhelming ache because of an event so intense it makes me shed a tear . . . and then be able to put it into words . . . so someone else can read it and then shed a tear of their own.
I'm sensitive. I'm a writer. I'll take them both.