Monday, December 26, 2016


A popular post from June 2009

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.


Jordan McCollum said...

I'm not overly sensitive to a lot of things, I don't think, though I do like to think I'm very perceptive (or I'll say 'discerning' and blame my patriarchal blessing).

This reminds me of the day I found out I was a dramatic person. I was cutting up the pork roast and I guess I made some exclamation of horror. My roommate, thinking I'd cut myself, hurried over to see what the matter was.

It was still pink in the middle.

My roommate (who is also a writer and a very dramatic person, so I knew this was saying something) told me I was "so dramatic."

I kind of took this as an insult, especially coming from her (though she is still one of my best friends). But I guess it's true, too.

Now I have a diagnosis: I just feel things so strongly I can't help it! Thanks, Annette ;) .

Jordan McCollum said...

I should probably clarify that it was the roast that was still pink in the middle, and apparently I made this pronouncement as if sentencing us all to a horrible death by trichinosis. So there was foundation for both sides ;) .

L.T. Elliot said...

I can easily believe this of you, Annette. In your writing, in your mannerisms, in your blogs--you're very aware and in tune. You're very perceptive. I'm sorry that your health is suffering such a terrible blow but pain withstanding, I wouldn't have you any other way. You're incredible and I'm honored to know you.

Janette Rallison said...

If I'm at all stressed out about something, I can't sleep. It drives me crazy! I keep thinking, if the little stuff keeps me awake, how am I going to survive if something really bad comes along? So far I'm just hoping that nothin bad ever happens.

Tristi Pinkston said...

What an interesting perspective.

I hope the new meds work for you!

Carolyn V. said...

Tristi's right! This is an interesting perspective.

I get headaches all the time, but I figured my eyesight was going. I'd much rather be creative and sensitive. *sigh*

Eowyn said...

Maybe this is my problem. . .not that I have chronic headaches. . .but that things affect me. I cried listening to Stravinsky on the radio on the way to the movie last night.

Beautiful post.

folksinmt said...

Great post, Annette. I cried watching UP yesterday...a cartoon for pete's sake! The human experience is so fascinating. I love absorbing every little detail.

I thought you were going to say that the headaches come from hunching in front of the computer for hours on end! :)

Good luck to you, hope you find some relief from the headaches.

Alison Palmer said...

See, I always knew I was special! ;)
Very interesting food for thought, thanks for the insight Annette!

Kimberly said...

This made me cry. Honestly and truly. I've been cursing my sensitivity lately, wondering what on earth is wrong with me. You just taught me, reminded me, the many ways in which it is a gift.

Celise said...

This makes sense. I just thought I was the over emotional one in my family. I remember reading a quote somewhere: "Talking to oneself is a sign of creativity." Apparently, headaches are, too. LOL.

Book Report said...

I can so relate with your post. I am both a writer and an extremely sensitive person. I always think outside the box and see beyond what is visible. Thanks for sharing this. This will be a good essay topic for other writers to understand.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

Wow, what we learn about people. Stange isn't it? I just learned I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have actually struggled with it for years but didn't know it. Thought I had all sorts of other problems, have had lots of test etc...

This actually make a lot of sense now. Explains a lot, but I understand what you mean. I agree whole heartedly and I sure hope you get those headaches under control. That's the worst. I'll be thinking of you.

Juliana said...

I enjoyed this post immensely. It's my life in a nutshell. I have this theory that the most successful artists (especially writers) are those that have anxiety issues. We just can't stop THINKING about the world around us, obsessing about all the "What if?"s in the world... May be unfortunate for our families, but it's what makes our writing fabulous. :)

Heather B. Moore said...

The other day, my daughter said, "Stop the car, I need to take a picture of the sunset." I thought--she's just like me. My kids are used to me frequently pulling over to the side of the road and snapping a picture just because I see a cool cloud formation or the sun it slanting on the mountainside just so. I remember when my sister read my first book when it came out and she was really surprised at all the emotion. I think I keep most of it inside, but writing lets it flow.

Terresa said...

Reading this really has helped frame a little of what my life has felt like to this point, sans headaches.

It explains a bit of the intensity of life that I feel and how a song will effect me so strongly I hear it in my head for days and cry over it. There's so much to write about and think about...gutter water or newly planted grass, etc, it can be hard for me to sleep at night.

I hope your headaches get better. For a short-term relief, my friend drinks caffine to avoid migraines.

Fiauna said...

This explains so much. Thank you.

I also hope that you find some relief for your headaches.

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