I get headaches frequently and as a matter of fact, I have one now.
In the space between typing sentences, I pause to squeeze my upper traps and the flesh between my pointer finger and thumb. I massage my temples in circles and stare at the screen.
I have done acupuncture for head tension and get incredible—and pricey—massages where the therapist dons a rubber glove and goes into my mouth to compress the flesh on the inside of my jaw. (Therapeutic, yes, but hardly relaxing.) I get chiropractic and do yoga along with visualization—breathe the energy down from my brain into my body.
Tylenol does nothing. Alcohol makes it worse. Marijuana helps, but I would never smoke until after Opal goes to bed at night, when I’m home and cozy with Jesse around. But that’s been vetoed anyway because of how it affects fertility.
Sometimes the headaches are so bad that I feel like it’s dangerous to drive. Sometimes I talk sharply to Opal because I can barely be upright, let alone deal with a tantrum or the length of time required to dress a discursive four-year-old. Sometimes I yell at the dog. Or cry in the bathroom.
I have charted the headaches along with their frequency and intensity to see if they correlate with my cycles or with specific foods I eat. Nothing. Sometimes bright lights makes me reel, like long-ago the days when I drank too much and prayed to god that if he would just get me through the night, I would never drink again.
(Pause to squeeze my upper traps again…)
Sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes it’s downright horrid. Or, sometimes I feel just fine, symptom-free. Sometimes I go days, a week, without a headache. Sometimes I go days with one.
I think I’ve made my myself clear.
The two main things I try to do when I feel crummy are:
1. Stand in the middle of nature, at a vantage point of 360 degrees.
2. Go searching for creativity—art, music, words, playtime with Opal—something to work as an angioplasty to the tightness in my temples. To breathe some space into the crowded, aching room that is my head.
Opal, Elvis (the dog) and I already went for a walk in nature. We parted a heard of geese in the field—each side went the opposite direction, so decisive—just by walking through. Such power.
And now, as Opal chatters next to me at her dollhouse during her session of “quiet play time” that took the place of her naps many months ago (not the same), I go for a stroll through the internet, in search of a little more creative medicine.
What I found is a man named Pat Perry.
He is a Michigan-based artist and illustrator, with a mind that feels akin to walking through a section of the Pacific Northwest, where a handful of trees have fallen and are in a state of exquisite decay. As if something—seen or unseen—is arising from that perfect state of rot.
Along with the reminder that something bigger has clearly taken hold.
From an interview with Perry that was posted in Huffington Post:
This summer has been spent mostly traveling and working on personal art pursuits through sketchbook entries and photography. In the past two months I ‘ve been through about 20 states and hopped freight trains over 2,500 miles. Traveling is the best way I’ve found to liberate myself from the illusions of my own small life. In certain ways, I’ve learned more spending nights under an overpass talking to an old rambling man than in classrooms. To grow as an art maker, I must grow as a person. To grow as a person, I have to toss myself into the unknown!
He posted his sketchbook—that is, an actual book, made of paper, and not something created on a computer—on his blog, I highly recommend scrolling through it, page by page.
Art is an escape in a way, but it’s also the outcome of many of my most personal, complicated, and contemplative thoughts, especially recently. That’s not to say that these thoughts are to be translated to the viewer, but it’s inescapable that many times the tone of one’s art reflects the tone of their thoughts. I do feel that drawing is meditative in the sense that it’s part of my routine and I need it to stay sane.
~ Pat Perry.
The headache isn’t gone, but I did succeed in engaging in a good chunk of time where it was not standing boldly at the front of the line of my thoughts.
And, I’m smiling. Who cares about a stupid headache, really?
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Artwork: All drawings and illustrations by Pat Perry. (Find more here.)