I get migraines. Very frequent. Very severe. Luckily, they are fairly well-managed with: medications that have relatively few side effects; enough sleep; enough water; cold enough rooms to sleep in; and avoiding life’s finer pleasures, such as alcohol, chocolate, peanut butter, and watermelon.
I consider this fact about my life very slightly interesting, rather than merely deeply and pointlessly fishing annoying, for two reasons.
First, when considering the definition of disability. I’m not talking the ADA-definition, but our concept of disability. I suppose it seems we should consider someone disabled when she functions differently from most people in such a way that makes her life more difficult (how to construe that is another issue). Or debatably that she perceives her life is more difficult. The title character on House walks with a cane and he is considered disabled. I think someone with chronic lower back pain, erectile dysfunction, or migraines would not generally be considered disabled. I certainly don’t consider myself disabled. But when in the throes of the worst migraine, I’m undoubtedly more functionally impaired than House. Maybe if the problem is intermittent? But I would think someone who intermittently could not walk is disabled. No?
The second occurred to me last night as I was in the relatively rare situation, when all failsafes failed, of the throes of super killer migraine. The kind where you can’t take a sip of water for 24 hours without repeated vomiting. The kind where you scamper away, whimpering and cringing, Gollum-like, from a 15-watt bulb. And of course, I thought about Michele Bachmann.
Because, if you recall waaaaaaay back in 2011, there was a brief period where Michele Bachmann actually looked like a serious candidate for President. There were about 10,000 reasons why Michele Bachmann should not have been president. And one that seemed to get some serious play was that the woman gets serious migraines. So I was wondering, last night, as I was puking my guts up for maybe the eighth time. Should this disqualify me for the presidency? (NB: Like Bachmann, I have plenty of other disqualifying properties. So the question was really: should this be in itself a reason I should not be president?)
The Politico article on the subject sounds, frankly, a bit nuts to me (emphases mine):
- A migraine attack in May 2010 forced Bachmann to retreat to her congressional office and lie down in the dark. She managed to attend early afternoon congressional votes before flying to California to attend two political events, but she was in pain much of the time and sought emergency treatment. When Congress reconvened the following Tuesday, Bachmann missed a day of votes.
- In July 2010, Bachmann missed eight House votes while being treated and released for a migraine by a Washington hospital. Her staff at the time said an unspecified illness was the reason for the missed votes. The attack caused her to cancel a campaign trip. According to her own account, it took her four days to recover.
The Daily Caller also reported an October 2010 incident that forced Bachmann to lie down at the home of a Connecticut donor who was hosting a fundraiser, then to seek urgent care in New York. Sources with firsthand knowledge confirmed the report to POLITICO…
In her statement Tuesday, read at a South Carolina event, Bachmann acknowledged that she suffers from migraines and takes medication to treat them. But she denied that the condition — a neurological disorder characterized in part by its incompatibility with normal activity — interferes with her work…
Migraines are a chronic condition neurologically distinct from regular headaches, characterized by overpowering pain that can cause sufferers to have to rest in a dark room…
The issue may be complicated for Bachmann by the fact that the condition affects her brain and requires her to take psychoactive drugs.
Bachmann’s campaign denied her brother, Paul Amble, a psychiatrist in Connecticut, permission to speak to POLITICO about her condition. But the congresswoman’s son, Dr. Lucas Bachmann, a medical resident at the University of Connecticut who has knowledge of her treatment, told The New York Times on Tuesday that the congresswoman takes two prescribed medications to treat the symptoms of cranial pressure and vomiting. He said the preventive drugs are “standard migraine treatment medications.”
Okay. A couple two three things. First of all, Judith Warner has a point that what really matters is whether or not someone’s migraines are well-controlled (and I note she refers to it as a disability). It sounds like Bachmann’s might possibly not be well-controlled, although it’s hard to tell from these descriptions of incidents. If she is not taking care of her migraines, or is taking certain kinds of medications, it’s worth some public disclosure.
Second, the question of whether migraines are neurologically distinct from typical headaches is not a settled one.
Third. Migraine is a neurological disorder and it does “affect your brain.” And there is no question it affects your functioning. But the way this is phrased implies it affects your judgment and thinking. If I were president, there might be a time, maybe once every few months, where I’d have to go in a dark room. But if someone entered the room to ask me if bombing North Korea was an excellent idea, it’s not like I would just say, “Of course! Bombs away! Now leave me alone, and shut the door on your way out!” I mean, I am still able to think clearly and reason. I don’t particularly want to, but I am available to. I am not hiking the Appalachian trail. I am also not of the belief that I am seized by a pink ray and am communicating with a quadripartite godhead. I am there and could make trustworthy decisions. I would just need to do it from a dark room and only if it were urgent. It makes perfect sense to me that Bachmann would need to withdraw sometimes. That doesn’t mean she is incapable of thought.
Fellow migraineurs, do you disagree?