One of the worst things about migraine, apart from the pain and sickness, is the sense of isolation it can give you – the feeling that no one really understands what it is you’re going through. Friends and family may nod sympathetically but it’s not the same. Support groups go some way to helping and social media and online networking has made connecting with other sufferers far easier than it used to be. Hearing about what other sufferers are going through and how they’ve coped in the past can often be far more useful in making you feel better than taking medication can. This is where books like Andrew Levy’s A Brain Wider Than The Sky come into their own.
Levy’s book is an exploration not only of how to cope with migraine, but it differs from so many other books out there about the condition because it seeks to show what living with migraines is really like – not just what the causes and effects of the conditions are, but what being a migraine sufferer day in day out really means.
In his book he writes about the influence which migraines have had on figures throughout history such as Van Gogh and Lewis Carroll and looks at what positive and negative effects migraine attacks had on their work and their lives. He looks at migraine treatments in the past and how our understanding of the condition has changed over time. Primarily though A Brain Wider Than The Sky explores migraines from a personal perspective as Levy describes his day-to-day life in a highly vivid and honest way. He talks about the effect that living with migraine has on those around him, his struggle to maintain relationships with his family and friends while in intense pain and how difficult everyday tasks can be.
As a pathway to greater understanding and empathy this book would also be a useful read for people who do not suffer themselves from migraine but know those who do. It can be hard to talk about thoughts and feelings when in pain and when a sufferer is not in pain more often than not they would rather use the time that they have relieved from migraine to forget about their attacks as much as possible and to have fun. One quote from the book that sums it up beautifully is when Levy says that “the only person who loves sunlight more than someone who loves sunlight is someone who must ration it.”
So it may not be an innovative new cure but sometimes a little understanding and knowing that you’re not suffering by yourself is worth much more than aspirin.
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