Migraine Personality

All of us who have migraine suffer not only from the attacks themselves but from this common conviction that we are perversely refusing to cure ourselves by taking a couple of aspirin, that we are making ourselves sick, that we ‘bring it on ourselves.’ And in the most immediate sense, the sense of why we have a headache this Tuesday and not last Thursday, of course we often do. There certainly is what doctors call a ‘migraine personality,’ and that personality tends to be ambitious, inward, intolerant of error, rather rigidly organized, perfectionist. ‘You don’t look like a migraine personality,’ a doctor once said to me. ‘Your hair’s messy. But I suppose you’re a compulsive housekeeper.’ Actually my house is kept even more negligently than my hair, but the doctor was right nonetheless: perfectionism can also take the form of spending most of a week writing and rewriting and not writing a single paragraph.

—Joan Didion, “In Bed,” The White Album (1979)

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