How Changing My Diet Ended My Chronic Migraines

I mentioned in my last post that I have long suffered with migraines, and suffered from chronic migraines (more than 15 migraine days a month—I was around 20) from roughly October of 2013 until July of 2016. So, this post will tell my story about what my migraines are like and what methods I went through over the course of about a decade to mostly rid my life of them (or at least reduce them to an occasional disruption in an otherwise healthy life).

About My Migraines

These migraines were truly terrible. If you have migraines, you understand; if you don’t, imagine combining your worst dental headaches with moderate food poisoning or the flu. From before the chronic migraines, and for some of my migraines even now, episodes generally extend over a three-day period in 8-12 hour waves, with the first day being most intense, then each subsequent day stepping down by about 25%. For the first two days, I would be in intense pain with disorientation, sensitivity to light, sound, and touch, some speech issues (aphasia), and nausea that would build until I managed to empty everything from my stomach into the toilet, after which it would somewhat subside. The third day tended to just make me irritable and distracted. Each episode would leave me exhausted and emotionally drained.

My migraines have always been hemispheric, shifting from one side of my head to the other each day. The pain usually begins as a tension in my neck that becomes painful then begins to resonate and merge with a sharp, throbbing pain in my eyeball or eyebrow on the affected side. Pain medicine usually did not work, although for several years in my 20’s I used Excedrin migraine and ibuprofen too much (NOT advised). Eventually that stopped working. Occasionally now Tylenol will help temporarily, but use of any pain medicine can just push the episode into the near future, or even trigger a “rebound headache.” I generally just avoid pain medicine at this point.

Not Everybody (or Every Migraine) is the Same

I want to stress one point if you are struggling with migraines: not everybody is the same, and your migraines are probably not going to be exactly like other peoples’. My mother’s migraines are very different from mine in duration and constancy throughout an episode, but similar in other ways. What this also means is that what works for me may not work at all for you. While this may at first seem to be a problem of its own (Oh no! Now I can’t rely on anyone’s recommendations!), it really is the most crucial mindset to cultivate, because it’s true. One must approach and judge everything through one’s own experience with it. Be skeptical while being patient, methodical, and optimistic until some results become clear. Test different things out, and if they don’t work, try some others. Just don’t give up without pursuing every possible, safe (relatively speaking) option.

Prescription Medications

I have always been reluctant to deal with prescription medications for this. My first experience with migraine medication was with a blood pressure medicine that dropped my blood pressure so low I could barely walk uphill, had violent mood swings, and nearly lost consciousness. Later on, when the chronic migraines started, I saw a neurologist who prescribed a different blood pressure medicine (which made things worse over the course of a few months), an antidepressant (which made me impatient and gave me an “angry sweet tooth”), and an anti-spasmodic medication that put me in a constant drowsy haze and, again, didn’t provide relief.

For about two years, I tried that approach and found it didn’t work for me. It didn’t deal with the root of my problem, and in my case, it didn’t even alleviate the symptoms, all the while giving me a range of horrible side effects to deal with.

Experiments with Supplements

After that, I tried some supplements to see if they might help. This can be a bit dangerous, even if they are over the counter, so you should always do some research and be careful, even when desperate for relief. For a year or so, I took 5-HTP, which did seem to help a little. However, at the same time, I was taking Zyrtec for allergies and to keep my sinuses clear, and I was wrapping a cloth with ground nutmeg around my forehead (more on this later) during migraine episodes. After about nine months of some improvement, the migraines began get progressively worse and worse, until one afternoon, dealing with some of the worst, stabbing pain and nausea that I have ever experienced during a migraine, I screamed out, “What is this! What is this!” Something had to change.

Doing more research, I learned that, in addition to the serotonin boost from the 5-HTP (which I was well aware of, since it directly metabolizes into serotonin, and that is why I was taking it), both Zyrtec and nutmeg increase serotonin levels as well. I had been, in effect, slowly poisoning myself with serotonin syndrome.

The Miracle Migraine Diet

It was time to stop looking at what else I could put into my body and start looking at what I was already putting into it, day after day. For years I had been resistant to making changes to my diet, and to exercising regularly, but really, these two things—diet and exercise—should always be the first things to examine with any health issue.

So in my case, a diet has worked wonders to prevent most of the migraines I had been experiencing (90% effective at least). Moderate exercise has helped reduce my stress a bit too, which has probably also helped reduce my migraines (and certainly my depression, which is probably comorbid for me), but it was definitely the diet that did the trick for my migraines.

This dietary advice came from a book called The Migraine Miracle by Josh Turknett, which I credit for turning my health around. I was skeptical at first due to the title (sounds kind of New Agey, and I am always skeptical of the hyperbole that is everywhere with books about chronic illnesses), but I gave it a try and I went from having chronic migraines (about 20 days or more a month) down to a couple of migraine days on average a month, sometimes less. Related to this, the book Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf is a great book about creating a personalized diet which follows pretty much all of the same rules that The Migraine Miracle follows. I haven’t put Wolf’s specific 30-day reset diet into effect for myself, but his meal advice is helpful for those transitioning to a more paleo-style diet, which is what this is.

Here are the highlights of what helped me:

  • I stopped eating/drinking nearly all added sugar or honey, which includes all juice, candy, desserts, or foods with more than a few grams of added sugar/honey. I can tolerate some sugar, but it can only come in very small doses, and mostly from natural sources like fruits, tubers, and vegetables. Best to just avoid everything sweet except for whole foods (the sugar in whole fruits and vegetables is better because the fiber content helps soften the impact of the sugar on blood insulin levels, I think). Also, I found it helpful to not eat even fruit alone as a snack. I always pair it with something with protein, additional fiber, and/or fat. Eating fruit as part of a meal is great, and if you are able to eat dairy, fruit parfaits with whole fat yogurt are wonderful.
  • I have reduced the amount of carbs in my diet to a more moderate level (between 150 and 250 grams a day, I would estimate, though I have not been counting for a long while). I would generally advise when trying this to cut down to a true low-carb diet for a while and see if it helps, then even try a ketogenic diet if that doesn’t work. Cutting back severely (or entirely) on breads, pasta, and white potatoes is a huge part of this. Eating small portions of unsweetened sweet potatoes and other tubers that are higher in fiber is fine (my wife is Caribbean, so I eat things like plantain, green (not sweet in the least) bananas, taro root, and African/Jamaican yam). Gluten-free oatmeal for breakfast is great too, as a bowl is about 30 grams of carbs. Put some fruit (banana or raisins/dried cranberries) in it for some sweetness. If you boil it with some nutmeg and cinnamon, that makes it a bit tastier too.
  • I am personally very sensitive to even small amounts in caffeine, so giving this up was a no-brainer on my part. I would suggest removing caffeine to see if there is any improvement, but many people with migraine are fine with caffeine, and it even helps some people. Again, this is individual.
  • Maybe related to the caffeine issue, I have found that chocolate is also a trigger for me. I mourn this as much as the loss of coffee, but the loss pales in comparison to positives of not have life-destroying migraines all the time.
  • Another big thing that helped me is removing gluten from my diet. This is really a difficult thing to do if one is used to eating out or has a typical American diet (I certainly did), but you should find out within a month of strictly avoiding gluten if there is any benefit. It is found in bread, but also in many sauces, some rice [yes, they add it often to rice at Chinese and Sushi restaurants], prepared foods, fried foods (they often fry everything, breaded or not, in the same oil)—essentially anything made from wheat, barley, or rye or which has been in contact with it. It is best to just avoid eating out or eating prepared, processed foods altogether when testing for a gluten issue.
  • Finally, a really important thing is to avoid/reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids come almost entirely from vegetable and seed oils (vegetable oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, canola oil, etc.). In terms of cooking, use coconut oil, olive oil (check online to make sure the brand is really olive oil and not a vegetable oil substitute), and butter. 
    • Also, related to this, I have also found that peanuts and especially peanut butter are triggers for my migraines, although not if I only have a little very infrequently. I think it has to do with the oil in it.
    • It has also helped me to supplement my omega-3 intake with a Fish Oil supplement. Here’s a really highly rate one (Viva Naturals) that I use from Amazon. One a day after a meal is fine to help counteract the omega-6 fatty acids.

The only other things I do currently is take a Vitamin D supplement for energy (5000 IU a day in the morning) together with one Vitamin K2 supplement (100 mcg; if I don’t take that, that level of Vitamin D gives me vertigo for some reason), along with Nasacort for my sinuses (no more Zyrtec!). I take the full dose of Nasacort (2 sprays in each nostril, one a day). This helps keep my sinuses more open and lessens the impact of changes in the weather on me, since this is a big trigger for me personally. If you find sinus pressure or weather systems trigger migraines for you, it’s worth a try. Best to keep the number of pills/medications to a minimum though. Not sure how much the Vitamin D affects the migraines, but if you find you have symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, it might help. It really helped bring up my energy level and base mood.

“Triggers” Warning: Thinking in Terms of Threshold Instead

You may have some other triggers in your diet to deal with that differ from mine, too. Or possibly no obvious “triggers.” I put this in quotes because a fixation on ridding yourself of the triggers which, as the metaphor goes, initiate a migraine like a trigger initiates a gunshot, can be misleading and anxiety-inducing.

Turknett, in The Migraine Miracle, argues for a different way to think of how migraines start: the threshold. His theory, which I think is a helpful way to think about this, but maybe not completely the case (I really don’t know for sure), is that there are a range of things that, in combination, add up until they reach a “threshold” where your brain reacts by launching a migraine attack. Diet may only account for half of this, maybe more or less for different individuals, and it is one of the few factors we have a great amount of control over. For example, stress and anxiety are major factors for me, as well as large changes in the weather, and they have been responsible for many migraines–in part. Overstimulation (or just getting too excited) is also an issue with me that contributes to my migraines, I have learned. However, in terms of breaching the threshold, in this theory, if you can lessen the impact of your diet and, maybe, your stress level, then the other factors beyond your control will be less likely to reach to a combined point that will trigger a migraine.

One Very Welcome Side Effect of the Migraine Miracle Diet

Oh, and I lost about 30 pounds over a three month period by shifting to this diet. I was a bit overweight, so this was great for me. This was an unexpected side effect of the diet, and I still haven’t put any of that weight back on after two years, and have since stayed roughly 45 pounds beneath my previous weight, which puts me in a healthy weight range for my body size. Diet is, also, a very individual thing, so it may be different for you, but for many people, low-carb, higher-fat diets lead to weight loss or healthy weight stabilization.

Recommended Natural Remedy: The Nutmeg Head Wrap

I also have one more suggestion for helping endure and sleep better through migraines. This is the single most helpful treatment I have used for alleviating the agony of a migraine episode, and it came from the folk remedies of the Caribbean while visiting my in-laws one summer in St. Lucia.

Instructions: Onto a very thin cloth (like a head wrap or neckerchief), grate about half of a nutmeg in a line about as wide as your forehead (along a line running diagonally across the cloth between two corners), then wrap this around your head so it covers your forehead, just over the eyebrows or wherever pain is concentrated (just not directly on your eyes). Be sure to use whole nutmegs, not the stuff that has been ground already. Freshly ground whole nutmegs are much more potent than pre-ground nutmeg.

The fumes of the nutmeg are very helpful to breathe in, as they are a sleep aid and act as a muscle relaxant. Additionally, the nutmeg against the forehead will also numb the area quite a bit (I’d say 30% or so) after 15-30 minutes.

When I do this, I find that my muscles and body are much less sore after the migraine, and I feel like I have had a least some rest. I leave it on for 4-8 hours (as I am sleeping with it on). It will have a lingering effect after you take it off, and if you find it to be too sedating, try wearing it for less time or grating less nutmeg in the cloth. For the first use of the wrap each time I grate the nutmeg, I usually only keep it on for 4–5 hours.

Caution: Don’t do this too often, though, especially if you are on anything that already increases your serotonin levels (which includes some prescription drugs, supplements like 5-HTP, and pretty much all antihistamines). Four or five times a month, even if you were on those medicines, should not cause any harm. Doing this too much in combination with other serotonin-elevating medicines, supplements, or foods, though, could lead to overly high levels of serotonin in the brain. As I mentioned above, I once got sick (as well as some rebound headaches) from using this 3 nights a week for over a year in combination with 5-HTP and Zyrtec. I now use this method just for the migraines that are bad enough to warrant it. I can reuse the same grating of nutmeg several times, too, although the effect becomes progressively milder.

Other Recommendations

Finally, it is also best to give up on NSAID pain killers, and even cut down on things like Tylenol. They can easily cause rebound headaches. They generally have not worked for me at all for many, many years anyways. If you are taking them often, you should really question if they are actually helping or just feeding the cycle. And if you can change your diet and reduce the migraine frequency, that will mean less medication in general.

You might try to get some CBD oil from a local health food store for some relief (that helps for a little while), but it is currently very expensive. That helped me in the past, although prevention is, again, much better and much more cost effective.

Finally, for those who spend a lot of time at computers or staring at their cell phones or tablets, I heavily recommended using blue light filtering software to reduce the strain on your eyes, especially in the evening and at night. My favorite program is f.lux (I run a Windows PC), but there are many variations for different operating systems. On my Android phone, I use the built in filter for daytime viewing, then at night it switches to an oranger color using a Night Mode app that I installed for free. My eyes are much happier this way, and I’m sure it has saved me from many migraines.

In Conclusion

I hope that advice helps. That’s pretty much everything I personally have learned about dealing with my own migraines. I am very passionate about helping others deal with migraines. They are beyond terrible and ruined my life for a long while, so if my advice can point people towards real recovery, I am glad to give it.

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Getting back in the saddle

It is more than two years now since I wrote a blog post. Two years of descent into and out of depressive episodes and personal stagnation deeper than any I had ever known (and I am no stranger to depression, and am even a great admirer of the positive impact I have at times turned it towards in my life–more on this perhaps at a later time).

In coming to write this post, I found a draft I began in the spring of 2017 and never published. It captures the spirit of the depressive aspects of the past several years very well:

Unfinished June 2017 Draft Post:

I’ve lost touch with something important. Something central. Is it desire? Purpose? Direction? Passion? Can acts have context and consequence, but no significance?*

All of my friends are struggling. All of them. Like my wife and myself, many are piecing part-time, temp, adjunct, and freelance work together into making a stagnant non-living, residing in either cheap, barely affordable apartments or in parents’ or friends’ houses.

I find a place, off and on, for music-making in my life, but poetry? Art?  I have lost the feeling for words and pictures. They cannot reach me. Even the music is lacking in depth, character, purpose. It throbs and languishes. It circles, stumbles, and falters. I watch reruns of Star Trek series while eating comfort food and drinking too much.

I witness my maladaptation continue still from 2016, a year of personal losses and (literal) assault. All this while 2016 was a turning point for my health–finally learning how to get my migraines under control, and discovering that the strength and flexibility of my body had largely returned from my 2010 back injury. And conservative spite, ignorance, and greed now sit poised to

* Emphasis added. I think this is a great question to ask.

The post cut off there. Doubtless I meant to make some comment about the bonkers political climate of 2017, but hey, its 2019 now. It seems like the fears of a sudden descent into a fascist hellscape have been somewhat soothed by a midterm democratic (and dare we hope progressive/socialist) rebuke, and there is even the possibility that the plutocratic status quo may even face a serious challenge in the next few years. Maybe.

Politics aside, what is most clear to me is how lost I felt at the time, and how much anguish was being caused by this. And how much I struggled to stay in my den and lick my wounds. I have felt this lost, adrift feeling for much of my adult life, but not always as a negative thing. It had turned very sour and stifling for me.

So starting in 2018, I began to find my life increasingly claustrophobic, and my depressive moods and coping strategies were becoming more transparent and pointless. Funny how depression–which is most clearly identified in myself now as a knee-jerk assignment of pointlessness and futility to everything (which is true when you get down to it) as an excuse for withdrawing from all that is negative and positive in life (but definitely a wrong, fear-driven stance)–can itself become a victim of its attacks on purpose. Due to this greater self-awareness, I became insistent on dropping my coping strategies and becoming more committed to figuring out how to deal with (to change, improve, shape) my life.

And one by one, they began to fall away. The need to inebriate, the Netflix binging of Star Trek, the munching. Even the need to calm my mind through regular applications of breathing meditation. Unfortunately, it also seemed that a lot of the good feeling I had from making art and writing fell away too. So much of my drive had been simply anxious, fearful energy focused on production to justify my identity, to establish my purpose for being. I had to produce or I was not of any value. I had to make art to justify my designation as an artist. To not be nothing and nobody.

So I have been getting more comfortable being nothing, or not worrying about being anything, and getting better at seeing depression at work, at seeing fear at work in me, and at making the effort each day to live a life less based on fear and less concerned with finding the impossible existential answers that my depression seems to need so badly.

Part of that is getting back to this blog, and maybe soon moving it to my own server. I’m trying to get a feel for writing again as a tool for growth, which I generally approach through the disillusionment and undermining of everything false and needy in me, everything ego-enhancing. The idea of poembassy bombing is to stare the artificial internal edifices of institutions, poetic and otherwise, into rubble and dust, then find a way to move on from there. I often imagine myself to be finished with that work, sifting through the ruins, and looking for something on the horizon to set off towards, but I don’t think that’s it yet. In this metaphor, I’m still buried in the smoldering rubble, slowly finding the strength to dig myself out. Because nobody is coming to help me do it. I must do it alone.

I should say that a lot of the negativity I have gone through has faded. I have managed, as with my struggle to end years of chronic migraines (I will blog about this soon), to use every darkness and negativity in my life to seek out what is true and of value and figure out how to become a more mature, wise person. I know the world is still probably fucked, moving ever deeper into ecological, economic, and political collapse (and the more we can face this fact, maybe the more we can do about it), but the more personal, subjective experience of my life is less and less occluded by despair and depression. I can push aside the veil of fear and self-assuring knowledge (always seeking to keep things safe, contained, and identify and remove any threats) that haunts my perception to reveal something that is a frequent and refreshing reprise. Like the opening of a window in a dark, stagnant room to let in fresh air. I cannot properly describe this. Sometimes I cultivate this (as though it is something cultivated!) in meditation, other times I slip into it without intention during the day. I think Longchen Rabjam does a better job of it (from The Basic Space of Phenomena, section 10):

Without the arising and subsiding of thoughts, there is a naturally limpid, pristine state, like the unwavering evenness of a limpid ocean.
Free of the occurrence of or involvement in thoughts, free of hope or fear, you abide within the state of naturally occurring timeless awareness, the true nature of which is profoundly lucid.

Without the compulsions of ordinary mind, there is an unfeigned state–a natural settling, uncontrived and unadulterated–though it cannot be characterized with words.
This absorption in the expanse of being, the true nature of which cannot be characterized, involves neither meditation nor something to meditate on, and so laxity and agitation dissipate naturally, and enlightened intent occurs naturally.

I’m not sure he was speaking about what I have been experiencing and working towards in my own practice, but I aim for a natural settling, or I seek out that which is grasping, holding on tight, which is unsettled, then acknowledge it and watch is settle. Some kind of experience of oneness arises, and everything external and internal is subsumed in an undifferentiated whole. It does not feel like a unity/unification, but more that the previous experience of myself observing and reacting to a world that is other has been replaced by, simultaneously, the absence and presence of these as a single thing. All that I had perceived previously remains, but it has a hollow (but oddly warm and whole) presence.

(Hollow and whole. The sound of that. Never noticed the resonance. Hollow and whole. Whole and hollow. The whole hollow. A hollow whole. A hole is hollow, hollow on the whole.)

When I look in at myself, I see an earnest, wondering, urgently concerned image of my face staring outward. But upon seeing it, its transparency and flatness are apparent, and it fades away like a phantom movement you try to catch at the edges of sight. Often, then, a natural settling follows.

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll just end it here. I feel I could keep rambling on for days without coming to any conclusion. Do I want a conclusion? Do you want a conclusion? Does everything need to be tied up in a nice package? No. Certainly not.

For Brigit Pegeen Kelly

I often felt like writing to her, but, in general, I don’t write to people I care about often enough, I don’t call the people I love often enough.

I was fortunate to have had Professor Kelly–as I still feel I should call her (though I think she would prefer just Brigit)–as my first poetry workshop leader as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the spring of 2003. I was a foolish boy from the cornfields with a love of language; I was lonely and depressive; and I was failing out of jazz inprovisation and trumpet performance in the School of Music when I entered her class. For the next year or so, I spoke almost every week with her in her office in the top floor of the English building about poetry, religion, literature, life. I remember walking her to her car one evening. I remember her lending me the published diary of a (Swiss? Czech?) writer from the 40s that contained sketches of stories about marionettes and woodsmen–I still cannot remember the author or the book.

I am not good at remembering or telling stories, so forgive me.

I write this with a deep but gentle sadness welling in my face and flushing through my limbs, because through the short time in my life that I knew her, she influenced me profoundly as an example of openness, generosity, compassion, and deep wisdom. Her poetry is nothing like what I write or work on, but it has a beauty and mystery that has always touched and warmed my too often inhuman core. When I read it, I think of her and how kind she was to speak to me all of those days. It never felt like I was an irritation, and it was always a true exchange, and I have always wished to be like that with my own students and in my own conversations.

The last time I saw Brigit was in 2009 when she gave a reading at Wabash College in Indiana. For some reason I do not remember her reading her own poems there too vividly, perhaps because I was already so familiar with them. “Dead Doe” was always a favorite of mine and my poetry students at Purdue. Another favorite has always been “Pipistrelles.”  There is a sort of spell they cast, so perhaps I was too intoxicated by them. What I remember is her reading from Wallace Steven’s “The Auroras of Autumn,” which I had never read or heard. She made it beautiful.

This isn’t very eloquent, and I’m losing track of what I am trying to do here. What am I trying to do here? I just want to say that it was her kindness and sadness that I treasure most, through my interactions with her and through her poetry, and my life and the world have both been made better for them. I feel an emptiness and a loss knowing she is gone, but I feel her impression in that same space, that helps me to understand what is good in this world.

View and Purchase My Digital Art at Redbubble!

redbubble_logoLast week, I joined the online arts community/store Redbubble, and there are now 17 of my artworks up for sale as prints, posters or greeting cards. I have already documented some of my process of making these works, but you can also find more details in the descriptions for each image and in my public profile statement.

This has been a year in the works so far. I’m excited to see what kind of response my work gets, and my profile is only going to grow in interest as I get further into learning Processing 2.0 and using databending techniques.

Check out eRoGK7’s profile and portfolio at Redbubble!

Migraine Brain Drain in Progress (Updated 9.28.13)

Self-Portrait with Migraine

Self-Portrait with Migraine, eRoGK7 (2013)

Update:

The migraine situation has improved quite a bit recently. While the new medication I am on to prevent migraines, depakote, doesn’t seem to work very well relative to its side effects (weight gain, drowsiness, dullness, stomach pain, mixes badly with alcohol or caffeine), I have been put on a nasal steroid and Zyrtec for allergies and have not had a migraine or even a headache in the past three weeks. I am hoping the continued treatment for allergies can stop my chronic migraines for good and get me back to just the occasional episode. Relpax seems to be doing a good job with those.

Original Post:

So I’m still dealing with chronic migraines, the headaches along with all of the other fantastic symptoms that surround it–nausea, disorientation, lack of focus, sinus pressure, light sensitivity, depression, a worse memory than usual, the occasional beatitude, soreness throughout my body similar to what follows seizures, almost no sense of time.

The meds I’m on might be a problem too, since it seems the nortriptyline isn’t helping to prevent them much anymore, and the side effects are becoming more pronounced. A visit to the neurologist this week might improve this at least. It’s hard to tell what the eletriptan is doing to my head too.

Anyway, I wrote a poem about migraine. Maybe I’ll make a habit of it. Maybe not. Writing about my life and my feelings doesn’t usually turn out too well, but here goes.

MIGRAINE

My head has been cloned on top of itself.
Each eye has its own head each with its other eye.
Like a Ven diagram where it all overlaps?
There is no easy way to describe it.
Looking, I see.
Seeing, I understand.
It is suffering.
There is a cause to it.
There will be an end to it.

The man rubs his head into the pavement.
Children had drawn a beautiful landscape in chalk all over it.
The man rubs the landscape into him, inside his head is a chalk transporter.
People watch but they cannot help him.
The man opens a portal in his suffering and falls in.
There is no record of this event.

Excellent discussion on migraines on The Diane Rehm Show, August 16, 2012

I’ve suffered from episodic migraines for much of my life. I was able to deal with that for the most part. Beginning last October, I began to get migraines every 2-3 days (sometimes more, sometimes less), and no longer had sufficient time to recover before another one would start. I finally went to see a neurologist for treatment in February this year, and after inducing a couple of months of increasing panic attacks from the first medication he prescribed (verapamil), I finally have found a treatment for me which has dramatically reduced the incidence of migraines (nortriptyline). I’ve started to feel like my life is back in my control, like I have the power to take control of how my life goes without constantly being taken out or disoriented by this terrible disorder.

Listening to the first hour (or was it the second) of The Diane Rehm Show from August 16, 2012, “Living With Migraine And The Search For New Treatments,” it feels good to hear so much of what I’ve discovered over this past year explained so clearly. Most people have no idea what suffering from migraines is like (how can you if you’ve never experienced it), and how deeply it affects those who suffer from it. It was interesting to hear that many specialists no longer classify it as a “headache disorder” and instead have started to see it and treat it as a “brain disorder.” I think it sounds very reasonable that I have a brain disorder. It connects a lot of the dots, and I’ve always felt a bit Abbie Normal anyway.

I hope there are a lot of people that benefit from the information discussed on this show. I also wish this show would have been put together a year ago, when for months I had no idea how to explain what all was going on, and couldn’t comprehend that my previously contained migraines had begun to manifest in strange and life-consuming ways. Maybe others will understand sooner and be able to gain back control of their lives much earlier than I was able.

Support the Occupation of Wall Street!

OCCUPY WALL STREET

Don’t listen to the ridiculous distortions or the simply lame reporting of the protests that you hear on corporate owned media, PBS/NPR and the BBC. There are thousands of very articulate people in these protests, and their various demands are serious. Watch Democracy Now!‘s coverage. All the anger about Wall Street, capitalism, the wealth gap, unemployment, the scam that is health insurance, the corporate ownership of politics and media, student loan debt and the cost of education, etc. etc., that came out of me for the past two years in 6x6x6 seems to be verified now in all of these people taking a stand. I thought that people weren’t ever going to start up anything. Whatever city you are in, support this thing. I’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend and I’ll find the protest there.

Here’s a prayer:

May the American People arise
Where they have not arisen;
And where they have arisen, may they not disperse,
But increase further and further.

]] is up at Gnoetry Daily

Over the past two weeks, I have been working on a chapbook of poems (or maybe poetic compositions would be more accurate) which deal with my feelings and thoughts about September 11th, 2001 on this tenth anniversary in a way that I hope is both artful and tasteful.

I’ve written an introduction and posted the three (somewhat incomplete) parts of the chapbook up at Gnoetry Daily over the past three days under my alter ego username eRoGK7, so I’ll stop introducing the thing here. Know that there will be more of the Gnoetry section (Part 2) going up for a while still.

I hope you enjoy it, and that it makes you think about and reflect upon various important things.

All Posts for ]] and Other 9/11 Works

Watching Art21 on Hulu and Thinking about Writing

I’ve started to watch episodes of Art21 on Hulu Plus now through my PS3. Seems you can watch all of the episodes on the PBS Art21 website. I’ve always been fascinated with all kinds of art: music, visual art, literature, dance, film. I’ve also liked to listen to interviews with artists, which I often find much more stimulating than interviews with writers. They usually seem so much more passionate, intense, and wrapped up in what they’re talking about, what they’re working on. It’s this mentality I would like to bring to my poetry, to my projects and what I am doing with language. Some of my favorite poets sound more like abstract visual artists describing a display than writers talking about a poem or the situation that it arose from. Writers like Jackson Mac Low, bpNichol, Gertrude Stein, Leslie Scalapino and Christian Bök that continue to engage my curiosity and respect after repeat engagements with their work and thought. It is not really so much an idea of an avant garde that I want to connect with. Instead, there is a curiosity and openness to their work that is constantly (constantly did) re-emerg(e)ing throughout their careers, a necessity to change the approach, the materials, the aesthetic of their projects as new focal points emerged. And the concepts, perspectives, states of mind, spaces that their works engage with and recreate for readers are a pleasure am undeniably thankful for. This is how I would like my past present and future works to be. If there is a poembassy to bomb, it is in my mind, and I will continue to build it up, blow it up, and build it back. Or maybe stretch out a bit in its hollow shell and look around.

I’m a Mother Fucking Amateur: Introducing the updated blog

It’s been a rough year for me. Fifteen months now of lower back problems and sciatica have dealt a serious blow to the amount of time and energy I could devote to writing, reading and thinking about poetry, being a practicing Buddhist, a dutiful husband. This blog has suffered much from my health problems, probably more than anything else, but it’s time for me to get back to work here.

What is the work of Poembassy Bombing? To figure out what it means to be a Mother Fucking Amateur (MFA 2009) and whether this is a term to embrace or run from in shame.

What do I mean by Mother Fucking Amateur? It is the best description I have for how I have felt since I completed my MFA program in 2009. So I have this degree now and a documented (and lived) institutional educational experience. I am a pedigreed “creative writer.” So how I do I become a poet, one of the same ability and impact as those I most respect: Stein, Mac Low, Koch, Silliman, Scalapino, Mohammad, Hejinian? I had a terminal degree and the feeling that I had not even started. This is when I first felt like a mother fucking amateur.

Add to this my health issues. However clear my sense of purpose or direction may have been 16 months ago (and trust me, it was not all that clear, all though it seems otherwise now) things have changed. The Buddhism that inspired my previous title (what light already light) is no longer as solid in my mind and life as it was, partly due to my physical inability to properly practice meditation and partly due to the ideas of Stephen Batchelor (Buddhism Without Beliefs) and Slavoj Zizek. Zizek’s ideological critiques of Western Buddhism particulary, although I find them problematic (I’ll blog on this later for sure), have made me suspicious of my own motivations and desires concerning my adopted religion/philosophy. My infant poetics and aesthetic sense have also fallen into troubling times, and I find myself really needing to read, discuss and come to new and more informed conclusions about the avant-garde ideas that have been somewhere behind my decisions about my writing since I first started down that road six years ago in grad school.

There is a lot that I need to learn about poetry, and I need to develop my own approach to understanding the art and writing about it in addition to my ongoing attempts at practicing it. I’m using the blog to this end for now.

Upcoming projects on the blog:

  • Reading through all of the original L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E issues (@ Eclipse) and reflecting on the relevance and impact of the aesthetics and practice recorded there. I’ve been reading Bernstein’s early essays from Content’s Dream, and I want to get deeper into the writing and ideas of that formative period of the Language School, which has produced some of my favorite poetry of the 20th century.
  • A discussion of Zizek’s critique of Western Buddhism and the impact it has had on how I think about my Buddhist practice. I’m a huge fan of Zizek. I take his criticisms very seriously and think there is a lot to how he problematizes Buddhism for Western practitioners.
  • Thoughts on the writings of Leslie Scalapino. Her last two books and the recent release of the update How Phenomena Appear to Unfold have only furthered my interest in her work. I group her with Mac Low and Stein as an unabashedly eccentric, free and original thinker about what poetry is capable of. Once you can understand her prose style–the density of the ideas and the quirky use of language–there is a lot to experience that is new and strange.
  • How my further use of Creative Wreading (ala Charles Bernstein) works out with my Introduction to Poetry class this fall semester.
  • Other things I’m sure.