The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘illness’

I’ve Been Sick for Over a Year

August 22, 2016 | by

Turin Stroll

December 30, 2015 | by

We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

Photo: David Wen Riccardi-Zhu

Reenacting the walk that led to Nietzsche’s breakdown.

On the morning of January 3, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche is known to have left his Turin residence on Via Carlo Alberto with the intention of walking into the center of the city. He’d gone barely two hundred meters when, coming onto the Piazza Carignano, he pulled up at the sight of a recalcitrant horse being flogged by its driver. Nietzsche approached and, throwing his arms around the beast’s neck, whispered something in its ear that to this day remains a conundrum: “Mother, I am stupid.” He immediately went back home, where he fell dumb and lost consciousness, not coming round until a few days before his death, a decade later, in 1900.

In May 2012, I travelled to Turin with the intention of repeating, step by step, that walk of Nietzsche’s, which—between A and B below—I had no difficulty finding on the map. Read More >>

The Nexus of All Despair

November 25, 2015 | by

Frances Brundage, Thanksgiving Day Greetings (detail), ca. 1913.

Our Winter 2015 issue features an interview with Jane and Michael Stern, who have written more than forty books; their Roadfood, first published in 1978 and now in its eighth edition, brought a new fervor and attention to regional American cuisine. To celebrate the new issue and the holiday, Jane Stern reflects here on Thanksgivings past. Happiness abounds. —D. P.

I’ve always thought that Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, based solely on the fact that I adore turkey. But if I were to remove turkey from the equation, I would probably realize that this holiday, for me, has been nothing but one hideous thing after another.

Why Thanksgiving is the nexus of all despair is a mystery. But to prove that it is, here’s a short list of some of the things I remember. Read More »

Turin Stroll

November 2, 2015 | by

Reenacting the walk that led to Nietzsche’s breakdown.

Photo: David Wen Riccardi-Zhu

On the morning of January 3, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche is known to have left his Turin residence on Via Carlo Alberto with the intention of walking into the center of the city. He’d gone barely two hundred meters when, coming onto the Piazza Carignano, he pulled up at the sight of a recalcitrant horse being flogged by its driver. Nietzsche approached and, throwing his arms around the beast’s neck, whispered something in its ear that to this day remains a conundrum: “Mother, I am stupid.” He immediately went back home, where he fell dumb and lost consciousness, not coming round until a few days before his death, a decade later, in 1900.

In May 2012, I travelled to Turin with the intention of repeating, step by step, that walk of Nietzsche’s, which—between A and B below—I had no difficulty finding on the map. Read More »

Common Colds

January 29, 2015 | by

cold

“Coughs and sneezes spread diseases,” a famous British public health campaign.

As I wandered through the painkillers aisle, sniffling and throwing decongestants and tinctures into my basket, I thought that one of the annoying things about the common cold is the knowledge that it’s so benign. A harried-looking dad was bending over the babies’ section, staring at a bulb syringe and trying ineffectually to calm the miserable toddler in the red UPPAbaby. The little boy was howling. And why not? What had he done to find himself visited by a raw, red nose, troubled sleep, and a series of aches and pains? So far as he was concerned, this was the end of the world: nothing in this moment could have been worse. 

And the truth is, when you feel sick, it’s a small comfort to know you’ll be better within a week and what’s happening to you isn’t, in fact, serious. There’s none of the anxiety of a real medical problem, but then it’s in a different category entirely: it’s the very knowledge of its toothlessness—paired with its unpleasantness—that renders it irritating. Read More »

Head Cases

November 21, 2014 | by

An illustration from Les gens de Medecine dans l'oeuvre de Daumier. Via the Wellcome Library

Migraines are the most glamorous of headaches. Mysterious, debilitating, unpredictable: they get all the press. Who wants to talk about the workaday irritation of a tension headache, the dull thud of dehydration, the queasy slosh of sinus infections? That’s not sexy. By definition, even; the headache is the punch line to half the Andy Capp jokes in the world. 

But migraines! Everyone relishes a migraine. They have a literal aura! Migraines foster the sort of pure narcissism that only intense, essentially benign pain can. We sufferers (that’s how it’s described, “migraine sufferer”) feel it is meet and right that the migraine should be dramatized in films like Pi or White Heat; this strengthens the perception that migraines are the hallmark of geniuses, or at least psychopaths. Joan Didion writes about them; of course she does. In “In Bed,” she describes the purification arising from this crucible of pain:

The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.

Yes, Joan, yes! That’s it exactly! Of course, she also says, “My husband also has migraine, which is unfortunate for him but fortunate for me: perhaps nothing so tends to prolong an attack as the accusing eye of someone who has never had a headache.” I disagree. What migraine sufferer wants to share the limelight? After all, we all know in our hearts that no one in the history of the world has ever experienced basically unserious pain like we have.

It’s a bit like cats on social media. On the face of it, social media is a boon for cat fanciers, so long isolated from the easy socialization of other pet owners. And on the face of it, it is indeed a vibrant online community. But the suspicion cannot help but intrude, first, that everyone really thinks her cat is the cutest, the wackiest, the wittiest, the best. And second, that this conviction is unshakeable. 

So it is with migraine sufferers. On the face of it, we’re collegial. Oh, you get migraines, too? We compare triggers (Tyramines? Blood sugar? Hormones?) and triptans. Have you tried Zomig? Maxalt? Imitrex? What about the spray? And then the one-upsmanship begins. How often? For how long? Where is your pain localized? Really, behind the eyes? Interesting. I didn't realize that qualified as a migraine! Light sensitivity? Nausea? Have you tried biofeedback? Beta-Blockers? Botox? Acupuncture? Going GF? (That’s recent.) What about that codeine stuff you can only get in Europe because the FDA hasn’t approved it? Have you been to the ER? How many times? Have you seen a neurologist? (We all have; there’s never anything wrong with us. At least, nothing detectable.) Of course, if anyone plays the “Cluster Headache” card, the conversation is over, and the rest of us have to trudge sullenly away.