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Making Art Out of Migraines

May 31, 2012

by Chappell Ellison handmade and vintage goods

Something funny happened when I was 12 years old. My mom walked into my room, laid down on the floor and picked up a Nintendo controller. “Teach me how to play,” she said in a flat tone with a blank stare. I couldn’t tell if I should be worried or proclaim my mom the Queen of Cool. In retrospect, I now know that my mom wasn’t interested in dabbling in youth culture; as a longtime sufferer of migraines, she was looking for a distraction to take her mind off an impeding, crushing headache.

There are many illnesses in life that aren’t fatal, yet push us to the brink of sanity. For the millions who suffer from migraine headaches, conveying the pain to others is an impossible task. “It’s the film melting in my projector — it’s a bit like falling,” wrote Eva Wiseman in a recent article for The Guardian. “Smells slay me. Noise, fine, but smells — Angel perfume in a lift, for instance, or that dirty spitting rain you get in cities, the kind that smells of apocalypse — will make me retch.”

Where the Fish Live

"Aura is a watercolour painting I did for my mother. It is a representation of the senses when a migraine aura takes shape into light and colors and becomes birds flying, flowers blooming, out of thin air. Spots capture the light and transform the air into something imaginative. It makes something bad good. The spots can be beautiful."

At their worst, migraines can affect vision, causing you to see shimmering lights and illusionary floating bits of matter. In a recent article for Big Think, Declan Fahy remembers the frustration of his first migraine experience: “I explained these headaches to friends, even going so far as drawing out my impression of the visual distortions.” When Fahy discovered that the visions he experienced were called migraine aura, he became intrigued by the countless artists of the past who attempted to visually document their pain. “Interestingly, these altered states have been reproduced in works of art, including the paintings depicting heaven by the 12th century religious mystic Hildegard von Bingen and some of the surreal scenes in Alice in Wonderland.”

During the middle ages, Hildegard of Bingen produced several illustrations that are considered by many to be the earliest examples of migraine art. Though she described her experiences as mystical visions, scholars have noted the similarities between her artwork and that of modern-day migraine sufferers. Blaise Pascal, a famous 17th century mathematician and scientist, was long thought to be insane because he claimed he could feel a gaping hole open up to his left, a yawning abyss that threatened to suck him away. After studying the illustrations Pascal made of his vision, scientists later concluded that he most likely suffered from temporary blindness in his left eye, a symptom caused by his migraine headaches.

Denise Neumann

"First of migraine series; stages of pain during a severe migraine."

Much has changed since Pascal’s time, but migraines persist. Several migraine awareness foundations hold art exhibitions, giving sufferers the chance to explore and communicate their pain. In 1980, the British Migraine Association held the first Migraine Art competition, inviting contributors to create works of art depicting vision impairments caused by migraines. “If this competition alerts just a few hundred more people into a more realistic understanding of what migraine really means in terms of astronomical human suffering, then it will have been worthwhile,” wrote Peter Wilson, the founder of the Association.

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2 Featured Comments

  • PippaPatchwork

    Pippa Eccles Armbrester from PippaQuilts said 5 years ago Featured

    This is inspiring. I don't suffer from migraines, but turning any struggle into art is so admirable, and uplifting! Thank you for the wonderful article.

  • saraaires

    Sara Aires from saraaires said 5 years ago Featured

    I'm a migraine sufferer since the age of 16. Likewise, the smells are what affect me the most. Although I don't get the "aura", i also suffer a lot with lights. To be able to create in such state is incredible, in those days I can barely stand on my feet... it usually goes away only with a ton of meds and good time sleep. I'm stunned by these works! and its great to hear of all these resources concerning such an incapacitating problem.


  • everythingok

    everythingok from everythingok said 5 years ago

    I know that feel. I know it well. Though I'm usually triggered by work smells at the office, which has yet to inspire me to paint, but these are fascinating.

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Interesting. I got them for a brief period as a teenager. No fun at all.

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    Judith and Raymond from AnnaOliveDesigns said 5 years ago

    Art therapy is such an amazing thing. It is an outlet, a release and calming.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 5 years ago

    Interesting and amazing!

  • TheHickoryTree

    Linda from TheHickoryTree said 5 years ago

    Art Therapy - how amazing. This is a very Interesting article. I've never suffered from migraines but I have had a week long headache which almost pushed me over ther edge.

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering said 5 years ago

    Very interesting read!

  • SoapForYourSoul

    Emily from SoapForYourSoul said 5 years ago

    Interesting for sure!

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 5 years ago

    Interesting and gut wrenching

  • MollysMuses

    Molly O'Bryon-Welpott from MollysMuses said 5 years ago

    I have suffered with migraines for about 20 years. The on again off again medicines also can mess with creativity. I have never tried to show one of my migraines, I think this is very unique write up, recognizing a chronic illness that most people dont understand:) thanks

  • PamplemousseAndBean

    Gray Parker from PamplemousseAndBean said 5 years ago

    As a migraine sufferer and an Art Therapist, I can understand how they both work- It is surprising how very long people have suffered from these debilitating headaches, yet still know so little about them and how to treat them. It's really interesting to see how Migraineur's depict their experiences through their art--thanks for bringing attention to this awesome work!

  • LaMeowVintage

    Regan from LaMeowVintage said 5 years ago

    Very fascinating!

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage said 5 years ago

    Great post!

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    Annette from TheLeveretsNest said 5 years ago

    not everyone gets visions, and the nausea inducing pain is totally unbearable and undescribeable to someone who has never suffered one before. Doing anything is actually completely impossible after the 20 minute window of 'opportunity' to take action (from the onset).

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 5 years ago


  • jednkaya

    susan johnson said 5 years ago

    I have always imagined that Edvard Munch's "The Scream" depicted a migraine.

  • studiorandom

    Dana Seilhan from studiorandom said 5 years ago

    I've suffered them off and on since age seventeen. Gave up wheat at the beginning of this year, with the exception of one lapse for a couple weeks in late February and early March. Was still getting mild morning pain, then gave up dairy. Then tried reintroducing it and had a wicked headache the morning after eating a significant amount of Parmesan. It turns out I can tolerate heavy cream and butter and ghee and whey protein, and I may be able to handle some cheeses but I can forget "shaky cheese" ever again. Not going back to wheat either; it makes me sleepy. But as long as I'm vigilant about my diet (and I also take vitamin/mineral supplements, but those never helped all by themselves), I don't hurt at all. I can even shake my head back and forth. That's huge. It was getting bad there for a while. I'm not saying diet will fix everyone, but as dangerous as the migraine drugs are, I would suggest a temporary *elimination diet* to find out if you've got food triggers. Because being pain-free is more important than a couple of foods. I can live without wheat bread and shaky cheese, believe me!

  • guziks

    Stephanie from Phylogeny said 5 years ago

    I, too, have had migraines for years. Only someone who has migraines can imagine the true pain that's associated with them. I'm glad to see the effect of smells acknowledged, as my worst migraine came at a movie theater, and the smell of the popcorn had me writhing for hours. Thus far, my art hasn't been a mode to describe my pain, but have been one way to focus - much like the Nintendo example - my mind on something other than the agony. Painting pretty things keeps me focused so the pain doesn't engulf me.

  • pascal4aqua

    Merle Pace from MerlePaceArts said 5 years ago

    thank you for this article! it makes me feel so much better to associate migraines with a creative and artistic personality instead of with past, painful, prejudices(well, we are getting there). it is also amazing to see the art created by past and present artists who suffered from this condition. i identify with their work very much and it is so interesting to read abou their stories. i have had severe migraines for over 20 years. i know one is starting because i feel a "hole in my head" which will lead to me thinking that it is a rational idea to smash my head with a brick to stop the pain-nothing about the pain of a migraine is rational. As with other kinds of intense pain, your body's survival modes kick in-it is amazing what we are capable of doing! the rest is just devestating and my migraines always require me to get to the ER fast. the doctors and medication can be a real problem sometimes as some think this is a psychological illness(no, I have finally found the right diagnosis!). it is very hard for to have to explain myself again and again, especially when i am in this state. i have well meaning friends who don't understand-they have headaches yet they are able to get on with their life. my migraines usually last from 3 days to 2 weeks. i have also found with my migraines, that my IQ goes down a bit in some folks eyes(i think this is true for many illnesses as well as the the ability to hear!). i say that my migraines have "killed my life" so there is a lot of loss and sadness i experience and have to deal with. i don't do art as therapy-i know it helps many people, but when i am able to do my art, it is about so many stories and connections i make with history and characters that i create as an escape from the realities of life. they are for everyone. for me, the best cure and escape from my migraines is a really good sleep. my favourite fairy tale has always been "Snow White" and the part where she is sleeping in her glass coffin(one of my self-portrait photographs in my shop is of this-i made my own glass coffin just for it!). since i was little, this image was so amazing to me-to just get to sleep so peacefully with the dear dwarf friends watching out for you. this is an image you will find in my art again and again-where some folks will see a very dark/doom and gloom image, i am trying to depict a deeply peaceful state rather than death or anything in that theme. and, even as a little girl, i got so upset when an adult would go ahead and finish the story-let the prince come and wake up Snow White-how rude! she needs her sleep! she is escaping a migraine! thank you again!

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    migraines suck ..interesting post..

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Wow...these are so beautiful! Way to make the bad good!

  • CafeBoulet

    Michelle from CafeBoulet said 5 years ago

    Timing of this post couldn't be better! I have recently (last few months) begun to have re-curring headaches. For some reason I have been waking up with them and they get progressively worse throughout the day. I now know for sure that two of these headaches were in fact migranes. I am not a headache person and have only experienced the usual "hangover" headache in my younger days. I am perplexed as to why all of a sudden they started happening and what is causing them. I thought that my blurred vision, sensitivity to light, nausea, and repulsion to any scent what so ever may have been flu symptoms but I now know better. It would be interesting for me to try and draw or paint those migranes. Oh what a mess it would be! LOL! Thank you for this post! It was very informative! =)

  • taylorfords

    Jeremy Taylor from TaylorFords said 5 years ago

    The looks really good. Great job!

  • mediumgrey

    mediumgrey from mediumgrey said 5 years ago

    I had migraines from the age of 3 until just four years ago. I had the crushing pain in my eye, nausea, auras, light and noise sensitivity. No diet changes, no meds, they just vanished out of the blue. I live in fear that they will be back but I'm taking the opportunity to go to school without interruption. Wish I knew the reason they went away so I could share, but at least some can take heart that they can (rarely) go away without explanation.

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 5 years ago

    I thankfully don't suffer from migraines, but I love the idea of making beautiful art motivated by something ugly and painful.

  • katebuckleyart

    kate buckley from katebuckleyart said 5 years ago

    Very interesting post. I suffer from chronic migraines, at times thinking I would be driven to the edge of madness with the pain.

  • HoodVintageandWool

    Elisabeth Ryan from hoodwool said 5 years ago

    great art! thanks for this great post. i've got migraines too and acupuncture has siginificantly helped them. there are lots of clinics now in the US that offer $15-35 treatments. this link has a listing of them nationwide.

  • SuVasi

    Debbie Vasilinda from SuVasi said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article, I've had migraines since I was a teenager, bright sunlight, car headlights or strong perfumes usually set them off and then I get nauseated, if I can lay down and put an ice cold wet rag on my eyes it usually goes away anywhere from a few hours to a day. My maternal grandfather always had them and we would have to be quiet when grandpa had a sick headache, finally understood what that meant. Anyway, thanks for the article, very informative.

  • jamieribisi

    Jamie Ribisi-Braley from jamieribisi said 5 years ago

    Thanks for featuring my painting in the related items section. My recent body of work is about my migraines- which I've had for over 20 years. Last year, I had gotten to the point that they were occurring every day in varying severity. It completely took over my life and, naturally, that fed into my paintings. It took away so much studio time and made me so angry that I couldn't enjoy my life. It's a hard thing for friends and family to understand, too-- why you don't contribute as much as a 'normal' person would. I've been gluten free for the past 7 months and it has helped me tremendously...down to about 2 migraines a month. My work is beginning to be about coming out of that long darkness and exploring what's next and how long it will last.

  • MissTessaMelissa

    MissTessaMelissa from MissTessaMelissa said 5 years ago

    I didn't start getting serious migraines on a regular basis until after I turned 20, but they got really bad, really quickly, and became really frequent. Along with the painful ones, I also get painless migraines that make me go blind for an hour and it is like staring into a strobe light the whole time. I become completely functionless. I take krill oil, drink lots of water, and have seen an improvement. I rarely get the the painless ones anymore, but the painful ones still happen at least once a month, sometimes on and off for a week. I have a high threshold for pain, but these are more than just pain. They take over everything. It consumes you.

  • gormanstudios

    gormanstudios from gormanstudios said 5 years ago

    Wow. I can't imagine playing a video game while having a migraine... sounds like torture. Anything anywhere near bombastic and frenetic would only increase my pain. Entering perimenopause has made mine much much worse and I've developed photophobia, so watching a televsion screen, especially as the new tvs AND computer screen (iPads etc.) are increasing their brightness and flickering rates, as well as the new car LED headlamps, and new flat screens emmitting light everywhere you go, as well as every public space, including doctors offices now, feeling the need to play obnoxious radio stations..every restaurant or lounge .all making it so difficult for migrainers like me.

  • PinesVintageClothing

    Pine from GoodOldVintageOnline said 5 years ago

    Great post!

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 5 years ago

    Wow, how beautiful. Good way to make something good out of something bad.

  • gormanstudios

    gormanstudios from gormanstudios said 5 years ago

    Just wanted to add to those of you suffering from migraines, yes, do the research and give the natural way - the elimination diets and definately exercise and Vegan, no processed crap - a strong whole-hearted go, BUT also realize that there have been significant advances in migraine meds in the last decade or so, the kind of meds that can interrupt the start of a migraine before it sets in. It is VERY important that, if indeed they are migraines that you suffer from, and if you suffer from them regularly, that you see a neurologist and try these (they are a class of drugs called triptans). Letting migraines occur in your brain increases your risk of stroke because of your blood vessels dilating. There is no resaon to suffer if you don't have to.

  • mythologies

    ooohcards etc from mythologies said 5 years ago

    thank you for bringing together all of us who suffer from migraines. Usually, you suffer alone, no one understands until one goes through it. I have always used creativity (some kind of craft) to work through my pain. does not make the pain go away but makes me spend my time in a positive way, creating. and beautiful art!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 5 years ago

    There is simply no way to describe a migraine to anyone who thinks you're talking about "just a headache". I had them at varying intervals for about 20 years, then they just stopped. I have no idea why, which is frustrating. I don't quite trust that they're gone for good, but after about 15 years without one I really feel like I've got my ife back... although some of the triggers, such as strong perfume/aftershave or a particular type of sound, still make me slightly paranoid! Love the middle painting, not only is it beautiful in it's own right, but it's also pretty close to what I experienced at times.

  • DarlinBrandoPress

    Alisa and Alyssa from DarlinBrandoPress said 5 years ago

    Very fascinating post. These works are very beautiful. It's amazing that such beautiful things can come from such pain.

  • finessefindings

    Julie Gordon from finessefindings said 5 years ago

    It's like you wrote your article for me. I've known the disabling migraine aura well for 35 years unfortunately. Thank you Chappell

  • victoriacipriano

    Victoria Cipriano from VICIDESIGNS said 5 years ago

    I've had migraines for a very long time and opted to take the preventive meds as prescribed by the neurologist so art was the way to go for me as well. I still have a goal of being a "wounded healer" thru art therapy and my path is still being revealed so we will see. =) All the best for everyone!

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 5 years ago

    interesting post ~ I'm lucky to say no migraines here. I feel for those who suffer from them. Its weird how the busy patterns and activity seem to relax the mind more so. I'd think a serene style would be favored. Maybe ones sense of serenity goes out the window when having a migraine and the sense movement and escape is preferred.

  • TheDapperYeti

    Jen Yeti from LongDogVintage said 5 years ago

    I've suffered from migraines since the 2nd grade - thank you for this article and the opportunity to explore these arts!

  • dottiemakesmagicards

    dottiemakesmagicards from dottiemakesmagic said 5 years ago

    wow! very cool! i've suffered a handful of migraines in my day...i get the visual auras and always know pain in about to hit ..hard. it is such a strange phenomenon..little shimmery bits clouding your vision. it never occurred to me to draw it! very neat.

  • PippaPatchwork

    Pippa Eccles Armbrester from PippaQuilts said 5 years ago Featured

    This is inspiring. I don't suffer from migraines, but turning any struggle into art is so admirable, and uplifting! Thank you for the wonderful article.

  • kkleiner

    K Kleiner said 5 years ago

    i have frequent migraines. medication keeps them from being awful, but i still feel very odd--floating and super stimulated at the same time. i usually need to lie down to deal with it, but as it wears on i often enter an very creative state. the migraine's silver lining.

  • AHSC

    Amy from AHSC said 5 years ago

    I wish I could put into art how my head feels during a migraine. I don't get the auras or ultra-sensitivity to lights and sounds and smells, but the pain is unbearable. People who don't suffer from migraines just don't get how gawd-awful they are. Wonderful art and expression; it gives some beauty to something that otherwise is just ugly and nasty.

  • sharathgude

    sharath gude said 5 years ago

    well, art transcends even pain

  • PurpleMoonDesigns

    Lisa from PurpleMoonDesigns said 5 years ago

    Interesting article, thank you. I started getting daily migraines a couple years ago that I’m taking a preventive medication for, as well as lots of vitamins and a whole bunch of magnesium. For those who get migraines, even occasional ones, read up on magnesium. Most people are deficient and the problems it causes are endless, but migraines are a very common one.

  • Loveybyisha

    Isha Webb from Loveybyisha said 5 years ago

    I have been getting migraines since age 13 along with occasional vertigo, so reading this home. Trying to describe it to other people who have never experienced it is impossible but I never thought of trying to draw them, interesting.

  • Loveybyisha

    Isha Webb from Loveybyisha said 5 years ago

    I have been getting migraines since age 13 along with occasional vertigo, so reading this hit home. Trying to describe it to other people who have never experienced it is impossible but I never thought of trying to draw them, interesting.

  • mummyjo01

    mummyjo01 said 5 years ago

    This is a great post! As a third generation migraine sufferer, it is so difficult for others to understand. Some think we are weak, some think we are malingering, others point blank think it is an excuse. My earliest memory is of my parents by my bed at age 3 putting a cold cloth on my head. My wedding day was marred by a migraine. My heart broke when my son was diagnosed at age 3 with migraines. I have looked at many examples of migraine art, and encourage those who know or love a migraineur to do the same. Also, go to you tube and check out "migraine aura" videos , where people have posted their interpretations of auras (a potential warning to a migraineur of onset of migraine). Thank you for a wonderful post, and congrats to the artists who use their pain in positive expression. I hope it will give insight to non sufferers, and encouragement to those who do that they are not alone.

  • DriftlineCuriosities

    DriftlineCuriosities from DriftlineCuriosities said 5 years ago

    you can tell the sufferers ... they have the most to say and totally GET it. thank you for sharing the article - the people i know who have used Botox and even cut that nerve between the eyebrows say - it doesn't last or it doesnt even work. and as the article said it is 10% that get relief... there are times i would gladly try anything - almost even a pistol! once i too counted the amount of LIFE i have missed out on or spent in extreme Pain and it is YEARS now... so Etsy - very cool - I am amazed to find this article here. thank you

  • mummyjo01

    mummyjo01 said 5 years ago

    PS - I empathise re the fragrance "Angel" - I can't bear it, even a whiff can bring on an Apocalyptic migraine.

  • Cutetreats

    Jany from Cutetreats said 5 years ago

    Interesting... Thanks for sharing

  • deepfried

    Kimmy from deepfried said 5 years ago

    This is so great!! I have two types of migraines. Your typical head caving in-gonna-croak painful migraine and more often than those, classic or ocular migraines. After being diagnosed with adult onset epilepsy (joy to the world, right?!) the urge to show my husband what goes on during 35 minute auras and the foggy aftermath of a seizure was just overwhelming!! Anyone else feel that? You MUST show someone! lol Anyway, In my flash class last semester I decided to create a flash document to show my family what a seizure AND my ocular migraines looked like. (Aura's without the following head pains, which, for me are always much more intense) It was not an easy task. I drew it all out first which was a ton of fun but getting these two feelings into a moving picture? Let's just say I'm still working on it! I love so much that this is on the blog. Can't wait to go look (now) at all the goods associated!! BIG hugs to all migraneur's!

  • deepfried

    Kimmy from deepfried said 5 years ago

    DriftlineCuriosities says: I noticed that too. I was going to say it was excellent that there were so many with migraines here but ummm.. not happy that you all have them of course!

  • BlueJacaranda

    Linda Robertus from BlueJacaranda said 5 years ago

    Thanks for this post. My 5-year old son has been having migraines for about one year now (yes, even young children can get migraines) and it breaks my heart to see him suffer.

  • deepfried

    Kimmy from deepfried said 5 years ago

    mazedasastoat says: similar triggers. For the auras, I know they're coming when phantom smells come - will smell something akin to metal meat or smoke metal and then BAM! Also highly fasnicating, horizontal lines- If light is glaring off of horizontal blinds for example, they start. However if colored flashing lines appear somewhere (video) then the migraine doesn't come, a seizure does. loll What a disaster. It's actually pretty manageable when you KNOW your triggers though! Good luck to you all xo

  • CindyEllison

    Cindy Ellison from CindyEllison said 5 years ago

    Very interesting! I have had the auras but luckily with no pain. I feel a lot of people can relate to this post. Thank you for sharing.

  • mosaicmonkey

    mosaicmonkey from mosaicmonkey said 5 years ago

    I have been along time migraine sufferer and an artist but never occured to me to combine the two. Love the way the migraines are described by the author. Put into words what I have experienced for years. Thank you for such an inspiring article!

  • BasketsByEmily

    emily sommers from BasketsByEmily said 5 years ago

    I've never thot to create when suffering a migrain! How interesting... I'm ususally flat in a dark room... :) I Don't get them often, but they are awful! Great article..

  • EnterpriseAmericana

    Enterprise Americana from EnterpriseAmericana said 5 years ago

    Amazing images but I'm far from jealous. Fortunate to never have had one.

  • VickiLou23

    Victoria O'Connell from VickiLou23 said 5 years ago

    Interesting concept. I could never see straight when I have a migraine, let alone do art. My husband's migraines are worse. They are the hemiplegic type where half or whole body becomes paralyzed for anywhere from 15 minutes to hours. He usually gets some sense of them coming, but when they hit they hit hard. And of course there is the pain. Unbearable. I feel for him, I really do.

  • Musclesandcrafts

    Melanie from merVazi said 5 years ago

    Migraines are never a good experience, although to see art come from it is amazing. I know myself, I find crafting is a very relaxing experience, therapeutic, and without it I think I would probably go crazy.

  • HibouCards

    Anne-Claire R. from HibouDesigns said 5 years ago

    thank you so much for this article! What a relief each time I hear about other migraine sufferer and about the pain that goes along with it. It tells me that this is real, it acknowledges my own pain and tells me I'm not alone :) I have been suffering from migraines for what it seems like forever and I grew up seeing my mom crippled by them too so in a way I have learned to live with it. What a shock it was for me to read that line about the fact that it pushes you "to the brink of sanity"! It is so true yet I've thought it without ever saying it for fear of people's reaction... I think I have tried everything under the sun to try to tame the migraines but it seems that very little can be done and so I live with them like so many other people and sometimes I feel like it would be so nice to communicate with other migraine sufferers. So thank you for this article and thanks for the understanding, it doesn't cure me but it helps a tremendous lot! Hibou

  • flightfancy82

    Tara Rutland from FlightFancyBoutique said 5 years ago

    I could write a novel about how life-altering my migraines have been, but, I will simply say "thank you" for this very inspirational post.

  • FireIslandSoap

    Billy Bubbles from FireIslandSoap said 5 years ago

    this is really fascinating dude- talk about turning a negative into a positive! Rad!

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom said 5 years ago

    My boyfriend has migraines. They can get so bad that he needs to be in a dark quiet room for hours until he falls asleep, and hopes to wake up in the morning feeling better, after taking medication. To my knowledge, I've never had a migraine, but I can sympathize with those who do get them. It sucks to watch other people be in pain and not be able to do anything, because the only thing they can take is darkness and no sound. It doesn't help that the migraine medicine he takes has caffeine in it, and my boyfriend constantly gets kidney stones that are triggered by caffeine. A lot of the time, he just suffers through the headache because hospital trips for kidney stones are much more expensive. I don't think this article will help him, considering how he feels when he gets one, but I will show it to him anyway. Maybe we could do artwork together the next time he feels one coming on.

  • vonlarae

    Von LaRae from vonlarae said 5 years ago

    Migraines have been like a thief in the night stealing away my most prized possessions, life, love, relationships, the ability to have children, career. Sanity. I watched my mother suffer a lifetime with them. Etsy gives me an opportunity to create, not being able to punch someone else's time clock. I hope and pray one day there is a cure. It is heartbreaking knowing so many people suffer with this debilitating illness!

  • swingkatsvintage

    Deb A from swingkatsvintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderfully artistic ways of dealing with the "horror" of migraines. I say that as I have had them since I was 13. I wish I could express them with art! My way of dealing is to read everything I can on the subject and to journal what has happened in the days leading up to one. Some observations: *They tend to run in families, my maternal Great-Grandmother and my father. Researchers have found 3 different genes common to different sufferers. *Food, scent and hormone triggered, among many other things. *MSG which translated is "monosodiumglutemate" in 'Accent', meat tenderizer, etc., and all it's hundreds of minions, are a big one for many more people than realize- look for these two, especially, on food labels: Modified _____ Starch (insert any food word) Concentrated _____ Protein (insert any food word) These two are in almost every baked good and packaged food you can imagine, even yogurt! *The only thing that can lessen the debilitating pain for me and sometimes if taken soon enough, can stop one, is: 5 Advil (ibuprofen) and other pain relievers don't work, and 2 sudafed (the one you have to get behind the pharmacy counter, the ones in the aisles don't work.) I know my post is not the most artistic, lol, but if I can help even one sufferer lessen the pain I would be happy!

  • VintageScraps

    Meg from VintageScraps said 5 years ago

    Thank you for the post- like so many others, these blinding headaches have been trying to ruin my life for the last several years. How lovely to see an artistic bend to the mess :)

  • sarahkaydesign

    Sarah Lucero from sarahkaydesign said 5 years ago

    This is great because so many people, as noted by these comments, suffer from migraines and can relate to this art on a personal level...myself included. Maybe migraines are just a symptom of creativity?

  • happytobecreating

    Roxie G from RoxieGs said 5 years ago

    I suffer daily with migraines that vary with intensity during the day. I have often wished I could convey in art or in writing how it feels to suffer with such pain and with such vision abnormalities. Or just to put the pain to good use through writing or art. What a fabulous article

  • vonlarae

    Von LaRae from vonlarae said 5 years ago wasn't until i was in my late 40's early 50's that a smart doctor said "hey let me do an MRI on your neck, and then sent me to a spine Dr. and they started doing a procedure called radiofrequency ablation therapy on the primary pain generator nerves deep in the facet joints of my neck C2,3,4 several times a year, that the migraines abated from 3/4/5 a week to 3-4 a month. I had such a strict diet not wanting to eat anything that would cause an attack! Paranoid to the max over every thing. After the first nerve burn I had a taste of chocolate! and realized that there was no dietary cause for the migraines! I literally went on a chocolate binge for a month!! The bummer about the neruroblation therapy is that is is worse before it gets better, and then the stupid pain generator nerves grow back! Now I have become too sensitive to the treatments, so they no longer are an option for me. DHE nasal spray (Migranol) daily propranolol and massive pain meds for neck pain are just the reality of life. If we can put a man on the moon certainly someone someday will find a cure! Good luck to everyone and everyone who loves someone with this challenge!!

  • pheeadornments

    Desirée Isphording from pheeadornments said 5 years ago

    This is quite an interesting article. I had heard somewhere else that Carroll's Alice in Wonderland may have been influenced by his migraines and that does makes sense to me as a migraine sufferer. I also read something in Nigel Spivey's "How Art Made the World" that even mentions migraine auras potentially influencing the patterns used by early humans in cave art. I've had migraines since early in elementary school. At first my parents thought I was faking it since typically young children don't experience frequent debilitating headaches, but eventually I was diagnosed. I tried Imitrex and Maxalt but they only worked occasionally. Generally I just had to hide myself in a dark room and try to wait it out. Most of the time I only got them on one side of my head and although I generally don't get auras in the typical sense, I would know when one was going to happen in advance because of a tiny sensation elsewhere in my head. I have had them affect my dreams and the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping in very unpleasant ways though. I compare them to the sort of dreams you get with a high fever. My triggers tend to be mostly hormonal but smells and strong light were major factors when I was young. The girl's locker room in middle and high school was hell since so many of them would reapply body sprays, perfumes, and hair products after class. I also tended to get a lot of nausea associated with them and was motion and car sick as a result. These days my triggers tend to be lack of sleep and stress. Thankfully as I've gotten older they've gradually reduced in strength and frequency, but I still get them. At this point the best medication I've found is an over-the-counter migraine pill and it is a life saver.

  • AzaferraJewelry

    Marie L. from AzaferraJewelry said 5 years ago

    Wow! I admire anyone who can do anything while having a migraine! Mine started when I was a teenager, and usually around the time of my period. I hated to wear my glasses and thought that I might be going blind! Later on in life, I realized I only got them when I was terribly stressed with no options visible to me. I get the "hole /blindness"and visual "sqigglies", usually in my left eye, usually about 30 minutes to an hour before. If I can, I lie down, in total darkness and quiet if possible. They subside without medication, but I'm hesitant and shaky for a couple of hours afterward, worried that it may return. Fortunately, I don't get them often anymore.

  • COGnitivecreations

    COGnitivecreations from COGnitiveCreations said 5 years ago

    Migraines have been a constant in my life for the last decade. They can be quite debilitating. Good to see some can find inspiration and channel their pain, though the violent artistic renditions don't soothe me at all. :o)

  • dahlilafound

    Dahlila S. from dahlilafound said 5 years ago

    I don't think anyone would want to look at a painting of my migraines--I wouldn't want to look at it--blinding lights, stabbing pins, unbearable pain. Perhaps, it would be cathartic. I can't imagine playing a video game with one. I can barely be in a dimly lit room, but I do get the need for distraction. I use video books. A good story, nothing loud. It helps pass the time when I'm down with an ice pack. Thankfully, mine seem to be slowly waining, I've carefully noticed. Dealing with a migraine is like tenderfooting around a hand grenade. I wouldn't wish upon anyone.

  • EphemeraAndMore

    EphemeraAndMore from EphemeraAndMore said 5 years ago

    I'm always looking forward to Chappell's posts. Very interesting, surprising subjects... and really well written! Thanks again!

  • Chennai

    Sue Henderson said 5 years ago

    I had severe, hospital trips, migraines from age 10 - 50, 2 - 3 times a month. Tried absolutely everything including TMJ surgery changing my looks. Worked full time, raised a family, and do not know how I did it except to scream when alone. If I drew a picture, I would have a hand grenade blowing out the right side of my head. Then, at 50, I became hyperthyroid, they irradiated my thyroid, and never one migraine after. Praise God is all I can say. Everyday, every single day, I give thanks.....

  • customizeBaby

    Custom Baby from customizeBaby said 5 years ago


  • freakylittlethings

    Yve Hooson from freakylittlethings said 5 years ago

    I've been carted off to hospital on a few occasions by friends who have been so concerned by my catatonic state, and the migraines lock my jaw and dull my senses so much I cannot protest. For me, Migraines have always meant far more than a headache and as I have inherited them from my poor grandfather, I knew what to expect. He was a steelworker whose colleagues built him a light tight hidey hole so that he could feel safe while he was incapacitated during a work shift. He and I were lucky enough to have sympathetic employers, but then our symptoms were too extreme to ignore. I have know fellow sufferers to be treated as malingerers by their bosses and colleagues which only makes this horrible condition harder to bear. For many of us it is more a way of life than an illness as so many considerations have to be made day to day to avoid "triggers" setting off another attack. I am in my late forties now and know from my grandfather's example that they are becoming less and less frequent to a point where I will be free of them. Maybe once they have lost their hold on me I will try and paint some pictures of what I have experienced during those many hours locked inside my own head!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    I used to get migraines when I was a teenager, I sometimes still get bad headaches but nowhere near like it used to be. I can sympathize with the melting film analogy when I used to get migraines I found it difficult to move and the world just looked too painfully bright.

  • saraaires

    Sara Aires from saraaires said 5 years ago Featured

    I'm a migraine sufferer since the age of 16. Likewise, the smells are what affect me the most. Although I don't get the "aura", i also suffer a lot with lights. To be able to create in such state is incredible, in those days I can barely stand on my feet... it usually goes away only with a ton of meds and good time sleep. I'm stunned by these works! and its great to hear of all these resources concerning such an incapacitating problem.

  • yimmekedesign

    Diana from yimmekedesign said 5 years ago

    Imagine having a great day. You're having fun, all is well, laughing with your loved ones...and suddenly a lightening flash goes through your head and all kinds of triangles are floating behind your eyes. Still, you feel great, no pain, but the fear of what is coming within a couple of minutes debilitating you for at least a whole day, takes all your fun and laughter away in a couple of seconds. Next your neck gets stiff, the pain travels to your left temple, hangs there for awhile..and then you can slowly feel your brain explode into a mushy ball of electrical yarn, slapping against your skull, making you nauseous and so so sick, but throwing up gives no relieve. Every migraine attack survival feels like a rebirth, life is worth living again. Great to see it depicted in art. Maybe it brings some awareness that migraines are not just another head ache. Thanks !

  • Krystyna81

    Kristina from Krystyna81 said 5 years ago

    Like many wise people have posted above...changing my diet helped change my life. I used to get vomit-inducing headaches, horrible horrible pain. Eliminated dairy, cut WAY back on gluten, and take Magnesium EVERY DAY - i can almost guarantee a bad headache/migraine if I forget to take my Magnesium. Thank you for opening up this dialogue!

  • IkvothaMashiach70

    Gabrielle Knight from RuffleNBustle said 5 years ago

    Very interesting.

  • GraysonDesigns11

    GraysonDesigns11 from GraysonDesigns11 said 5 years ago

    Silent migraines tormented me through my second pregnancy. I didn't have the painful headaches thankfully, but my vision would go through various phases of absence for about 30 minutes a day. I felt helpless to stop and made as heck when it happened. I emphathize with everyone who experiences the crushing pain that accompanies it.

  • stinnovation

    ST Innovation from stinnovation said 5 years ago

    Great story! I know this feeling how bring to you it is, Making Art Out of Migraines will be stoped when you stoped.

  • ArtsyFlair

    Michaela Bowles from ArtsyFlair said 5 years ago

    Great article!

  • sonunigam

    sonu nigam said 5 years ago

    I felt helpless to stop and made as heck when it happened.

  • Angelaladeda

    Angela Lewis from CasualCastle said 5 years ago

    I understand needing to fill your pain with something else .. why not art? My friend creates music, to almost feed the pain. Cool read!

  • PrintPossessed

    Andrea from PrintPossessed said 5 years ago

    Very interesting; I've suffered migraine since I was a teenager, and some years ago I found out that exercising helps me to stop it when it begins.......

  • DGEnterprises

    Therese Magnani from DGEnterprises said 5 years ago

    Interesting. When I get migraines, I have to lie down and keep my eyes closed until the aura is gone, otherwise, it gets so big, I can't see clearly and my depth perception is shot. It's scary if it comes on while I'm driving. For sure, I won't be able to do any beadwork!

  • IndustrialAdornment

    Fox from OneUrbanTribe said 5 years ago

    I think playing videogames would be the last thing on Earth I would want to do with a migraine. Still, interesting article. :)

  • vinproelegance

    Vinpro Elegance from vinproelegance said 5 years ago

    Interesting post..

  • swingkatsvintage

    Deb A from swingkatsvintage said 5 years ago

    To add to Krystyna81's Magnesium: Vitamin D3. Research on women's health has found, by accident during the blood tests, that more than half of the subjects were deficient in the vitamin D3, vit. D2 is what's usually added for fortify food, but D3 is what is manufactured by our bodies from the sun. I discovered that I was very low on the scale for D3 (very white and stay out of the sun, lol!) I started taking D3 supplements a few months ago and have had only a few migrains start up, which were quickly quashed with my ibuprofen/sudafed cocktail. Keeping my fingers crossed that this will help, but it couldn't hurt for migrain sufferers to get a complete panel blood test to find out where they might be deficient. Hugs to all sufferers :)

  • Stephaniemakesall

    Steph from OneStitchDesigns said 5 years ago

    This is an amazing post. I suffer badly from migraines, have since I was 9, and am out of it at least 3 days a week for several hours, sometimes not even able to sit upright. I had my worst one ever while I was still in the hospital from my c section. they were giving me morphine, and it still didn't touch it. sometimes i get spots, but that's as far as my aura goes. I am seriously impressed by anyone who is able to create during times of migraine

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    Annette from TheLeveretsNest said 5 years ago

    came back to read more, and share a little - i don't eat bananas, cheese or oats (not even half a grain!), and avoid all processed tinned foods, all E additives, no pain killer drugs - they are just as bad and triggers too, not even asprin or panadol! Salicylate sensitivity doesn't affect me (strangely it's the opposite - I can tolerate foods high in salic but not those lacking them) but amine content does If I were to produce art based on migraines it would have to be after full recovery (as doing anything during them is seriously impossible), and would most probably resemble some Socialist show-of-power poster from the 50s. It would show the constantly tightening vice inside the brain along with a 2x4 being whacked on my neck/lower back of head non stop as a furnace burns and a huge sickening weight constantly beats into one eye - nuff said :)

  • HairFlair11

    Anne from HairFlair11 said 5 years ago

    I am glad that I only suffer milder migraines, if you can call them that. Thankfully they do not shut me down but the auras are terrible. Try driving in the car with that and two small kids=) I never would have thought to try and focus through the pain until I read this. It is a fascinating concept that I want to try next time the aura comes around. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  • vintristing

    Akovintage from AkoVintage said 5 years ago

    Great article! Reading the posts above I see a lot of the same triggers I have. I can say without a doubt, no way .....would I be able to paint or play a video game during a migraine, it's just too debilitating. Literally you lose a whole day of your life each time a migraine occurs. Described in the post above as a tightening vice inside the brain...sickening weight constantly beats in one eye -YEP!

  • manchitra

    Chitra Manohar from Chitrasjewelart said 5 years ago

    This is inspiring. I suffer from migraine and it is like getting a new lease of life after every attack. Strong smells , lights, noise, make it worse. Now a days too much physical exertion also triggers this headache. I get happy when some people tell they haven't had any headaches. Great. Blessed people..

  • cozystudio

    Cozy from cozystudio said 5 years ago

    i am an artist and a brain tumor survivor; the surgery for the tumor has rendered me deaf and i have cluster migraine where the metal plates are in my skull., especially where they created a bone window to my brain .migraines suck, art does not being deaf sucks , seeing to create does not

  • SidonieYang

    Sidonie Yang from SIDONIEYANG said 5 years ago

    Beautiful art, but obviously, one would rather not suffer migraines...

  • JunkStoreAddict

    Joy from JunkStoreAddict said 5 years ago

    fascinating post. Migraines are agony, and its refreshing to see some folks turn that pain into beauty...or at least something more tangible than words.

  • DiamondServices

    DiamondServices said 5 years ago

    Third generation migraine sufferer also. Who knows how long this affliction goes back in my family... Sometimes the pain is so intense, I think it MUST be a brain tumor because a headache cannot hurt this much. I now use Topamax daily and Imitrex for an active migraine. This has radically changed my life for the good. I will try to paint a migraine - it could be interesting

  • bigbluebed

    Alix Beech from Bigbluebed said 5 years ago

    I, too, am from a family of migraine sufferers. Oh the pain! I don't have the auras and I don't paint. But I do write and in the migraines my head buzzes with unwanted images, so after reading this I know I should write them down. Not during, the pain is too much to do anything other than lay down with a cold wet cloth over my forehead, but afterwards to try and express that craziness that occurs in my head. Thank you for this article and thank you to the others for sharing.

  • janeeroberti

    Jane E Roberti from janeeroberti said 5 years ago

    As a classic migraine sufferer ( that means I see auras) Thanks for this post!

  • gwinia

    gwinia from gwinia said 5 years ago

    Hi Everyone! Yes, I know exactly what You people are going through! I too, get Migraine Headaches. Sometimes it is called Migraine Disease, I read in books. It's been a bad month for me as I have had migraines everyday since May began, a few less before May. They are awful and I hate them as they disrupt your life so much but I have seen the Beauty of Auras. I have them in black & white and also technicolor! lol. The one I had just 2 days ago had such lovely colors and really neat Zig-Zag lines with even background soft colors of a pink soaked yellow with peach. It makes me think I am looking through a Kaleidascope! Such neat Designs & Colors. I do think it helps out a lot of Creativity and makes even more. Sometimes after an Aura I have New and Wild Ideas to think about what to do with and in what design platform to use! I really would rather not have Migraines, but lots of times You gotta do with what comes your way and try to manage it, the good, the bad and the ugly! Thank You for this Article and Post and ThankYOU to all the Others who here with their stories and ideas and Creations! Thank You Etsy for always thinking of Us ! : )

  • flamingfuchsia

    flamingfuchsia from flamingfuchsia said 5 years ago

    I too am a sufferer, from my mid teens to my present late twenties. Not always triggered by everyday things, sometimes they just come. I have spent many a day in a dark room, barely lifting my head off the pillow. I can identify with Pascal and the disturbances with vision during a migraine. I never put my migraines into art, I find this article inspiring...but I do seem to get a lot of good ideas after a migraine. Design ideas for clothing & handbags which I am currently putting into use. I never really though that the two could be linked until I read this. So maybe having migraines is not such a bad thing (I say that now, wait until the next one ; )

  • windycitynovelties

    Windy City Novelties said 5 years ago

    I do the same thing. Whenever I have a bad headache or something, I always need to find a distraction or soothing music in the background.

  • berrymorin

    Rona B said 5 years ago

    As a severe pain sufferer I use words to "paint" of picture of my pain to my husband and son. Seeing these beautiful works of art spoke to me and some how made me have a moment of "pain free" in my day!

  • onecent

    onecent from onecent said 5 years ago

    I've had migraines for 20 years and I always try to do some migraine-induced art. I think that the pain drives us to self-hypnotize (for lack of a better word). It's hard to describe. Maybe we are getting the chance to use more than just 10% of our brain. Even when the pain is so bad I can't even sleep, I've found that a paint-by-number is helpful. It is enough to distract me, I can get "tunnel vision" because it's mindless painting, and the brush strokes sooth me somehow. I'm getting quite a collection going which looks great on my wall, all framed in black.

  • thecyclingartist

    Tina Mammoser from GeologyArt said 5 years ago

    Have to admit I can't imagine doing art when one happens! But good to know others find smells the hardest part. But once in a migraine I can hardly look at anything let alone do artwork. But I tend to lose vision on one side into a weird hazy unfocus. Mine are definitely hormone linked and I find 3-4 ibuprofin (which I used to get on prescription before it was OTC) and Olbas oil + vaporub. :) Maybe that tip will help someone else!

  • buttonsandstars

    Clare Mountain from xThreadBEARx said 5 years ago

    This is so interesting. I know very little about migraines, except that they are excruciating. I wonder if perhaps these paintings are used as less of a therapy, and more as a way of bringing awareness and expressing the unknown about migraines?

  • retrofish

    Margaret Fishback from retrofish said 5 years ago

    I am completely debilitated when I get a migraine attack - the idea of picking up my camera or turning on my mac is impossible. I suppose there are different levels of migraines, I cant imagine being able to produce anything while having one. The next day I am groggy like Ive had the flu. Pretty scary to think your own heads doing all this to you. I also should mention my auras look like nothing represented here..I have had them enough times to possibly draw it from memory...but not so sure I would want the reminder...! As far as expression of a migraine would need to contain metaphors such as isolation, darkness, intense pain and most poignantly, helplessness.

  • TheCapcup

    Jennifer Parker from TheCapcup said 5 years ago

    "Where the fish live" painting actually made me feel like I was going to get a headache, it's lovely but accurate.......

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