In Bed - Summary | The Magic of Words

Joan Didion

In Bed - Summary | The Magic of Words

In Bed

‘In Bed’, an essay by Joan Didion depicts her personal experiences with a migraine headache, which she inherits from her parents. She presents something unusual about the disease in a more philosophical and meditative domain of thought.

Joan spends her day in bed there almost five times a month because of a migraine headache. She knows that she is going to be attacked by a headache when she feels some sort of irritation and flow of blood in the vessels of her brain. To avoid the attack she takes some medicines and starts to work. In her earlier days, she thought that she would get rid of the disease just by denying it. Sometimes she even tells lies saying that she did not have the attack frequently. But the truth was that sometimes the attack was quite violent and long-lasting. However, she feels good that she does not have any other physical problems, such as brain tumor, eyestrain or high blood pressure. She also tries to do all her normal work in spite of it. During the attack, her right temple (head) would suffer extreme pain and tears would roll down from her right eyes. She would also vomit. Generally, the headache may also be caused by stress, allergy, and tiredness, an abrupt change in blood pressure, a flashing light or a fire drill.

It’s strange that no medicine works effectively in the case of migraine, especially when the attack begins. Some people may have a hallucination, blinding effect, stomach problem, tiredness and pain in all the senses along with a headache. They are even unable to do their normal work. During the attack, Didion can’t see and speak clearly. She looks as if she has drunk some wine. But a headache never takes anyone’s life. It is interesting to know what doctors believe about a migraine sufferer. They said that the individual is ambitious, inward, and intolerance of unbearable pain But Didion’s untidy hair and carelessness in housekeeping do not point out her migraine quality. However, her great effort to write and rewrite a single paragraph for a week reveals some sort of perfection. Finally, she accepts the diseases and lives with it. When she has it she simply concentrates on the pain. But after ten or twelve hours she gets some sort of refreshment and spiritual power. She opens the window and feels the air, eats gratefully and sleeps well. She feels as if she is blessed by God. Therefore she is happy.

Important Questions

1. What are the distinctive traits of migraine headaches? Or What are the features of a migraine headache?
Ans: A migraine is a type of severe recurrent headache usually in one-side of the head. It can’t be easily cured. An ordinaryy headache can be cured by taking aspirins. Migraine can be prevented only by injections or drugs. A sufferer of a migraine headache starts vomiting. When a migraine starts, some people have a hallucination, blinding effect, stomach pain, tiredness, pain in all the senses and they are unable to do their normal work. They look if they are drunk; however, nobody dies of it.

2. Why does the writer consider herself as fortunate?
Ans: Writer’s husband had also the same problem. He was also suffering from a migraine. Her husband understands the writer’s pain very well. He also faces the same pains as the writer. He doesn’t blame the writer. Otherwise, he would say that her wife was pretending. So the writer takes herself as fortunate.

3. Write about the suffering and bitter experiences of John Didion as a migraine person.
Ans: In this essay, John Didion writes about a migraine headache. She herself suffers from this headache. She feels quite uneasy and a strong flow of blow is fallen in the veins of her brain in the beginning. She doesn’t want to reveal. She spends one or two days a week painfully in bed. Tears come from the fight side of her face. She goes to the toilet and vomits there. She wishes a surgeon would come to avoid her brain. The writer can’t speak clearly when it attacks her. She looks as if she is drunk. She tries to escape from it but she can’t. When the migraine starts, she lies on the bed with patience.

4. What are the causes of a migraine headache? And what are its effects?
Ans: Anything can start an attack of a migraine headache such as stress, allergy, tiredness, unexpected events, a change in air pressure, lack of sleep, a fire drill , etc. the sufferers of a migraine headache have hallucinations blinding effect, stomach problem, weakness, tiredness etc. the migraine headache also causes cold sweating and vomiting etc. But nobody dies of it.

5. What are the misconceptions associated with a migraine headache?
Ans: Some people believe that a migraine headache is imaginary. They accuse the sufferers as if sufferers are pretending. They accuse the migraine suffers for refusing to cure themselves. They also accuse sufferers as if sufferers have wrong thinking and bad tempers. According to the writer, the accusing eyes of the people are more painful for her then the migraine itself.

Questions for Practice

  1. Why does the writer consider herself fortunate that her husband has a migraine? What would happen if he did not have it?
  2. According to John Didion, how do migraines differ from ordinary headaches?
  3. What popular misconceptions about a migraine headache does Didion want to correct in her essay “In bed?
  4. How did the writer Joan Didion suffer from migraine headaches?
  5. What were the misconceptions associated with such headaches? Has she been able to correct them?

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